Management of Metro Trails Transitions to NYC Partners
As the Trail Conference entered its centennial year, we reflected on the possibilities for our programs—including our involvement in the care of trails throughout the Metro (NYC) Region.
New York City has been part of our history from the beginning, and ensuring that access to nature is available in the five boroughs is a priority for the Trail Conference. However, the needs and management of the Metro trails program have drastically evolved over the last century, pushing us to rework the management of the region multiple times in an effort to keep the program strong. What is now best for Metro trails is to transition the program to our partners at the Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC) and NYC Parks.
Since 2017, the NAC and NYC Parks have partnered as the Citywide Trails Team. This team is composed of environmental professionals who are dedicated to formalizing and improving New York City’s network of over 300 miles of nature trails. The Citywide Trails Team runs the Trail Maintainer subset of the city’s volunteer Super Steward Program, which Trail Conference maintainers already needed to complete to receive the certification required to work on NYC trails. The Super Steward program gives volunteers the independence to work on their own, lead other volunteers in projects and work trips, apply for mini-grants, network with other volunteers, and get a sneak peek at the inner-workings of the NYC Parks system. Due to these restrictions and regulations, handing over management of Metro trails is a decision that helps to streamline the process of volunteer trail maintenance in NYC.
“The NAC has been an incredibly important partner in ensuring safe, enjoyable access to nature throughout New York City,” said Trail Conference Executive Director Joshua Howard. “While they were happy to continue an on-the-ground partnership with us, it became clear that our long-term involvement within the Super Steward program isn’t essential for these trails to receive the quality of care they deserve. We are giving our full support to the NAC’s efforts through this transition and are excited for the next evolution of our partnership in stewarding the lands of the greater New York metropolitan region.”
“The Trail Conference has always been a champion of stewarding nature in the New York-New Jersey region, and we’ve been thrilled to have them as a partner on the launch of trail formalization in New York City,” said Elizabeth Jaeger, the NAC’s Deputy Director of Programs and Operations. “We’ll continue to champion and enjoy their work in keeping trails safe and accessible in the New York region and thank them for their support as we aim to create a world-class trail system in New York City.”
The Trail Conference is already in the process of transitioning existing Metro volunteers fully over to NAC and the Super Steward Program. We will continue to collaborate with the NAC and the NYC Parks Stewardship Team on trail projects and workshops when needed. Light promotion of the program will continue on our website, and our Service Engagement Team will be directing any volunteer interest in NYC trails received by the Trail Conference over to the NAC.
Committed to the Best Care for Trails Across the RegionFor many years, trails in New York City had been considered part of our East Hudson region—a very large area with very different management requirements throughout. In 2018, the Trail Conference had found an answer to our challenges managing the specific needs of the Metro (NYC) region through the leadership of volunteer Mk Moore. An Air Force veteran and retired clinical psychologist, Mk quickly demonstrated initiative and the ability to manage both the trails of NYC and the volunteers eager to care for them. Unfortunately, in mid-2020, Mk was called back to active duty and had to step down from all volunteer responsibilities. After his exit, it became apparent that the efficient management of Metro requires greater time and resources than the Trail Conference is able to dedicate to the region without such a strong presence in the role of Trail Chair.
Given the circumstances, the Trail Conference determined that the Metro trail program is best served by a full transition to the NAC and NYC Parks. At a time when we are seeing unprecedented trail use and volunteer interest, this allows the NAC to do what they do best in the five boroughs while we ensure our other regions have the resources needed to meet demand.