Here is some background about the National Trails System.
- The National Trails System Act was passed in 1968 to save the corridor of the Appalachian Trail and provide for a system of hiking trails nation-wide.
- Not much happened in the decade following, so in 1977 Congress held oversight hearings to find out what the problem was.
- Instead of waiting for states to act, the job was turned over to the National Parks Service; funding and acquisition began soon after.
- Two-thirds of this 2180-mile trail was already on state or federal land; 700 miles were in private hands.
- Over the next 30 years, $200 million was spent to acquire the right-of-way (about the cost of three large interchanges in Florida.) The job is done.
- Access problems and gaps in the trail plague the other 10 trails with this National Scenic Trail designation and require hundreds of miles of dangerous and noisy road-walks.
- No progress to speak of is being made to close the gaps.
- These 11 National Scenic Trails are the “Crown Jewels” of hiking trails throughout America.
- Should Congress hold oversight hearings again to review the status of these trails and to determine how gaps can be closed? Or should a Congressional committee be formed to address these gaps?
- • What other options are available to keep these trails from languishing? Eventually, developments of all kinds will greatly degrade the reason why these hiking trails exist in the first place.
The Appalachian Trail could serve as a template for addressing the gaps in the other trails designated as National Scenic Trails. Here are some interesting facts about the Appalachian Trail:
- The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has over 45,000 members.
- Members maintain the 2180-mile Appalachian Trail.
- The Appalachian Trail is designated as a “unit of the National Park Service.”
- Over 2,000,000 people hike on the Appalachian Trail every year.
- The Federal Government is relieved of the task of maintaining this Park asset because it renews a management agreement with the ATC to assume that responsibility.
- About 30% of the annual budget of the ATC is provided by contracts the ATC executes with the Federal Government. This means that 70% of the budget for maintaining this unit of our National Parks comes from the private sector.
- Thus the private sector, acting through the ATC, makes this recreational resource possible for all Americans.