From the Executive Director: Our Most Important Renewable Resource

December 06, 2018
Ed Goodell
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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From the Executive Director: Our Most Important Renewable Resource
Catskill Sunset. Photo by Steve Aaron

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The Trail Conference is resilient because we have one of the most valuable and renewable natural resources of all: members and volunteers with passion and purpose.

The Trail Conference was founded in 1920 on the fundamental philosophy of connecting people with nature. Nearly 100 years later, we continue to achieve this by partnering with land managers and mobilizing volunteers and advocates to build and maintain trails and care for the public parks that belong to us all. In essence, our ethos remains the same: Protect the land you love.

How does an environmental nonprofit maintain that kind of dependability? The Trail Conference is resilient—able to resist disturbance and enable recovery—because we have one of the most valuable and renewable natural resources of all: members and volunteers with passion and purpose. The passion that drives our 2,100-plus volunteers and nearly 8,500 members is personal: a maintainer “adopts” a trail to keep clear and in good repair because she grew up hiking it with her father; a college student becomes a member because he is concerned about the threat invasive species pose to the ecosystem. But we are united in purpose: We love being outdoors and have a responsibility to make sure others can have a great experience outside, too.

That purpose has an impact on much more than the enjoyment of your Saturday hike.

Not only are healthy, accessible trails and parks great for getting fresh air and exercise, they’re critical for the strength of the greater New York metropolitan region as a whole. Undeveloped green spaces from the Delaware Water Gap to Manhattan through the Hudson Valley and beyond help to provide clean water and air, natural habitats for wildlife, and moderate weather. Without them, this area would be overcrowded and polluted beyond repair. Our contributions to the sustained health of public lands are a contribution to the durability of our region overall.

Trails and parks face many threats, from development to climate change, funding cuts, misuse, and overuse. Many of our park partners are unable to dedicate sufficient resources toward creating and maintaining their trails or educating users. Trail Conference volunteers help fill in the gaps by caring for more than 2,100 miles of trails every year. In aggregate, our volunteer efforts can be monetized, based on New York and New Jersey valuations of donated time, to the equivalent of $2.8 million per year. That’s a valuable resiliency factor in the 26 counties where we work.

Our partners count on us to stay focused on issues that affect parks in the region, bringing together key constituencies, marshaling resources, and seizing opportunities to keep growing and improving our public trail systems while maintaining the ecological integrity of trail lands. Local trails and parks need the Trail Conference. And we need our Trail Family—committed volunteers, champions, and donors like you.

How will you protect the land you love?

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