An Update: Our Community & Coronavirus
An update on how coronavirus is impacting WTA, our community, and our plan for moving forward and delivering on our mission.
An update from Jill Simmons, WTA CEO and the leadership team
We've said it before. Washington Trails Association is not just a nonprofit organization — we are a community of people: staff, volunteers, partners, donors, and, of course, hikers. This public-health crisis has impacted so many in our community, and we will continue to feel the effects for some time. Our hearts remain with you all.
We know we are all struggling to adapt to changes in nearly every aspect of life, all of which happened seemingly overnight. But our community’s response — supporting one another and our work — has been truly inspiring.
Unfortunately, the impacts of this “new normal” are being felt by our organization. Current “stay home” requirements and the closure of many public lands have required us to cancel or postpone all trail work, outdoor gear lending, public events and in-person activities through the end of April, and possibly beyond. The reduction of programming combined with broader economic uncertainty has significant implications for WTA's annual revenue.
We know that WTA is not alone in struggling to manage the program and financial impacts of this crisis. It is an extremely challenging time for our fellow nonprofits and partner organizations. Individuals and organizations across our community have been hit incredibly hard. While we know the challenges we are facing are temporary, it is uncertain when and how things will turn around.
To ensure the organization stays financially strong and ready to get back on trail as soon as possible, WTA is temporarily scaling back some of our programs, including furloughing a significant number of staff members. In making these difficult choices, we have looked for every opportunity to reduce operating costs, for ways to mitigate impacts to staff and ensure the financial health of the organization. By furloughing staff now, we are able to continue activities that support the hiking community during this community crisis and preserve our ability to deliver our mission over the long term.
We’re committed to quickly get back on trail as soon as it is safe to do so. In choosing furloughs, we’ve chosen a path that makes sure our furloughed staff will retain WTA benefits, including health care, while earning unemployment benefits without having to look for another job. These hard choices were made after other budget reductions, including cuts to the salaries of our entire leadership team.
WTA is still here for you
Although we are temporarily scaling back in some areas, WTA is still here for our community during this challenging time.
- We’re increasing the resources available on wta.org, especially close-to-home adventures that help to boost mental health and relieve stress, as well as sharing information on how to use trails safely and follow public health guidelines as they evolve.
- We’re building new ways for our community to connect with one another, including a way to share trip reports about your neighborhood walks.
- We are developing new ways to deliver some of our youth, community partner and trail program activities virtually.
- We are continuing essential program planning so our field activities can roar back to life as soon as possible.
We know these are extremely challenging times for many nonprofits and partner organizations. In addition to the work we are doing to protect the long term health of our organization, we want to be here to support our partners and the broader community during this difficult time. We are reaching out to our community partners to see if they have needs we can help them meet. For example, we're offering to share what we learn about CARES Act assistance for nonprofits with other organizations.
We know how important trails and public lands will be in helping us recharge and rebuild when we begin to move around again. The actions we’re taking now are to ensure WTA, our staff and our thousands of dedicated volunteers can get back to work as soon as we get the green light, helping to ensure Washington’s trails are there for everyone who needs them.
Thank you again for your support and understanding. The inspiration and gratitude we feel towards the WTA community cannot be overstated. Together we will come through this crisis. In the meantime, we hope you can continue to find comfort in this community and in nature in your neighborhood.