Trails for everyone, forever
There's a lot to consider when we decide where to work on trail around the state. By Jessi Loerch
“How do you decide where to work?”
At WTA, we get asked that question a lot. It’s an excellent question. The short answer is that we work on public lands, and we work where we can do the most good. But, behind that simple answer, there are many more questions we ask to keep us focused on the future we want to create — trails for everyone, forever.
It all begins with our deep knowledge of Washington state trails and the hiking community. As part of our broad plan for trails, we have created three campaigns to help guide where we work: Lost Trails Found, Trails Rebooted and The Trail Next Door. Together, those three campaigns help us focus our work on trails from the city park next door to 40-mile loops deep in the backcountry.
As we decide where to work, our three campaigns help us keep focused on our big goals and we ask some specific questions.
Lost Trails Found: Is this trail at risk of being lost due to lack of maintenance or because of severe weather events? Does the trail provide access to outstanding backcountry opportunities? If yes, those are trails we are more likely to prioritize. For instance, this summer, our Lost Trails Found crew worked on the Entiat, clearing hundreds of logs and protecting trails from getting lost under the fallen trees and brush. Clearing out those trails offers hikers safer, easier access to exceptional backpacking in a remote area.
Trails Rebooted: Is the trail an iconic popular trail that needs support to stand up to the number of visitors? Is it a sustainable alternative to popular trails to help hikers better disperse across the trail system? We are more likely to work on either of those types of trails to help strengthen hiking opportunities in some of our state’s most iconic areas. In Snoquera, for instance, we’ve been working to restore trails after fires and to craft a big-picture plan for the future of the area. Snoquera is just outside Mount Rainier National Park and offers miles of trails to help disperse hikers both from the park and from other popular areas, such as the I-90 corridor.
The Trail Next Door: Is the trail in an area that historically hasn’t had good access to green space? We aim to work in areas that will provide new access to green space for as many people as possible. In Glendale Forest in south King County, for instance, adding trails to a previously inaccessible green space will offer close-to-home nature walks to many families. And it’s a short walk from many community centers. By prioritizing work here, we are able to offer the benefits of getting outside to thousands of people who haven’t had this opportunity before.
While our campaigns help shape many of our decisions about where we work, we also consider many other questions. Of course, there are too many factors to list them all, but here are a few of the considerations:
Answering each of these questions requires knowing the trail system, having relationships with land managers and connecting with the hiking community. That knowledge has been built up over the decades. And, because of that knowledge, we’re well-suited to lead the way as we think about trails for decades to come.