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View of a lush valley at sunset
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
NPS Photo / Bhoj Rai
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Restoring Our National Trails and Wild & Scenic Rivers

By Emily Kamin

In 2018, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the National Trails and Wild & Scenic Rivers acts, which recognized rivers and trails as natural, scenic, and historic resources while establishing their preservation as a national priority.

Today, we have a rivers and trails system that spans across the country, including over 60,000 miles of trail and 13,413 miles across 226 rivers. This web of rivers and trails is diverse and full of adventure: perfect for nature lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, or someone just looking to trade in their computer screen for a view of flowing water or beautiful fall foliage.

Three people stand on paddle boards on a river
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve (NPS Photo)

In an effort to connect people to their local rivers and trails, the National Park Foundation provided over $600,000 in 2018 – funding which was made possible by partners, including The Coca-Cola Company, Nature Valley, Alpina, Bandit Wines, Nest, and Niantic – to projects at 20 different national park sites within the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. These projects helped to restore the natural resources at these sites, make them more accessible to visitors, and engage community members in their continued preservation.

Thanks to this generous funding, the National Park Foundation was also able to pilot a volunteer network by providing additional funding to a select group of rivers and trails grantees, successfully expanding and strengthening their volunteer programs. In all, grantees brought nearly 2,000 volunteers to their local rivers and trails to pick up litter, remove invasive vegetation, install canoe landings, build picnic tables and provide training. And another 4,000 community members visited their local sites to participate in recreational activities like kayaking, hikes, nature walks, Tai Chi, and stand up paddle boarding.

A Look Back at Last Year's Projects

A person, wearing safety gear, uses a chain saw to take down a tree
Appalachian National Scenic Trail (Appalachian Trail Conservancy)

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy brought a crew of volunteers to New England’s section of Appalachian National Scenic Trail to rehabilitate campsites at three different points along the trail. They made the campsites safe for visitors by conducting risk assessment, removing hazardous trees, and making other accessibility improvements. “The safety of overnight visitors is an important part of maintaining and managing the trail,” says project leader, Cosmo Catalano. But the hard work didn’t stop there, as volunteers also installed 44 outhouses along the Appalachian trail, including one that was ADA-accessible.

People wearing life jackets do water aerobics
New River Gorge National Park & Preserve (NPS Photo)

Friends of the New River Gorge National Park & Preserve’s Get Active in the Park program held nearly 80 outdoor programs, bringing over 770 local participants from the four surrounding West Virginia counties to the park. Visitors participated in a range of unique programs, offered free-of-cost, including water aerobics and a ranger-led goat walk, where they learned about how goats can be used to combat invasive vegetation. In addition, as part of the newly launched NPF Volunteer Network, the program trained 10 volunteers as “Community Captains” so that they can lead their own communities in outdoor activities like these in the future.

These programs have helped residents find community, connect with their local parks, and become healthier and happier. One participant noted: “I am able to attend fun classes and programs for free. I can get physical activity that otherwise would be unobtainable money-wise. I'm showing my family by example that physical activity is fun.”

A group poses for a photo
North Country Trail (North Country Trail Association)

The North Country National Scenic Trail’s Volunteer and Partner Training Program hosted two Crew Leader training sessions which resulted in 50 newly trained Crew Leaders in Minnesota and Michigan, several of whom are planning to lead projects in 2019. The program held two chainsaw sawyer trainings, resulting in over 11 new qualified sawyers. The program also convened volunteers for several projects which cleared 250 storm-damaged trees on 1.5 miles of trail.

A handful of kayaks on a shallow river
Redwood National & State Parks (NPS Photo)

Park rangers at Redwood National and State Parks led 28 free kayak tours that engaged nearly 300 park visitors. Personal flotation devices were also made available to the visiting public to use while swimming at the Jedediah Smith Day Use Area. With help from National Park Foundation funding, this program has become beloved by area residents. As one participant shared, "I've been on the kayak program several times over the years, and I have not gotten to write how much I love and appreciate this program... I have enjoyed this experience every time and want to extend my personal thanks to the rangers and all the people involved in maintaining the kayak tour."

Thanks to support from The Coca-Cola Company, Nature Valley, Alpina, Bandit Wines, Nest, and Niantic, the National Park Foundation was able to help bring these efforts to life throughout the past year. The National Park Foundation is excited to continue partnering with The Coca-Cola Company to provide funding for another round of rivers and trails projects, including:

We look forward to another year of helping people find and enjoy their local rivers and trails! Help us restore and preserve these natural resources for generations to come by donating to the National Park Foundation today.