Our Stories

Hike the Hill 2021: National Trail Leadership

Categories: Advocacy


A big part of Hike the Hill is demonstrating how nonprofit partners contribute to the system in our cooperative management structure.

by Andrea Ketchmark

The National Trails System Act, designated in 1968, was unique in that it not only established the National Trails System and mechanisms for trail designation, but it also called for the partnerships Congress knew would be needed to bring the Trails to life.

The Congress recognizes the valuable contributions that volunteers and private, nonprofit trail groups have made to the development and maintenance of the Nation’s trails. In recognition of these contributions, it is further the purpose of this Act to encourage and assist volunteer citizen involvement in the planning, development, maintenance, and management, where appropriate, of trails.

We are partners in managing these grand and far reaching resources that are in the public trust, and it’s important we meet with the leadership of our agencies to celebrate our successes. One look at the Gold Sheet, put together by the Partnership for the National Trails System, and you can see the incredible example of public/private partnership that should be the gold standard across our public lands system.

Week Two kicked off with the National Trail leads for the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management. Each gave presentations on their agency priorities and initiatives, including the Forest Service’s 10-Year Trail Shared Stewardship Challenge and progress the agencies are making implementing the Great American Outdoors Act.

On March 17, we met with key leadership in the National Park Service (NPS) to discuss the needs of the 23 National Scenic and Historic Trails that are managed by the NPS. We advocated for smart policy that brings partners into decision making as well as Unit Status for the North Country, Ice Age, and New England Trails, a long-standing request that might become reality under the new administration. The week ended with a trail land protection meeting with the realty staff of our federal agencies to discuss the future of land acquisition to complete and protect our National Trails System.

The National Trails System was built on a collaborative management approach and the North Country Trail has some amazing advocates within our federal agencies. What’s missing from Hike the Hill this year is the ability to sit across from each other in a meeting room or at a coffee shop to discuss the needs. I do hope we’re back in D.C. next year. 

Next week, I’ll share notes on our meeting with Chief Vicki Christiansen of the U.S. Forest Service.