American Trails

Redding, California

Nov 2, 2011
Outside Magazine
Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

BY THE NUMBERS: The world’s largest advocacy group for planning, building, and managing trails and greenways
WHO'S IN CHARGE: Pam Gluck, 54, former state trails ­coordinator for Arizona, ­recreation director for Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona, and ­cross-country ski guide
WHAT IT DOES: Chances are, if you walked any new trails in the U.S. in the past 20 years, American Trails (AT) played a part in establishing them. The 20,000-member outfit is the only national organization dedicated to building, expanding, and safeguarding trail systems for all users, from hikers, ­bikers, runners, and equestrians to dirt-bike and ATV riders. Oper­ating on an annual budget of $295,000, AT provides hundreds of member organizations with guidelines on how to plan trail systems, write grant proposals, negotiate rights of way, and manage urban and backcountry trails. (For example, the Sacramento River National Recreation Trail in California and the Arkansas River Trail in Little Rock were recently built with help from AT.) It secures funding for trail building and maintenance by knocking on doors on Capitol Hill and at numerous federal agencies, including the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. AT contracts with these agencies to run training sessions for trail crews and sponsors an annual national symposium for trail builders and advocates.
EXTRA CREDIT: A host of ­government agencies, including the Forest Service and the ­National Park Service, endorse AT, which supports some 22,000 members and 500 grassroots trails organizations.
LOOKING AHEAD: Two years ago, manufacturer GameTime, research firm PlayCore, the Natural Learning Initiative, and American Trails launched Pathways for Play, a program designed to keep kids outside and to help fight childhood obesity. The pilot project, PlayTrails, debuted in an urban park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2010 with six play areas on a half-mile trail. PlayTrails have since debuted in Missouri and North Carolina, and more than a dozen communities nationwide plan to build them.