Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the final 2016-17 New York State budget includes a $300 million Environmental Protection Fund—the state’s largest EPF budget ever.
Not only is this a historic moment for open space protection in New York State, it’s an unprecedented time for trail users, who are poised to benefit immensely from this announcement. In a surprise move, the entirety of the EPF has been designated for hikers, runners, and bikers to explore the state’s trail systems.
Starting today, New York State residents who sign up on a first-come, first-served basis will be eligible to receive $1 per every mile traveled along a trail. This new focus of the EPF is expected to boost tourism and reduce obesity rates.
A grassroots campaign founded by a group of young Brooklynites burned out by startup culture has been credited for this last-minute budget change in favor of adventure-seekers. Using the hashtag #MoreHikingLessWork, the movement gained momentum with those in search of a more authentic, “unplugged” alternative to the typical 40-plus-hour work week.
“Participants are encouraged to tell their bosses, both literally and figuratively, that they’re ‘taking a hike’ and will not be returning to the corporate drudgery slowly killing their soul,” said #MoreHikingLessWork founder Hudson Hillary. “Once free from the shackles of responsibility, pick a trail—any trail! All the trails!—and enjoy your newfound freedom.”
The April 1 start date for enrollment in the EPF’s hike-for-pay program coincides with the beginning of spring and the start of many thru-hikers’ journeys on long-distance trails, such as the Appalachian Trail—the first section of which was opened in Bear Mountain State Park.
It also happens to be April Fools’ Day.
All $300 million of the New York State Environmental Protection Fund may not actually be going to trails, but this historic level of funding does mean the Trail Conference will be able to further our mission throughout the state.