Trails For All Americans

The Report of the National Trails Agenda Project Submitted By American Trails to the National Park Service

What would it take for all Americans to be able to go out their front doors and within fifteen minutes be on trails that wind through their cities, towns or villages and bring them back without retracing steps?

by National Park Service

Along the way they could pass shops and restaurants, go to work, school or a park, visit an historic site or the zoo, and experience the great outdoors without a car or bus. If they were to follow the right path, the trail could take them into the countryside or possibly link up with another trail that would lead them into the deepest wilderness or lo the highest mountain or across the widest prairie. They could travel across America on trails that connect one community to another and stretch from coast to coast, and from border to border.

Such a network of trails was endorsed in '1987 by the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors when it called for a nationwide system of greenways within easy access of all Americans. However, the Commission also raised a major challenge when it noted,"Decisions made between now and the year 2000 will determine the fate of America's remaining land and water resources." The ability to create a national system of trails depends on land-use decisions being made every day.

The critical task today is thinking about trails in the context of whole systems and making land-use decisions that explicitly consider connecting the trails, selling aside land to allow connections, thinking systematically about trails, linear parks a nd greenways, and acting now because decisions made in this decade will determine the long- term fate of essential resources.

In 1988, the National Trails Agenda Project was initiated as a co- operative venture between the National Park Service and American Trails (a non-profit, broadly based trails coalition) to look at trail issues and develop recommendations to satisfy America's current and future need for trails. To form a national system, trails must be viewed as part of the nation's physical infrastructure and included along with highways, utility and sewer lines, airports, and other public facilities as part of the general conduct of everyday governance; trails must be seen in the larger context of the corridors and environments through which they pass; corridor protection must be the primary goa l; and the highest priority in developing such a system must be in close-to-home areas, particularly where resources are closest to population centers. To develop a system all land and water-based resources must be assumed to have trail potential.

This report is directed toward an audience that includes all levels of government, the business community, private organizations and user groups, and every American citizen. Only through coordinated action can the ever-changing outdoor recreation needs of the nation be met and the diverse objectives for open space, physical fitness, natural and cultural diversity, education, transportation, and economic development be fulfilled.

The creation of a true national system of trails beg ins with all Americans in their own backyards - in neighborhoods and communities, in churches, schools and social organizations, in cities and towns, in every county and state. All Americans are called upon to act immediately to safeguard trail resources.

Attached document published July 1990

About the Author

The National Park Service (NPS) was created in 1916 and today manages over 390 units found in all 50 states and some of the U.S. territories. NPS supports and operates trails in three interlocking arenas: trails in parks, technical assistance to States and communities, and administration of much of the National Trails System.

More articles by this author

Webinars on YouTube that you might like

Celebrate Trails Day: An Overview of the Celebration + Ways to Engage

Mar 21, 2024

During the webinar, the speakers will provide an overview of Celebrate Trails Day, share ways to get involved, and will go over the tools and materials they will provide to help you plan, promote, and participate in the celebration.

National Water Trails: Designating Your Trail for NWT Status

Jul 6, 2023

Discover the benefits to designating your trail(s) as an NWT, the history of the National Recreation Trails (NRT) program and its subset National Water Trails, the process for trails to become NWTs, and more.

More resources in this category

Pacific Crest Train Assn. Crew Leadership: Managing Volunteers

posted Aug 17, 2022

For students with moderate to extensive trail building experience who want to lead trail crews and work parties. Not a construction techniques class; this is about effective leadership. Students will have classroom and field work in the following topics: work day responsibilities, risk assessment and safety, tool safety and tool talk, leadership and team building, practical experience leading volunteers.

The Influence of Layout on Appalachian Trail Soil Loss, Widening, and Muddiness

posted Jul 15, 2022

This research investigates the influence of layout and design on the severity of trail degradation.

Improving the Sustainability of the Appalachian Trail

posted Jul 15, 2022

The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) is a unique internationally recognized protected natural area encompassing more than 250,000 acres and a 2,190-mile footpath from Maine to Georgia.

Making the Trail Visible and Visitor Ready: A Plan for the James River Segment

posted Aug 19, 2020

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail joined the National Trails System following designation by Congress in 2006. The trail helps visitors experience, envision, understand, and protect what the explorers and inhabitants of the region encountered 400 years ago.

1,146 views • posted 08/23/2023