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Wait, That Happened this Decade? WTA Looks Back at the Last 10 Years

Posted by Loren Drummond at Dec 04, 2019 06:00 PM |

Washington Trails Association has been around since 1966, but we've had a pretty epic decade. We took a few minutes to look back at some of things that have happened since 2010.

Washington Trails Association has been around since 1966, but we've had a pretty epic decade. We took a few minutes to look back at some of things that have happened since 2010.

WTA grew, A Lot 

From members to volunteers to staff across the state, we have more people working for trails than ever before. And the collective impact of our organization has also grown. We launched new, ambitious programs like the Outdoor Leadership Training program, and are working on more local, state and federal trails and issues than ever before.

Our website serves more hikers looking for information to get outdoors safely, and more people than ever before are learning how to take better care of the trails they visit.

Instagram launched a decade ago, and became a hot topic in conversations about community and stewardship. Now, we're sharing stories and building community with 125K people on Instagram. At the end of 2009, we had 6,800 fans (remember "fans"?) on Facebook. Now, we're sharing news, advocacy and the impact of our work with 140K people on the channel.

Recreation trending

Public lands have always been important to the economics of Washington, but in the last decade, study after study confirmed — at a national level — that the recreation economy is a force for rural communities and the economy. Washington has been one of the states leading the way. We were one of the first states to create a state recreation position (filled by Jon Snyder, in the Governor's office). And our state created two new holidays dedicated to honoring recreation: Washington Trails Day and Washington Public Lands Day.

We've been a voice for hikers at the federal level, too. We've spoken at congressional hearings, and helped secure big wins like the wildfire funding fix and the expansion of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. We've also played our fair share of defense, helping hikers negotiate the confusion of federal shutdowns and advocate for trails when local land managers have been benched. 

New land protections

This decade we saw the formation of a new national monument in the San Juan Islands, and raised hiker voices in support of expanding the Alpine Lakes Wilderness by 22,000 acres. We also helped kick off work on the first trails in the previous decade's new wilderness area: Wild Sky Wilderness.

We worked hard to see the state purchase of the 50,241-acre Teanaway Community Forest with funding from the Legislature in 2013, making it Washington’s first community forest. And we've been a voice at the table of shaping the 15-year plan for the forest.

Got (More) local

In the last decade, we've worked hard to better represent the entire state, hiring staff in Spokane, the Southwest and the Northwest. We have WTA ambassadors and volunteers in all corners of the state. We expanded our trail maintenance work to all the forests, and we've been building partnerships with city and county partners as well as local community groups. And, we're just getting started.

2019 volunteer map
Volunteer work parties in 2019 spanned the state.

Access to trails

After more than a decade of work to reopen it, the Suiattle River Road opened up access in the Glacier Peak Wilderness to hikers and much needed trail maintenance efforts. The road repair was the culmination of 11 years of hiker advocacy and collaboration among state, local, and tribal governments to restore access to the area.

Suiattle Ribbon Cutting anna roth
Smiles gleamed through the rain as representatives of state, local, and tribal governments cut the ribbon on the Suiattle River Road. Photo by Anna Roth.

The Middle Fork Snoqualmie River Road also got a massive investment. A years-long paving project wrapped up, meaning that hikers no longer had to worry about the annual car-swallowing potholes and the water quality of the river improved. The project also delivered a parking lot for Mailbox Peak, a popular destination hike for the Seattle area.

And in the Columbia River Gorge area, we worked with many partners to help the area recover after a devastating fire

Online trip reports Blew Up

We leveraged technology to deliver good, timely and free information about trails to hikers. We created My Backpack, a place on wta.org for hikers to save hikes they want to do, and keep track of hikes they've gone on. With the help of some incredible volunteers, we also rolled out new versions of our Trailblazer mobile app, to bring that information to more people and make it easier to take with you. 

We've put your reports to good use for the future of trails, too. They've informed land managers, our trail maintenance crews and scientists seeking to help us plan the next decade of trail management.

Dug Into the hard work of becoming a more equitable community

We dedicated ourselves to making more progress toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion. We developed a plan to guide our work through 2020. We've asked for input from all of our community, including donors, volunteers, members and partners. We took a hard look at exactly what we need to do to move toward being a more equitable and inclusive organization. And, most importantly, we remain committed to listening and learning how we can do better.

A vision worthy of the next decade

We focused our work in campaigns like Lost Trails Found and Trails Rebooted that will deepen our impact in the coming decade. The idea of making trails for everyone, forever here in Washington is a vision we're committed to.

Old friends, new coalitions

From our earliest days, we've relied on the strength of our partnerships to help trails. In the last decade, we've strengthened and multiplied those partnerships at every level, forming coalitions around our campaigns that are getting more done every year. We've tag-teamed work restoring backcountry wilderness trails in danger of falling off the map and traveled together to the other Washington to make a stronger case for recreation.

We're even working together to help educate trail users on how to get outdoors, go hiking with your family, stay safe from avalanches and share the trail.

Training leaders, letting them do their thing

AntoinePeakbyHollyWeiler6.JPG
Volunteers hauling rocks across the Antoine Peak trail. Photo by Holly Weiler

We've always relied on the power of volunteers and leaders in the trail community. We've committed to training and supporting a number of different outdoor leaders in their own communities.

  • Our trail ambassadors are standing up at outreach booths and local meetings speaking out for trails.
  • The community leaders who have come through our Outdoor Leadership Training program have made more than 10,000 outdoor experiences happen.
  • Our youth ambassadors stand up in their schools and communities to teach their peers about trail stewardship, advocacy and how to get outside safely.
  • On trail, our hiking guide correspondents are ground-truthing our hiking guide information, so that the millions of people who access it every year know what they're getting into.
  • And our volunteer trail maintenance leaders, those amazing folks who help WTA lead other volunteers restore and build new trails, continue to improve their trail and leadership skills with regular training and practice.

Our member magazine went full color

Since we've been publishing it for the hiking community since 1966, it seemed like time.

Magazine then and now decade

Things that haven't changed at all: WTA is just as committed to being your local trail experts as ever. We continue to be powered entirely by the passion of the hiking community. We still break for candy on every trail work party at 10 a.m. We still believe deeply in the collective power of stewardship and partnership. We still argue about raisins, and whether they belong anywhere near our trail mix. Our offices are filled with hikers and individuals passionate about public lands. We review your trip reports on Monday morning with large cups of coffee in our hands, and we are still looking far to the future to create change.

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