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Record Numbers Show Up to Speak for Trails in Olympia

Posted by Francakes at Feb 16, 2017 04:10 PM |

More than 120 hikers from across the state joined WTA for Hiker Rally Day in Olympia yesterday to voice their support for funding for trails and recreation lands and programs to get youth outside.

More than 100 advocates braved pouring rain to hike the capitol steps in support of funding for trails. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

More than 120 hikers of all ages from across the state joined WTA for Hiker Rally Day in Olympia yesterday to voice their support for funding for trails and recreation lands and programs to get youth outside.

The day began with welcoming remarks from Jon Snyder, Outdoor Recreation and Economic Development Policy Advisor to Governor Jay Inslee.

"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 about working with WTA.

Snyder also noted that the outdoor recreation's $21.6 billion contribution to the state's economy places the sector among Washington's top job creators along with aerospace and information technology.

Energized by the opening remarks, advocates then participated in training to prepare for a full day of meetings with their legislators where they promoted WTA's 2017 legislative priorities. Advocates representing 36 legislative districts were present at the event.

Advocates participated in a legislative training to prepare for meetings with elected officials. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

Powerful advocacy from people on the ground

During the training, one first-time advocate expressed reservation about speaking on policies she was not an expert in. WTA Advocacy Director Andrea Imler assured everyone involved that expertise was not a prerequisite for successful advocacy.

"The power you bring to Rally Day is your personal connection to trails," Imler said. "Your legislators aren't expecting you to be policy wonks, but you can provide a human connection that helps them see why trail funding is important to their constituents."

WTA's new Executive Director, Jill Simmons, met with Representative Brian Blake (D-19), among others, to discuss legislative priorities. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

Sandra Hays, a volunteer with more than 300 days of trail work under her belt, saw Rally Day as an extension of the work she has already committed so much of her time to. "Trails have become a passion for me. Working on trails has changed my life. We need to have trails. Other people need the opportunity to get out on trails -- to save their lives and change their lives."

The next generation speaks up for trails

Among the advocates were several WTA Youth Ambassadors and a group of high school students from Darrington, all of whom were passionate about making sure the outdoors have a strong future in Washington. Some of the youth present were not yet old enough to vote, but were already engaging in the civic process.

"It was a super cool experience for me, because our group from the 22nd District was a really diverse group of people, and we each had a different perspective on what made us passionate about trails, " said Youth Ambassador Julianna Hoza. "One person helps veterans recover by helping them use trails and go outside. I've had experience helping youth get their first experiences outdoors. There was a doctor in our group, and she was talking about mental [health] benefits. There are just so many perspectives on how the outdoors can impact people's lives. It's not just a hobby. This is something that changes people’s lives. I hope that the people that we were talking to, the legislative assistants [and legislators] saw that, too, because it is certainly something that impacted me."

Sam D’Ambrosia, another Youth Ambassador and hiker, said that the need for access to trails in his community was part of what motivated him to meet with his legislators.

"There is an initiative called No Child Left Inside, and I realized it was pretty pertinent to my community. There's a lot of differences in economic situations in my community. Lobbying, I think, is a good way to address that issue."

Creating lasting impact

At the end of the day, advocates reported feeling empowered and energized to continue to be involved in the civic process.

The legislative session is scheduled to run through the end of April and, although our hiker advocates could only be in the capitol's halls for a single day, their impact will continue to resonate. Hikers' stories and passion not only inspired WTA's staff, they made a strong case for our legislative agenda this year.

To learn about future Rally Days and other advocacy opportunities, join the Trail Action Network.

Hikers are perhaps the most well-prepared group for a very rainy Rally Day. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

WTA sawyers demonstrated their crosscut skills at Big Tent Rally Day, which also took place Feb. 15. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

Hikers wrote notes to their legislators after their meetings to remind them of the importance of trails and thank them for their time. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.