You Make Trails Happen: Hikers Speak Up on Washington Trails Day
On Saturday Aug. 7, several thousand hikers took action at trailheads and online, calling for better funding for the Forest Service in celebration of Washington Trails Day.
Saturday, August 7 marked the ninth annual Washington Trails Day. Across the state, people got outside to honor and enjoy our public lands.
As part of the celebration, WTA staff and volunteers gathered at five trailheads — Liberty Lake (Eastern Washington), Park Butte (Northwest Washington), Snow Lake and Rattlesnake Ledge (I-90 Corridor), and Grouse Vista (Southwest Washington) — to chat with hikers and funnel their love for the outdoors into action.
Acting Now for Tomorrow’s Trails
Washington Trails Day is all about commemorating trails and public lands, and specifically the positive impact they have on our hearts, minds and bodies. WTA first elevated this holiday to the state level in 2012, and since then we have used this day to grow our hiking community and get more hikers involved in protecting our trail systems.
This year, we’re asking our advocates to request Washington’s Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to increase appropriations for Forest Service recreation accounts in the FY2022 budget.
Budget constraints in the United States Forest Service have reduced staffing for restoration and recreation by nearly 40% in the last 10 years. Meanwhile, from 2010 to 2020, Washington’s population grew by nearly a million more people*. Funding to keep our trails sustainable has decreased while demand and use of our beloved public spaces has grown. Washington has more than 12,000 miles of trails and a huge outdoor economy that relies on public lands, but we need the funding to support it.
Washington Trails Day is about taking the day to reflect on the amazing access to the outdoors that our state has. And we know that in order to celebrate this for years to come, we must use our voices in support of trails now. This year, volunteers met with over 1,000 hikers who signed their names in support of our call to action. And that isn’t the only place our advocates showed up. More than 2,000 of you took action, signing our digital petition.
But it was more than just building this momentum. Being out on the trailheads offered some great highlights as we connected with fellow hikers.
Even in Rain, We Need Trails
One of the first rainy days this summer couldn't stop WTA volunteers or hikers from getting outside on Washington Trails Day. Suited up in raingear, hikers stopped at trailheads around the state to sign postcards and show their support for trails.
“In spite of damp weather conditions, people were enthused and upbeat about the outings they were beginning or ending," said WTA volunteer Richard Mellon about the scene at the Park Butte trailhead. "One fellow and his preteen daughter finished an overnight backpacking trip. They were a bit damp, but had a great time.”
Trails make Washington special, and our hiking community knows that. That’s why you’ll see us out on the trails rain or shine.
Hikers Connect Their Experience to Funding
By sheer numbers turning out to sign postcards and sign-on to our petition, it’s clear that hikers can directly link their experience on trails to a need for Forest Service funding. And volunteers affirmed: Our ask for more Forest Service funding resonated with people.
Whitney Xu Allar volunteered at Liberty Lake, and noted that several individuals shared their love for trails and similar desire to help keep them around. At Rattlesnake Ledge, volunteer Suzanne Tripp said that, “Almost everyone agreed to sign a postcard when they heard it asked for increased funding for trail maintenance.”
Informing hikers that we were asking Senators for more funding for trails was, to Michael Radcliff who volunteered at the Snow Lake trailhead, “the most understood and appreciated part of our speech.”
While signing their postcards, one hiker at Rattlesnake Ledge asked, “Funding for new trails? We live in North King County and South King County — and it’s hard to find nearby trails that work for both of us.” Of course, volunteers recognized this as the perfect nexus for WTA’s Trails Next Door work.
Another hiker said, “Cleaner bathrooms? Better roads? Of course I’ll sign!” Across the board, hikers understood that taking action for trail funding was necessary and critical to their enjoyment of the outdoors.
Trails Make Washington Special
Volunteers also noted the presence of non-Washingtonians taking advantage of the outdoors and signing onto postcards with just as much excitement as the locals.
Brian Orlick volunteered at the Park Butte trailhead and shared that the highlight of his day was “not only meeting many Washingtonians but also people on vacation from all over the country.”
Hiking makes Washington special, which is what drives so many different kinds of people to be out and about on our trails.
You Make Trails Happen
There is so much opportunity to celebrate trails before and after Washington Trails Day, and WTA is committed to helping you do that; whether it be getting to know our public lands, volunteering to maintain them, or taking action like year round.
This year, we really emphasized what you do to make trails happen. It’s the large and small efforts you take to protect our public lands that allow us to celebrate them year after year.
If you couldn’t catch us out on the trailhead this year, you can still be part of the movement. Sign the petition to encourage trail funding now!
*Washington Office of Financial Management, Population Estimates (2020).