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American Trails introduces an ongoing series called “Breaking Down the Silos,” to help to bridge the barriers between the different trail user groups and bring our community together in supporting trails.

arrow From the Fall 2017 issue of American Trails Magazine


Breaking Down the Silos

A new series on bridging the barriers between trail user groups

book cover with photo of a leaf

What we all have in common: love for our public lands and trails


American Trails exists to help the trails community to communicate, share information, and work together to build the strength of our message that trails move the world.

Toward that end, American Trails introduces an ongoing series called “Breaking Down the Silos,” where we discuss the happenings and ideas that help to bridge the barriers between the different trail user groups and bring all members of our trails community together to ensure positive change in our trail world.

Mike Passo, American Trails’ executive director, recently attended the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) Conference in Manchester, NH.

“It was a truly superb event,” Mike said. “While there, I learned a lot about what moves the motorized trail community, what their struggles are, and how other constituency groups can work with NOVHCC.”

Mike hosted an American Trails Town Hall listening session as a part of the conference, and over the course of the weekend, heard several themes emerge around the motorized trail community and its relationship to the rest of the trails world. Below is a synopsis of the themes that arose:

There is a need for a common message that ALL trail constituencies can rally behind. As a coalition of trail organizations, we can develop agreed-upon goals and messaging and promote that vigorously for the betterment of trails as a whole.

Those goals that create controversy and fracturing among the coalition members can, and should, be left to the individual advocacy organizations to promote as they see fit. We can all agree that this will happen from time to time, and we must all agree to disagree on those topics, without letting that disagreement color the larger cooperation that the coalition seeks to promote.
There is a need for a better understanding of the economics of trails. A large proportion of trail funding comes from off-highway vehicle gas taxes (through the Federal Recreational Trails Program). Many of the trails you know and love only exist via this funding mechanism, yet it seems that many trail users and advocates do not recognize this or appreciate the outsized contribution of motorized trail users.

Motorized trail advocates often do not feel that there is parity when it comes to funding for trails. Motorized trail users happily (for the most part) pay fuel taxes, Federal and State permits and registration fees, all of which contributes significantly to trail development and maintenance.

At the same time, they do not see hikers, bikers, or equestrians paying similar fees to enjoy the same benefit. Nonmotorized advocates should consider allowing some sort of tax or fees to cover their desires for improved amenities and the maintenance their impacts require.

Some of these issues are easy to address. And some are a little tougher (to say the least). American Trails is committed to working with NOVHCC, American Motorcyclist Association, Motorcycle Industry Council, and our other partners to further the understanding of issues the motorized community faces and working toward mutually beneficial goals.

NOHVCC (like American Trails and IMBA) has a new executive director. Duane Taylor comes to lead NOHVCC from the Motorcycle Industry Council and is eager to join American Trails in breaking down the silos. In fact “Breaking Down the Silos” is a direct quote from Mike’s conversation with Duane during the conference.

American Trails looks forward to working with NOHVCC and other organizations, as we embark upon a strategic planning process over the next year and a half. Your ideas and input are strongly desired. Please contact our office if you are interested in helping us determine American Trails’ bright future, and keep an eye out for our outreach efforts over the next few months. Enjoy your fall trails excursions!

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