Why Host the National Trails Symposium?
Why would any community be foolish enough to take on the enormous responsibility of co-hosting the National Trails Symposium with American Trails?!
Read more about the 2000 National Trails Symposium in Redding, California
By Terry Hanson
That was the question poised to me 10 years ago, when I suggested that the City of Redding submit a bid to co-host the 2000 National Trails Symposium. It will require local funding we do not have, a large commitment of staff time, dedicated partnerships, corporate sponsorships and a willingness to work hundreds of volunteers and yourself into an early grave, summarized the feedback I received. As it turned out the Symposium was a huge success for our community and region, and somehow I survived.
I would like to say that it was my vision and hard work that made it such a success. The truth is I would have failed miserably if not for the enthusiastic support of our City Manager, City Council, local corporate sponsorships and over 300 volunteers, many of whom I had not previously known.
Most of the heavy lifting was done by our local, state and federal partners and the professional staff at American Trails. Hundreds of hours of staff time and resources were donated by the Turtle Bay Exploration Park, McConnell Foundation, California Conservation Corps, California State Parks, Bureau of Land Management, Redding Trails and Bikeway Council and the National Park Service.
It is not an overstatement to say partnerships are critical for any community interested in co-hosting the Symposium. Show me the Money! Was it worth it? There are the immediate economic benefits to your local economy as a result of the several hundred visitors staying in your community; hotel rooms are filled and there are longer lines at local eateries and gas stations.
By far the more important benefit is having the national attention focused on the trails efforts in your community and region. That attention will help you and your partners to develop a stronger sense of community place, pride in your accomplishments and a belief that you can do much more. It certainly did not hurt that California State Senator Johannessen used the media attention of the 2000 Symposium to present Redding with $3,000,000 for its trails program.
Catalyst for the Future
The relationships fostered during the planning and implementation of the Symposium created the catalyst for accelerating the development of two of our regional trails programs: the Shasta Trinity Trail and the Sacramento River Parkway. With our newly found determination, broader vision and greatly expanded egos, no mountain pass was too high and no pedestrian bridge was too expensive. In the eight years since the Symposium, our partnership has invested over $45 million in land, recreational amenities, cultural protection and environmental restoration to make these two regional efforts vital public amenities.
SHASTA TRINITY TRAIL
At the same time we were planning the Symposium, the same group of partners began planning for a 100 mile regional trail that we tagged “the Shasta Trinity Trail”. More than just a catchy name, the Shasta Trinity will connect the Shasta Trinity National Recreation Area, Whiskeytown National Recreation Area and the Trinity Alps National Wilderness Area with downtown Redding. In addition to providing access to thousands of acres of federal recreation lands, it would also serve as the backbone for a non-motorized corridor for Redding and surrounding communities. A bold, ambitious plan! One that may have taken decades to see any progress, if not for the 2000 Symposium coming to Redding and Northern California.
In the 8 short years which have followed, 50 miles of trail have been completed, connecting Redding to the Shasta Trinity and Whiskeytown National Recreation Areas. An additional 12 miles of trail along Clear Creek are now under construction and the National Park Service has kicked their trail plans into high gear, connecting the Shasta Trinity to Whiskeytown’s beautiful waterfalls.
SACRAMENTO RIVER PARKWAY
Redding and our far northern California region are blessed by the clean, blue waters of the Sacramento River. The Sacramento River Parkway provides for transportation, recreation, environmental restoration and cultural education, along 60 miles of the corridor from Shasta Dam to Red Bluff.
The efforts of the same partners who planned the Symposium (plus a few more) have resulted in 36 of the 60 miles being placed into public ownership. These public lands total 65,000+ acres, include 45 miles of public trails, 7 boat ramps, 2 large community parks, an off-road vehicle park and a 300-acre museum and arboretum complex. Annual visitation of the Parkway attractions now exceeds 750,000.
The Parkway includes 2 National Recreation Trails, the Sacramento River Trail and the Sacramento River Rail Trail. These two trails connect the Turtle Bay Exploration Park in central Redding to Shasta Lake and the Shasta Trinity National Recreation Area.
Co- hosting the National Trails Symposium and completing our regional trail plans created the “perfect storm” for trail development. A storm that shows no signs of subsiding. The heady accomplishments of the past 8 years are old news. Today we are currently under construction or are out to public bid for an additional $10 million in trail/pedestrian infrastructure and looking forward to a new trail bridge across the Sacramento River below Shasta Dam, and the renovation of a 93 year old trail bridge in downtown Redding.
To my contemporaries in Little Rock and Chattanooga: today your partners may view you as overly demanding and slightly touched. But history will portray you as a bold visionary and the Frederick Law Olmsted of trails in your region.
Terry Hanson has been developing parks and trails for the City of Redding for 34 years, was the co-director of the 2000 Symposium in Redding, CA and currently serves on the Executive Board of American Trails as its slightly touched Treasurer.
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Updated September 2, 2015