From the Executive Director: The Power of People

May 06, 2021
Joshua Howard
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


From the Executive Director: The Power of People
A group photo of hikers smiling. Photo by Adobe Stock.


This Trail Walker is about people—the people of the Trail Conference, and the people we serve. When I think about this organization, I am astounded by the dedication of our volunteers, staff, Board, and supporters. And when I think about outdoor recreation these days, I am blown away by the number of people I see.

There are new people who have fallen in love with the outdoors for the first time. New hikers, new walkers; there are grandparents and children discovering the wonders of our natural world. I also see people who are rediscovering the power of being outside, enthralled by the magic of connecting with nature. I can speak from personal experience as my 7-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son have fallen in love with the trails in our local nature preserve and those in the hills and mountains surrounding our home in Westchester County. During our trips outside, I marvel at how many people are enjoying the outdoors with us. Perhaps even more exciting is how they represent our greater community—one of the most diverse regions in the nation. We are white, Black, and brown, young and old, all outside, all experiencing the joys of nature.

As I have written before, now more than ever, it is vital that we have healthy natural areas open and accessible for everyone to enjoy. The need for nature has become essential for our self-preservation.

The experience of going outside to walk or hike is more than just following a well-maintained trail—it’s an experience in natural history. Being in a healthy forest, without invasive species choking out native plants and disrupting the habitat of the birds and animals that belong there, is part of that experience. Having clean air and water to support the sustainability of our planet is something that we can’t take for granted.

With this boom in new visitors to the outdoors, the Trail Conference’s role in providing safe and beautiful spaces to find nature is paramount. However, as the number of visitors to our parks and trails grows, so do the demands on our organization.

New stewards are needed for these natural areas. Elected officials need to hear from new faces advocating for the protection of our parks and the natural resources surrounding them.

New tools and techniques are going to be required to make our recreation of these natural areas sustainable.

We should welcome all these new visitors to the trails under our care. We need to ask for their help to strengthen our ability to be better stewards of the lands and waters that support the ecosystems we recreate in. When we play outdoors, we must always ensure our impact on the land is a positive one. That includes extending a hand to our new friends on the trails and inviting them to join us in making a difference.

Joshua Howard
Executive Director
[email protected]