By Bruce Matthews
Wednesday morning we were invited to a meeting with National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis. This is the first time during any Trails Advocacy Week that Director Jarvis has agreed to meet with our National Trails community. Director Jarvis indicated he intended to stay as Director throughout Obama’s second term, and outline three initiatives underway:
- Celebration of the NPS’s Centennial (2016), notably with a major promotional effort in which Jarvis invited the trails community to become integrated and represented;
- A major push to address the economic benefits of the national parks system, developing a new model to capture and quantify economic benefits beyond “simply” counting tourism expenditures;
- Healthy Parks Healthy People is a new initiative taking a holistic approach that include public health values of the national park system. As Jarvis described it “this is a whole new field—prescribing the outdoors” for health and well-being.
We appreciated the time with the NPS director, his invitation for greater engagement and what seemed to be a growing recognition of the importance of our linear national parks like the NCT in not only linking traditional parks but in bringing a public health value proposition to the people. If we can leverage this growing perception, that the value proposition of trails like the NCT is far greater than a simple 18 inch tread or corridor, and that it involves linking people to where they live as well as the iconic places that have meaning to us; and further that our trails enhance quality of life as well as property values, public health as well as youth outreach opportunities, conservation of landscapes for today and future generations, we’ll have made great strides with both the NPS and our national consciousness.