About American Trails

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Establishment of American Trails in 1988


American Trails was created in 1988 by merging the National Trails Council, sponsor of the National Trails Symposium, with the newer American Trails Network. The following articles are from the November 1988 Trail Tracks Newsletter:


American Trails Established

American Trails, your new trails advocacy and educational organization, was established through a merger of the American Trails Network and the National Trails Council on September 12. The merger received rousing approval by National Trails Council members and other participants at the Ninth National Trails Symposium; the American Trails Network board of directors had approved the merger at their August meeting.

American Trails is the collective voice for a diverse coalition of trails enthusiasts, including hikers, bicyclists, snowmobilers, off-road vehicle operators, physically-challenged persons, cross-country skiers, canoeists, equestrians, fitness enthusiasts, conservationists, land managers and planners, government officials, and others who enjoy and use land and water trails. The recent report of the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors underscores the importance of recreation and linear parks to the nation's citizens, and American Trails is taking the lead as the organization for all trail-related organizations.


Working Toward Our Continued Success

By Chuck Flink (Chair of American Trails in 1988)

TO: Members of the Board of Directors, National Trails Council and American Trails Network

I want to take this opportunity to thank each of you for working together, as a team, to create American Trails. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to Joe Payne and Peggy Robinson for orchestrating a smooth and successful transition.

I realize that such a dramatic change comes with some personal and philosophical sacrifices for all of you. I sincerely hope that you will be able to translate your concerns regarding American Trails into progressive actions. I want you all to know that I bring to American Trails a very open mind regarding the purpose and goals for the organization. I am ready to work with you to establish the type of organization you feel best represents the interests of our constituency.

For such a young organization, I think that we have already enjoyed some success. I feel that the National Trails Symposium was very successful. It was my first opportunity to attend the Symposium, and I was impressed by the organization and management of the event, the variety of topics, the keynote speakers, and the location of the event. I tip my hat to Joe Payne, Walt Cook, and Ken Cordell for a job well done.

Our new organization adopted two resoutions at the Conference:

1. We voted to unanimously support the American Heritage Trust Act, and

2. We voiced our concern and unanimous support for William Penn Mott, who has been a friend, supporter and champion for a stronger American trails system.

We also had an opportunity to exchange technical information and ideas concerning the diverse issues associated with trails, through the National Trails Agenda Task Force sessions. The discussion in the individual group sessions was thorough and thought provoking, and at times was spiced with a little controversy. The tough questions are being asked, and in the long run this will be good for our National Trails System.

I think we've already proved that the merger of the National Trails Council and American Trails Network will be an effective way to form a unified voice for the trails community and represent the varied interests of trail users.

If you are a member of the new Board of Directors of American Trails, you can expect that the next 12-36 months (depending on your term of service) will be full of opportunities for you to contribute to the success of the organization.

I do want to offer a word of caution to those of you who no longer have the burden of responsibility as members of the Board of Directors: please take this opportunity to rest up! Your service and commitment to the National Trails Council and American Trails Network will not be forgotten, and you will not be left out of the mainstream decision making for American Trails. The first order of business for the new Board of Directors will be to establish working committees for our new organization. so you can expect that your name will be on one or more of these newcommittees, and that the Board of directors will want to have your valuable input and ideas.

Finally, as I stated at the National Trails Symposium, I strongly believe that the first responsibility of a chief executive is to listen to the people who make up the organization. I am ready to hear from each of you. Simply let me know what concerns, personal agenda, or important facts you feel I need to know.

I understand that this organization faces many short term and long term challenges. My goal is to work, systematically, over the next 12 months to establish American Trails as a viable organization which is able to respond to the needs of the trails community.


1988 American Trails Board of Directors

Chair: Charles Flink, II, Greenways, Inc. (Raleigh, NC)

Vice-Chair: Joe Payne, Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources (Indianapolis, IN)

Secretary: Tom Neenan, Iowa Trails Council (Center Point, IA)

Treasurer: Peggy Robinson, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (Washington, DC)



  • Robert Karotko, National Park Service (Washington, DC)
  • Thomas Lennon, U.S. Forest Service (Washington, DC)
  • Darrell Lewis, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Washington, DC)
  • Delmar Price, Bureau of Land Management (Washington, DC)


Ninth National Trails Symposium (1988), Unicoi State Park, Georgia

The Ninth National Trails Symposium was an unqualified success. Nearly 300 trails enthusiasts spent four days having fun,learning, and working on improving America's trails. The symposium was a great opportunity to ensure that our trails resource endures and grows into the 21st century. While enjoying the wonderful paths and waterways of Georgia's southern Appalachian forest and rechargin their spirits, the symposium participants were think trails and helping develop a national trails agenda... an altogether rewarding experience. The symposium proceedings should be complete and ready for sale by next spring.

— from the November 1988 Trail Tracks Newsletter





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