Alone Together: Protecting People and Trails

March 27, 2020
Joshua Howard, Executive Director
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Alone Together: Protecting People and Trails
Wyanokie Sunrise at Norvin Green State Forest. Photo by Heather Darley.


As trail lovers, we are excited to see how many people have sought refuge in nature during this time of uncertainty. As leaders in the trail community, we have a responsibility to encourage our volunteers and the public to remain vigilant about staying home and doing their part to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

We couldn’t be more grateful for our volunteer leaders who have stepped up to meet these unprecedented challenges head on. They’re adjusting schedules, revising priorities, and even hosting breakfast video chats to stay connected! They are the vital, vibrant fabric of this organization.

This difficult time has quickly reinforced the Trail Conference as an invaluable source of information and education as people look to connect with nature. While we are encouraging people to stay close to home, we are simultaneously providing alternative ways to explore the outdoors, such as through the Seek and iNaturalist apps. Once this period of social distancing has passed, we will be prepared to provide new and updated hike descriptions, maps, and other materials that visitors need before going to the trailhead.  

Our volunteers are eager to resume care of the public’s parks and trails. As maintainers, surveyors, trail builders, and Stewards, we are committed to ensuring parks are accessible via safe and enjoyable trails. Helping people experience the physical and mental benefits of being outdoors is what we’ve done for 100 years, and we’re not stopping now.

With enthusiastic new trail users now seeking more ways to be active and find peace in nature, our Steward program will be in even higher demand. We have a responsibility to teach Leave No Trace principles to protect visitors and protect the land. Preparing novice hikers to responsibly enjoy the outdoors will be more important than ever.

We know our ecological stewardship efforts will be tested due to the timing of plants blooming and a shortened work season. But combatting invasive species and finding innovative ways to protect the native habitats that make our trails so enjoyable is imperative to our mission. The Invasives Strike Force will march on.

Finally, our crews will be needed to repair the trails we all love—especially those in danger of being “loved to death.” With increased use and missed maintenance trips, we will face a backlog of work. The Trail Conference is preparing for this future reality now with new online training tools and digital planning sessions so that we can be as effective and impactful as possible in a truncated work season.

We may not be on the trails right now, but we have not stopped working to protect the land you love. Join us in making a difference now by:

  • Sharing our resources and the safest at home message. Engage community leaders (schools, governments, emergency response), share on social media, and in town bulletins.
  • Use this time to find pictures of your favorite trail experiences and share them with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. While there, thank the volunteers who care for those parks and trails!
  • Join us! We will be having ongoing opportunities to plan your summer hikes, learn more about our response to invasives and other environmental threats, and how to use parks and trails to boost your health and wellness. Check our News Center for updates.
  • Donate. Right now, the Trail Conference needs basic support to retain staff and volunteers and to support our community with ongoing programs.

Your role as a Trail Conference supporter has never been more important than it is right now. Thank you for all you do!