From the Chief Operating Officer: The Good, the Bad, and the Trail Conference

August 07, 2019
Joshua Howard
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


From the Chief Operating Officer: The Good, the Bad, and the Trail Conference
Trail Tools. Photo by Brayden Donnelly.


One of New York State Park’s Commissioners once said, “don’t hide your uglies; let people know you have problems. Then tell how you will fix them, and go and do it.” She led one of the biggest efforts to improve NYS parks—and it’s time the Trail Conference followed her lead.

As the Trail Conference prepares to turn 99 years old, we too have some uglies. For the past few years, we have made strategic investments to enhance the organization’s capacity to execute our mission. These investments were to be offset with new income and revenues. While we are seeing improvements in our volunteer management, trail building, and visibility capacities, we have had to rely on our reserve funds to bridge the gaps in our income.

As our organization continues through its transition of leadership, we will discover more uglies. It will take some time to find the correct solutions and we will need to make some difficult decisions.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? YES!

In 2018, our volunteers donated more than 103,000 hours of service—one of our best years ever. We are working hard to provide these selfless individuals with even more support in 2019. I encourage you to get to know some of our crew leaders and find out more about their work—and how you can get involved.

Through the energy and passion of our Board and staff, we are developing the necessary tools to evaluate our organization so that data and analysis are used to interpret our performance.
We are creating annual and three-year plans to better connect our activities to our mission and engage our volunteers.

Our members and donors are showing their support by placing the Trail Conference in their estate plans and joining the Trail Angel Society. Read how you can become a founding member.

We are re-engaging our partners to collaborate and find new ways to share the responsibility of environmental conservation. Read the recent updates about our program in the Catskills.

There also is a Centennial celebration to plan.

Over the next few months, our volunteer leaders, Board, and staff will share the Trail Conference’s plans to fix some of these uglies.

We will develop a technology plan to address the database and website issues.

The staff will work with our volunteer leaders to identify the on-the-ground activities required to accomplish the strategies that will ultimately lead to us fulfilling our mission. The goal is to have a unified and clearly communicated plan that prioritizes our work for 2020 and beyond.

We will create a sustainable fundraising strategy to raise the funds necessary to support our volunteers and accomplish all the good work that makes trails and parks safe and enjoyable.

Along the way, we will uphold the legacy that our founders established in 1920. Our volunteers will provide the public with trails to connect them to nature. We will protect native species of plants and the ecosystems our trails traverse. Our stewards will help protect the land we love. And as we solve our problems, the Trail Conference will celebrate its successes with our members, volunteers, and agency partners. Because admitting our uglies—and rolling up our sleeves to address them—is how the Trail Conference will continue to be a force for good in its second century.