Trails for everyone, forever
2019 was a year to celebrate for Washington trails. Hikers all across the state have helped WTA fix trails, advocate for funding and ensure access to the trails we all love. Thank you for helping us build a future where there are trails for everyone, forever.
For WTA, 2019 has been a year of successes in our goals of creating a healthy, lasting trail system and a strong trail community. With your help, we launched Trails Rebooted, a new effort to support Washington’s most popular recreation areas. We made big strides in our Lost Trails Found work by opening up trails across the state, including in the Goat Rocks and the Pasayten. We helped youth see the Milky Way for the very first time. And you used your voice to protect our trails and the wild places where we all love to hike and play.
Here’s some of the work that you made possible this year. And it's not too late to make a donation to ensure we can do more in 2020.
In 2019, members of the WTA advocacy community stepped up all across the state to make their voices heard. Our advocacy supports all of the work we do — from encouraging proper funding for public lands to protecting the public's voice in forest planning. Here are just a few ways people spoke up for trails over the past year.
Together, we achieved funding wins for trails at the local level and the state level.
In February, Congress passed one of the largest public lands bill in recent history, including permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF); new protections for Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area and Methow Headwaters; and the Every Kid Outdoors Act, authorizing for seven years the Every Kid in a Park program (now called Every Kid Outdoors), to encourage youth to visit their national parks and public lands. It was an enormous win for outdoor recreationists and conservationists alike, with sweeping impacts on Washington state.
It's the kind of victory made possible by advocates, and by strategic partnerships with our fellow trail users. Later in the year, we returned to talk recreation with federal agencies and policymakers in company with Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance and Back Country Horseman of Washington.
We also had an important win in King County, with a win on Prop. 1, also known as the King County Parks Levy. It was the most crucial funding piece for open spaces and recreation, including trails, in King County parks. Thanks to advocates and voters, the revenue from the levy will support countywide investments in parks, trails, recreation and open space protection for the benefit of all King County residents, no matter where they live.
6,834 advocates signed petitions or contacted their lawmakers.
133 people came to Olympia for Hiker Rally Day to spend the day speaking to lawmakers. One big success from the day was the designation of Washington Public Lands Day as a new state holiday.
125 members of the WTA community came to our hiker potlucks to hear more about local issues impacting trails.
Throughout the year, WTA headed out to walk and talk with lawmakers. These hikes give us a chance to build support for trails — from planning to funding and construction. One of those hikes was with King County Executive Dow Constantine. WTA has worked with King County for 20 years. Jill Simmons, WTA’s chief executive officer, and Andrea Imler, WTA’s advocacy director, talked with the county executive while exploring Margaret’s Way Trail, which WTA helped build along with the county and the Issaquah Alps Trails Club. We also headed out for hikes with a number of legislators, including the state speaker of the House. These connections help us show lawmakers the immense value of trails, and why they need funding and support.
At WTA, we believe everyone should have access to trails — from easy city strolls to weeks-long backcountry adventures. That's why we started our successful Lost Trails Found campaign several years ago. And this year, we added Trails Rebooted, our campaign to rethink some of our state's most popular hiking areas. Here's some of the work we did this year to connect people to trails.
Angry Mountain is an exciting success in our Lost Trails Found work — and a powerful example of how partners collaborating on trail work and advocacy over multiple years can make a lasting difference. After 5 years of work, the combined forces of WTA and Back Country Horsemen of Washington finished logging out hundreds of downed trees to clear this lost trail. Reopening this route added another spectacular ridge hike to a variety of access points for the popular Goat Rocks Wilderness.
Jim Cubbage, a hike leader for Wild Grief, shared the story of this transformative experience after returning from a backpacking trip in the Goat Rocks Wilderness with youth who had recently experienced the loss of a loved one.
This trip highlights the importance of our Outdoor Leadership Training program and gear library, which helped make experiences like this possible for more than 1,800 youth this year.
This year, WTA launched our Trails Rebooted campaign to support our state's most iconic and popular trails. As part of this work, we're focusing on four key pilot areas: the Teanaway, Mountain Loop, Spokane and the Snoquera area. This summer, WTA brought together partners and community stakeholders to tour two of those key areas. Together, we explored the Mountain Loop Highway (between Granite Falls and Darrington) and the Snoquera region (northeast of Mount Rainier National Park). On the Mountain Loop, we are working to improve the hiking experience in a well-loved area that is only going to see more visitors as the region’s population grows. In Snoquera, we see a chance to create new and improved hiking opportunities in an area that has room to welcome more hikers, including from the Puget Sound area. We're excited to use our strengths in trail work and advocacy to plan for a future where we truly have trails for everyone, forever.
Trailhead Direct, a transit service that connects hikers to trails in King County, enjoyed an extremely successful season in 2019. This year, the service was expanded from prior years to serve more hikers and provide access to more trails. We've supported Trailhead Direct from the beginning, and we're excited to see it serve as inspiration to other areas that could benefit from transit to trailheads.
From our beginning more than 50 years ago, WTA has encouraged responsible hiking. We do that work in many ways. Some of it's on the ground, such teaming up with Leave No Trace and the U.S. Forest Service for a Leave No Trace "Hot Spot" at Colchuck Lake over the summer. Some of it's digitally, through our website and social media accounts. This year, nearly half a million people visited wta.org to learn about safe and ethical hiking practices.
The hikes along Highway 2 are a magnet for the hiking community, in part because they’re close to the densely populated Puget Sound area. WTA has long believed that the area would benefit from more trails. But building a new trail takes a long time, from advocating for the route to getting it approved to building it. So our work in 2019 included a particularly exciting event — breaking ground on a brand-new trail.
The Frog Mountain Trail has been years in the making. In 2014, WTA wrote a letter of support for two new trails, including this one, to be built in the Wild Sky Wilderness. This year, crews finally broke ground on the roughly 4-mile path to the mountain’s summit. Once completed, the Frog Mountain Trail will provide an alternative to popular hikes nearby, including the beloved Beckler Peak and Evergreen Mountain Lookout trails.
We hope some of you will join us in these efforts in 2020!
Through our continued partnership with Northwest Youth Corps, we sponsored a Lost Trails youth crew to spend 5 weeks in the remote backcountry. This powerhouse crew maintained just over 32 miles of trail in the Pasayten through brushing, tread restoration and drainage work. Their work opened up access to some of the best backcountry experiences in our state. In addition, adult volunteers on 3 backcountry trips worked on many trails accessing this iconic route to clear the way for future hikers.
To hike the entire length of the Duckabush River Trail on the Olympic Peninsula is to experience the scope of what our Trails Rebooted and Lost Trails Found campaigns are both working to achieve: a trail system that connects all different kinds of hiking experiences. That’s why WTA has led volunteer trail crews there for nearly a decade.
Crews this year not only cleared the way for early-season hikers but also made a path for volunteers tasked with the challenge of maintaining the harder-to-reach upper sections of this iconic trail, some of which hadn’t seen work in many years. The Duckabush is a powerful example of how we can support a whole trail system — from close-in trails to backcountry experiences.
This fall, our Outdoor Leadership Training program surpassed 10,000 supported outdoor experiences. These experiences, led by the 331 graduates of our outdoor leadership training workshops, have been engaging young people with the outdoors and inspiring the next generation of hikers, outdoor leaders and public land stewards since 2014. We started the program by asking simply "why aren't kids getting outside?" and looking for ways to help fill that gap. OLT was one of those ways and, combined with our gear library, it's a powerful resource that supports outdoor experiences. After all, if we really want to make trails for everyone, forever, we need to give young people a chance to experience the joys of being outside.