Trails for everyone, forever
Here at WTA, 2017 was a year of helping our community grow and deepening our impact. From bringing on a new executive director to celebrating a decade of working with youth, this year was filled with exciting milestones for WTA and trails. Thanks to you, our members and supporters. You helped us accomplish so much.
Washington Trails Association inspires hikers to be a persistent and powerful voice for trails and public lands. Every day we work to engage our community as trail maintenance volunteers, public-lands advocates and on-the-ground experts sharing their knowledge with fellow hikers.
In 2017, we helped our community grow and deepened the impact of our work. From bringing on a new executive director to celebrating a decade of working with youth, this has been a year filled with exciting milestones for WTA and trails. Thanks to you, our members and supporters. You helped us accomplish so much.
Here are a few of our favorite moments from the year:
Wow. Let’s take a minute to appreciate that WTA welcomed Jill Simmons as our new executive director early in 2017.
Jill hit the ground running—getting to know all the wonderful members of the our community and helping us get more specific on the implementation of our strategic plan and our work around equity and inclusion. We are so thankful for Jill’s hard work and are excited to see what our community will accomplish in the year ahead under her leadership.
On a cold day in February, a record 120 hikers warmed our hearts by coming together in Olympia for WTA’s Hiker Rally Day. The day began with Jon Snyder, outdoor recreation and economic development policy advisor to Governor Jay Inslee, sharing his appreciation for the WTA community.
"I like working with a group that is going everywhere from digging in the dirt to going to the capitol, because they see the entire picture of what it is they are trying to do with trails in the state," Snyder said.
At the end of the day, advocates were empowered and energized to continue to be involved in the civic process. We also heard from lawmakers that they appreciated the personal stories from their districts. This set the tone for WTA’s community coming together for trails throughout 2017.
In addition to working in Olympia, WTA also works to protect trails at the federal level, where decisions about managing and funding our national parks and forests take place. To this end, Sen. Maria Cantwell invited Jill to D.C. in March to testify before Congress on behalf of WTA. Specifically, Jill discussed WTA's success in partnering with land managers and highlighted the importance of investing in our public lands during her talk before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
"I believe that enhanced federal investment and creative partnerships are key to reducing the infrastructure backlog on federal lands,” Jill testified. “Washington Trails Association has been working for nearly 25 years to help maintain the trail infrastructure on public lands. We stretch tax dollars—donating more than $3 million in volunteer labor annually."
Jill also described the power of the recreation economy. She reinforced why investment in our public infrastructure is vital to support the $21.6 billion spent on outdoor recreation in Washington.
“Without trails to draw them in, people won’t have any reason to stop at local restaurants or gas stations that are scattered throughout gateway communities," Jill explained.
Her testimony was a great opportunity to highlight the power of WTA’s volunteers and advocates coming together to protect public lands in Washington state by giving their time and voices to the places we love. This national platform was an exciting way to show how hikers can make a difference. WTA is a proven model of success for empowering our community.
While WTA hosts trail work parties year-round, the spring melt signifies the start of our backcountry season. This year we kicked off that season with a volunteer vacation to Kalaloch beach where we improved drainage on the trail and got it in shape for the busy hiking season.
The energy and enthusiasm from this trip set the tone as trail work volunteers helped us surpass another milestone—more than 5,000 volunteers came out and contributed more than 160,000 hours to trails in 2017.
WTA’s volunteer community continues to grow, and we are particularly proud of the fact that 22 percent of our volunteers are under the age of 18. Thanks to the continuing support of our members and donors, this year WTA celebrated 10 years since we established our youth program.
We now have a comprehensive program that serves thousands of students. Although the youth program started with a smattering of one-day work parties for families, it has expanded to also include weeklong youth volunteer vacations and a Youth Ambassador Program.
This year, WTA partnered with 28 different school and community groups for youth volunteer trail work. We believe that by exposing young people to trails, and how to protect them, that they will fall in love with the outdoors and the act of giving back.
As we reached the middle of 2017, our trip reporters helped us celebrate a milestone more than two decades in the making. This year we surpassed 100,000 trip reports submitted online. What’s equally impressive is that more than 20,000 unique trip reporters contributed to that tally.
Trip reports have always been an important part of WTA by bringing hikers together to share a love of adventure and help one another get outside safely. We've seen some incredible trip reports over the years, from mountaintop weddings to first hikes and everything you can think of in between.
To celebrate you, the incredible trip reporters who made this milestone possible, we put together a video featuring 100 trip reports in 90 seconds.
July is a natural time to set out on new adventures. Here at WTA we partnered with Latino Outdoors to launch the first Latina trail crew at Mount Rainier.
Nine young women (ranging in age from 13 to 16) embarked on an epic adventure in the park. Over the course of four days of trail work, and more than 30 hours of volunteer maintenance, the trailblazing crew learned about the park’s natural history and careers in the outdoors while exploring their own place in the world of public land conservation.
Summer inspired hikers to come together and speak up for trails on Washington Trails Day. Saturday, Aug. 5, was the fifth official Washington Trails Day.
WTA outreach volunteers spent their day at trailheads across the state. They asked hikers to sign a petition to our congressional delegation to support funding for trails. Our petition generated more than 2,500 signatures. WTA then delivered the petition to our Washington, D.C. delegation to show broad support for funding for trails and public lands.
In addition to the petition, we asked hikers to go an extra mile for trails and share their trip report on their congressional officials’ Facebook pages. We had roughly 70 trip reports shared with eight of the 10 legislative districts in Washington—talk about champions creating positive pressure for trails!
Also in August, the momentum of hikers doing more for trails helped propel WTA’s 492 amazing Hike-a-Thon participants to hike a record-breaking 14,200+ miles. This signature event raised $135,963 to support trails and the work of Washington Trails Association. Thanks to all of you who made your miles count this year.
Still a relativity new program, WTA’s Outdoor Leadership Training has proven it has an exponential impact.
This program gets school-age youth outside by empowering teachers and youth groups with the skills and resources they need to lead safe and fun outdoor experiences. In just four years we have trained more than 250 educators and youth program coordinators as trip leaders.
To support further growth of the program, we moved the OLT’s gear library to a larger space in September. This year alone, OLT has supported more than 80 outings for groups of youth and families with more than 2,000 participants—collectively, those groups spent more than 130 nights under the stars.
Thanks to donations from more than 600 hikers and climbers, as well as the 1,000 WTA activists who spoke up, we helped Forterra secure the land surrounding the beginning of the Lake Serene Trail.
Hikers also spoke up to protect trail funding and to focus on the much needed fire recovery efforts that are ahead of us in 2018 and beyond. We are talking with land managers, engaging hikers and starting to create a vision for a sustainable trail system.
A new cohort of 22 youth ambassadors were trained in November—our biggest cohort to date! These young adults have demonstrated a commitment to trails and signed on to share their love of WTA with their peers over the course of the school year. We are excited to see what our ambassadors will accomplish in 2018.
Earlier this year, the previous cohort of ambassadors attended Hiker Rally Day, organized work parties, created outdoor clubs at their schools, wrote articles sharing their perspectives on the outdoors, and contributed to WTA’s hiking guide.
Their work helped the ambassadors connect more than 1,200 of their peers with information about hiking and WTA.
This month, we updated the site to provide hikers with new map tools to help them plan their hikes all over the state and find a new favorite trail to explore.
All of these accomplishments, and so many more, are made possible thanks to our community of members, volunteers and advocates. Thanks to your support we continue to make Washington’s trails safe and accessible for hikers today and for generations to come.
We are looking forward to 2018—there is more to do and we are excited to see the hiking community continue to come together and make a difference in the year ahead.