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  • Posted May 29, 2006

Join more than a million hikers, bikers, equestrians, and others take part in thousands of events nationwide in celebration of America's trails.

The first Saturday every June is designated National Trails Day (NTD) in the United States. On that day every year more than a million hikers, bikers, equestrians, and others take part in thousands of events nationwide in celebration of America's trails. These events include new trail dedications, workshops, educational exhibits, equestrian and mountain bike rides, rollerblading, trail maintenance, and hikes on America's favorite trails. National Trails Day is organized nationwide by the American Hiking Society, a national nonprofit trail advocacy group based in Washington, DC. All events, however, are planned and carried out at the local level by conservation and recreation organizations, trail clubs, and land managing agencies. Originally established in 1993, NTD has grown to approximately 3,000 events across the country. "It has really worked, and the collaboration has been quite extraordinary," noted Steve Elkinton, Program Leader for the National Trails System, when I recently asked him about NTD.

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Goals of National Trails Day The objectives of National Trails Day not only include promoting public awareness of and appreciation for America's trails, but also encouraging cooperative efforts among different trail users, including hikers, bicyclists, equestrians, walkers, runners and anyone else who enjoys being on the trail. As Elkinton noted, "the attitude towards National Trails Day has been so wonderful, that even motorized and non-motorized groups lay down their swords for the day and cooperate." In celebrating the values and benefits of our nation's trails, a unifying idea and long-range goal of National Trails Day is the concept of "Trails for All Americans" -- that is, to establish a nationwide network of trails that would link together as part of the nation’s infrastructure of greenways, like the interstate highway system. "The idea of a coordinated system is a difficult objective to achieve" notes Elkinton. "Trails come in so many shapes, sizes, and cut across so many jurisdictional boundaries. "During the year 2000, National Trails Day was also a celebration of Millennium Trails, a joint project of the White House Millennium Council, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and partners from the trails, conservation, preservation, and education communities. The Millennium Trails initiative recognizes, promotes, and stimulates the trails and greenways movement as we enter the new millennium. The National Trails System In recent years, NTD has started to make inroads into our national and state park systems, with more and more activities and programs associated with the event taking place each year. Many of these activities highlight America's national scenic and historic trails, some of which are thousands of miles in length. These trails serve as reminders of our rich national heritage before the advent of railroads and the highway system, at a time when people traveled overland on foot, on horseback, or by wagon. Some examples include the Mormon Pioneer Trail, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, and the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, where plans are underway to commemorate the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial. How Can I Get Involved? Show your support for trails by hosting a National Trails Day event or joining an event already planned. You can register your event in the NTD database, or take a look at the American Hiking Society's list of events already planned. You might also want to contact your local chapter of a national organization such as the Sierra Club to find out what activities are being held in your area. For further information, contact the American Hiking Society at (301) 565-6704 or by e-mail at ntd@americanhiking.org. Regardless of your age, interests, skills, or physical abilities, come out and join together with others in your area on National Trails Day this year to help celebrate and promote America's trails.

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