By Peter Dolan, New Jersey Program Coordinator
When you think of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it our maps and books, which thousands rely on to enjoy their weekend hikes? Is it the solitary maintainer, clipping back his trail segment to allow safe access? Maybe our crew outings, trail construction projects, or Trail University workshops?
I would venture the guess that very few readers had “advocacy” spring to mind as one of the major functions of the Trail Conference, and yet nothing could be closer to the heart of what we do. A history of the Trail Conference, entitled “Vistas & Visions” and published 20 years ago, opens with the following quote:
“This trip last Sunday made us realize how blessed we are, who live in this big metropolitan area, to have so near at hand for our constant enjoyment so many beautiful mountains and trails. And I am afraid that as we go over the trails, we forget that it is the hard work of a few that makes possible the enjoyment by many.”
– Angelique Rivolier, Director of the Inkowa Outdoor Club, describing a hike on a new section of the Appalachian Trail near Sterling Forest, April 1930
Though the quote is nearly 85 years old, the same recognition rings true today—that it is the hard work of a few that makes possible the enjoyment by many. In the past year alone, the Trail Conference has leapt into the fray of battles against numerous threats—including the casinos in Sterling Forest and Woodbury, the LG building atop the Hudson Palisades, development along the Shawangunk Ridge, and dissipating open space funding for New Jersey.
Most recently, a bill has been proposed which would allow hunting on Sundays in New Jersey. The current ban on Sunday hunting allows outdoor recreationalists of all stripes—whether they be hikers, birders, bikers, trail runners, cross-country skiers, or anyone else—at least one day a week in which to enjoy the great outdoors without worrying about the sound of gunfire (as well as its potential dangers, however small the odds). Many of our members have already expressed their dismay with this bill, which caters to a small group of outdoor enthusiasts to the detriment of all others.
As with all of our previous advocacy efforts, we rely on a well-informed body of the public to show that they care about these issues. By educating our members and showing them how they can be involved, we hope to provide them with a voice to let their representatives know how they want their public lands treated. And in return, we rely on the eyes and ears of our members to let us know about the latest threats to the trails we all know and love. You can always stay up to date on the latest trail-related issues by checking out our advocacy pages.
So, next time you envision our organization in your mind’s eye, remember—sometimes it’s just as much a Trail Conference job to pick up your phone and call a legislator as it is to pick up your loppers and cut back branches in the trail!
It can be hard to find good environmental advocates. If you want to learn more about being involved in our advocacy program, or if you have skills and resources that you think would be valuable in any of our current efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact our Volunteer Coordinator John Leigh at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.