On February 5, Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-Neb.) introduced a bill in Congress which would authorize the addition of the American Discovery Trail (ADT) as the first trans-continental trail in the National Trails System. H.R. 588, as the bill is now known, would amend the original National Trails System Act of 1968 to create a new category of long-distance trails and would authorize the ADT as the first trail in that class. H.R. 588, which proposes the National Discovery Trails Act of 1997, was originally co-sponsored by 36 House members, but the number has since climbed past 40 as other Representatives have added their names to the list.
A companion bill to H.R. 588 is expected soon in the Senate. A prospective sponsor has been identified to replace the sponsor of last year's bill, Sen. Hank Brown (R-Colo.), who did not seek re-election. Meetings were scheduled during the last week of February to finalize the details of the Senate bill.
Similar legislative measures were introduced last year. During the hearings on the Senate bill, representatives of both the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service testified that they needed more time to review the options presented by the feasibility study which Congress had authorized for the ADT in 1992. An important attribute of the proposed Discovery class of trails is that they traverse major metropolitan areas such as Denver and Cincinnati and connect them with trails in more remote, wilderness areas.
In addition, some changes were suggested in the language in the bill which defined the partnership and reporting relationships. This testimony is reflected in the revisions made in this year's bills. Although no firm timetable has been established for legislative proceedings, proponents of the ADT are hoping for a schedule which would allow the final bill to be signed into law on June 7, National Trails Day.
For more information, contact the ADT Society at P.O. Box 729, Orinda, CA 54563; 510/283-6800.