Thousands of Hikers Speak Up for Recreation on Washington Trails Day
On Washington Trails Day, WTA talked to a thousand hikers at trailheads across the state. Most of them were excited to speak up for prioritizing funding for recreation and trails on national forests.
Shortly after sunrise on Saturday, August 4, outreach volunteers were already at their posts at several trailheads around the state. Some had driven there the night before to camp nearby. The goal was for 20 amazing volunteers — hikers like you and me — to inspire more than 2,000 other hikers to take action and speak up for protecting recreation in Washington's national forests in a single day. They met that goal and then some!
So far, 3,360 hikers and counting have signed our postcards and the petition showing support for Washington's national forests, surpassing even last year’s record-breaking Washington Trails Day.
A day for hiking, a day for action
A governor-declared holiday spearheaded by WTA six years ago, the proclamation of Washington Trails Day states, in part, “Whereas, outdoor recreation is an essential component of Washington State’s economy and quality of life, employing approximately 200,000 Washingtonians and generating an estimated $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue and $26.2 billion in consumer spending…”
In fact, hiking and recreation are the top uses for our national forests, but not always the top funding priority. With a new Regional Forester for Region 6 expected, and knowing the risk that some trails and facilities are in danger of closing or falling off the map entirely, we designed postcards representing each of Washington’s national forests for hikers to sign. The postcard’s message welcomes the incoming Regional Forester for Region 6 and urges them to prioritize recreation when making decisions for these lands.
Many of the WTA outreach volunteers drove for hours and cheerfully stayed for both morning and afternoon shifts.
Sathish Jothikumar and Rusty Sherman drove all the way from Seattle and Tacoma respectively to help staff the WTA booth at Park Butte trailhead in the North Cascades.
“Volunteering for Washington Trails Day was a fantastic experience," said Rusty. "The four hours that I was at the trailhead flew by. It was terrific to meet and talk with a variety of hikers, including day trippers, overnight backpackers and mountain climbers."
Volunteer Mark Brocious exclaimed, “The best thing from the day was hearing over and over, 'Thank you WTA for all you do.' I’m proud to be associated with an organization that is so respected in our recreation community!”
At Lake 22 trailhead in the heart of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Chris Walford and Janice Van Cleve noticed that hiking is becoming more inclusive. “Young and old and a lot more people of color than we used to see. Other states and countries were represented, too, such as Ohio, New York City, Mexico and Brazil. It was really nice to see all kinds of people enjoying Washington’s national forests.”
Clara Pfundt, WTA Youth Ambassador, drove up from Kirkland to volunteer. “My favorite memory was the fact that we were able to inspire and get new hikers involved, not just experienced ones.”
The ever-popular Snow Lake trailhead was made even more welcoming thanks to early-birds Haylee Darby, Philip and Lisa Boynton and Thomas Meade. WTA’s Executive Director, Jill Simmons, arrived midday and was impressed by the fact that morning volunteers had decided to stay and join the afternoon volunteers, Dana Stodgel and Michael Radcliff.
Haylee Darby commented, “My favorite part of the day was having loads of hikers come up to the booth and immediately exclaim, 'I love you guys! I use your website all the time!' It was so encouraging to have people already know about us, excited to show their support.”
Michael Radcliff gave a shout out to fellow volunteer Lisa Boynton. “She deserves a special accolade. 400 hikers had signed postcards by 11:30 AM!”
Meredith Lynch, Gabe Smith, Ginger Sarver and Jennifer Fortin talked with hikers at the Bonneville trailhead in the Columbia River Gorge, representing Gifford Pinchot National Forest.
Ginger said, “I had fun showing several hikers the WTA Trailblazer app on my phone to get information about this trail and to find other hikes in the vicinity. They were all impressed, and I'll bet there are some new users downloading that app today! Dogs loved the water bowl and several hikers really appreciated the cold water we provided.”
Representing the Colville National Forest in eastern Washington were Galen Denio and Anne LaFlamme, who were set up at REI Spokane to catch more hikers. Their highlight was seeing so many parents with children interested in camping and hiking. It was “fast and furious,” Galen said.
“Everyone we talked to was supportive of the efforts to welcome the incoming Regional Forester for Region 6, and appreciated WTA’s and other organizations’ work on trails.”
Hiking is good for our hearts, minds and local economies. Hikers escape to hear the sounds of nature on these trails most days of the year. On Washington Trails Day, you could also hear the sound of hikers in conversation, sharing their passion for protecting these places loudly enough for decision makers to hear.
Join the effort
If you missed us on Washington Trails Day, you can still speak up for national forests and be a part of Washington Trails Day! Here’s what you can do to help:
1.Show your love for hiking in national forests by signing our petition! We want our elected and agency officials at all levels to know that recreation is the number one use of national forest lands.
2.Write a trip report. Trip reports are a great way to share trail conditions with fellow hikers and keep WTA informed about any potential needs for trail maintenance. Include the tag #watrailsday by Labor Day and you could win a cool prize from WTA!
3. Sign up for our Trail Action Network. Receive occasional updates about important issues that affect hikers. Speak up for trails when it matters most!