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The Future of Trails and Greenways in America

Recommendations put forth at the Plenary Session of over 550 trail and greenway professionals and advocates at the Quad Cities National Trails Symposium, October 20, 2006.

By Robert Searns, Urban Edges, Inc.

"In this era of diminishing wild places, American Trails is striving to create a legacy of places of outdoor recreation and solace readily accessible to all Americans."

This past fall, at the National Trails Symposium, the membership of American Trails met to make recommendations for the future of trails and greenways in America. This compilation has been forwarded to the Members of the 110th Congress, the White House, key agency heads, and the national news media. In this era of diminishing wild places, American Trails is striving to create a legacy of places of outdoor recreation and solace readily accessible to all Americans. We thank all of those who participated in this heartfelt and creative effort, including the offices of Senators Obama and Huckabee. We encourage the vigorous pursit of this vision for this and future generations.

1. Promote Connections In Our Communities — Trail and Greenway infrastructure that connects people and places in our neighborhoods, towns, cities and regions— readily accessible within 15 minutes walking distance of every American.

2. Create a National Trails Network/System — An integrated trails network at all levels: linking cities, states, and regions of the United States and North America, as well as trails accessing National Parks, National Forests and other public lands.

3. Commit Sustainable Funding — Ongoing, sustainable revenue stream to fund and offer incentives to create trails and greenways. Includes federal funds & programs — Transportation Enhancements, Recreational Trails Program, Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ), National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program, USDA Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) programs, Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets.

4. Expand Environmental Education — Environmental education an integral part of a national and local school curricula at every level.

5. Associate Trails with Health and Fitness — Trails are, and should be, a significant part of community health and fitness programs. 6. Encourage All Americans to Participate Opportunities for the American People to give back— helping to plan, fund and work on trails in our neighborhoods, parks, as well as on state and federal lands.

7. Promote Sustainable Transportation — Alternative modes of travel that lessen dependence on foreign oil and reduce CO2 emissions contributing to climate change.

8. Engage, Motivate Youth — Promote stewardship with youth conservation/trail building corps.

9. Promote Access and Accessibility — An accessible, safe system for all abilities within easy reach of all homes and places of employment.

10. Build Trail and Greenway Partnerships — Trails and greenways created as vital infrastructure working with homebuilders and developers, transportation, utility, flood and fire control agencies and others with mutual benefit.

Letter sent to national leaders promoting the Ten Points


Members of the United States Congress
The White House
Federal Department Leaders
Trail and Greenway Advocates
Leaders of Business and Industry
National News Media Outlets

Dear National Leader:

American Trails is a national association of trail and greenway advocates and professionals. For over two decades, American Trails has served as a forum and a catalyst to improve the quality of life for all Americans by pursuing a national infrastructure of trails and greenways. We work through education, partnerships, and timely information resources to promote the creation, conservation and broad enjoyment of quality trails and greenways. We believe these amenities offer places of solace, health, fitness, and recreation, as well as transportation for all Americans. Since the founding of American Trails, we have watched trails and greenways grow from relative obscurity to the number one outdoor activity and must-have amenity in survey after survey.

Biennially, American Trails hosts a national symposium where hundreds of local, state and federal organizations, agencies and individuals who love, develop and manage trails gather from across North America and worldwide. They assemble to share information, ideas, successes and challenges. American Trails also publishes a magazine and hosts a website at where there is a continuing and ongoing exchange with over a million visitors annually.

In October of 2006, American Trails held its 18th National Trails Symposium in the Quad Cities of Iowa and Illinois. More than 550 trail and greenway advocates participated. At our kick-off plenary session, all of the attendees participated in a session to discuss the future of trails and greenways in America. Entitled "Ten Steps to Save Our Outdoors," the participants were asked to share their suggestions. The leading national Presidential hopefuls were also asked to submit their ideas and a number of them complied.

Our membership has requested that I submit the attached top ten suggestions that grew out of that session for your review, consideration and comment and, we hope, your action. On behalf of all Americans who want a better quality of life, more livable cities, healthier and fitter adults and children and better stewardship of our land and resources, we submit this list. We welcome your comments and suggestions and encourage your leadership in promoting these objectives.


Robert M. Searns
National Chair, American Trails, Inc.

Robert M. Searns is the founding owner of Urban Edges, Inc., a planning and development firm based in Denver. He has worked with communities nationwide on greenways, trails, and outdoor resource conservation. He co-authored, with Chuck Flink, Greenways: A Guide to Planning, Design and Development, and contributed to Greenways, The Beginning of an International Movement. Bob is also a member of the Board of Directors of American Trails.

Submit your opinion, article, or editorial to American Trails at or if you have questions call us at (530) 547-2060.

American Trails offers this website as a public resource to share ideas and opinions on trails and greenways. We have not evaluated the accuracy, feasibility, or legality of any of the material or articles. The opinions and editorials presented here do not necessarily reflect the opinion or support of American Trails. American Trails does not discriminate against individuals or groups on the basis or race, religion, nationality, or political affliiation.

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