5 Big Take-Aways from WTA's First Virtual Hiker Rally
2021 brought a new twist to our biannual Hiker Rally Day — like many other events have been for the last year, it was all-virtual. WTA staff learned a lot about what it takes to move to an online format. But more importantly, we were inspired, as always, by our hiker advocates who showed up to speak out for our trails and public lands.
Every two years, WTA invites hikers to join us in Olympia for Hiker Rally Day. Attendees meet other hikers from their district and speak directly with their state representatives and senators about legislative priorities for trails and public lands.
2021 brought a new twist — we hosted our first ever all-virtual Hiker Rally. It spanned two days to accommodate busy schedules, and there were no long commutes to Olympia (only as many steps as required to get to a computer). Hikers still meet with fellow district attendees and heard from two champions for trails, Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins and Jon Snyder, senior policy advisor on outdoor recreation and economic development to Gov. Jay Inslee.
It took WTA staff a little extra work and flexibility to plan and host the event (more 20 staff and board members lent a hand in a variety of ways). But bringing hiker voices into the (virtual) halls of the government is always worth the effort. More importantly, we were inspired by the impact the hiker community had in just two short days.
Here are 5 powerful takeaways:
Anyone can be an advocate!
It's true. Many hikers were attending their first rally day. But with training and the support of fellow hikers from their districts, they felt confident to speak up on behalf of trails. In fact, we repeatedly heard back from lawmakers’ offices that were so impressed with the knowledge and passion with which hikers spoke about trails.
Voices from across the state ... and in a big way.
After a year when public lands mattered more than ever, 100+ hikers from more than 40 districts across the state rallied together to show their support. Members of the WTA community took valuable time out of work and school days to attend our trainings and meet with lawmakers.
Funding is key for our public lands and trails
Our legislative priorities this year focused on supporting budget requests for our state land management agencies, like the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Washington State Parks and Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP).
These agencies and programs are integral to providing access to the outdoors and supporting Washington's recreation economy. Budget items like these that benefits all Washingtonians garner support from across the political spectrum.
young people continue to lead the way in advocacy work
A WTA youth ambassador, Haeli Rowland, was the only constituent from her district, but that didn't stop her from speaking up on behalf of trails and increasing the No Child Left Inside funding in three different legislator meetings. (WTA youth ambassadors have been a consistent voice and force for trails and No Child Left Inside at previous Hiker Rally Days.
In a state of Hikers, Washington's Lawmakers are no exception
We consistently heard from elected officials that they also love getting outdoors and how great getting on trail or to a local park is for their hearts, minds and bodies. Here are a few of our favorite meeting moments that we heard about:
- One hiker advocate invited two of her lawmakers on a hike — and they both said yes!
- A representative was so inspired by the work WTA is doing, they decided to become a member during the constituent meeting!
- One representative mentioned his family’s love of hiking and his wife’s affinity for waterfalls, and another said she enjoys walks with her grandson at Japanese Gulch in Mukilteo.
- Several lawmakers mentioned their love of our website and hiking guide.
- After hearing about WTA’s thousands of hours of trail maintenance, many elected officials mentioned that they would love to join a future work party in their district.
WTA’s message that trails should be for everyone resonated across the political spectrum. Thanks to champions for trails like you, our collective voice as advocates for trails and public lands stood out. Make sure to join our Trail Action Network for more opportunities to contact your legislators directly before the 2021 legislative session comes to a close in a few weeks.