This award is given to a partnership which benefits agencies or services within the field of trail planning, design, or implementation.
The North Carolina Great Trails State Coalition is an advocacy organization dedicated to securing sustained state funding for all kinds of muscle powered trails, both natural surface and paved. The Coalition is a membership-based coalition, currently with 66 nonprofit, local government, and industry partners. The Coalition has a fiscal sponsor, a team of lobbyists, and a single coordinator, Palmer McIntyre.
They first approached their General Assembly to designate 2023 as North Carolina Year of the Trail. This passed North Carolina House unanimously! The Coalition’s goal was to use the North Carolina Year of the Trail to promote trails and to engage more people in trails to help achieve state funding needs and goals.
Once this bill passed, the Great Trails State Coalition got busy fundraising to build a campaign for North Carolina Year of the Trail, raising more than $800,000 so far and creating foundational materials. Tools include a Year of the Trail website, a toolkit for communities, an event calendar, social media platforms, content generation and a whole lot of public outreach, through conferences and trainings. The interest and engagement have been overwhelming. More than 25,000 visits to their Year of the Trail website since mid-November, and they have reached close to 500,000 people across their social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook and YouTube), and more than 3,500 signed up for their newsletter. Important to note: The Coalition built this campaign from scratch!
In 2021, the Coalition also asked the General Assembly for funding for trails. When the budget was finally passed that year, the General Assembly made historical commitments to trails including a $29.5 million fund designated for 12 authorized State Trails! The Coalition remains committed to state funding for all trails, so they are advocating this year for the creation of a Great Trails State Fund of $50.5 million for local and regional trail projects.
Coalition members are presenting trails as a driver of economic benefit, particularly for rural communities struggling to develop outdoor recreation based economies, in addition to health, transportation and environmental benefits. For all their efforts for trail enhancement and partnership development, the North Carolina Great Trails State Coalition serves as a shining example to America and the world of the success of bringing diverse organizations together to provide Trails for All Americans and the world!