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What WTA’s New Leaders See for the Future of Trails

Jaime Loucky took on his role as WTA’s new CEO in December 2022 after serving as interim CEO for several months. Matt Martinez has been WTA’s board president since September, and before that he was on the board for 6 years. We sat down with both of them recently to talk about why they love WTA and what their hopes and dreams are for the future of trails in Washington. By Jessi Loerch.

WTA is a powerful community of hikers, full of passionate people. And that includes the people on our staff and board. We recently asked two people in leadership positions to sit down together and talk about why they love WTA and what their hopes and dreams are for the future of trails in Washington.

Jaime Loucky is WTA’s new CEO, he took on the role in December after serving as interim CEO for several months. Before that, he had been at WTA for several years as our first chief impact officer. When Jaime’s not working, he loves exploring trails with his family, including his 2-year-old daughter.

Matt Martinez has been WTA’s board president since September, and before that he was on the board for 6 years. When he’s not helping support WTA’s work, he loves hiking, trail running and backpacking.

Matt Martinez takes a selfie from a mountain pass. Mist engulfs the top of the mountains behind him and a waterfall tricks down its face. He is wearing a rain jacket and backpack.
Photo by Matt Martinez.

How did you start hiking in Washington? And how did you end up at WTA?

Matt: I moved here because of Mount Rainier. I was living in Washington, D.C., working for NPR. And friends invited me out for the Fourth of July. I actually discovered WTA by picking up a copy of Washington Trails magazine from my friend’s nightstand.

I was doing a lot of trail running at the time and I went to Mount Rainier. I was absolutely stunned by the beauty of the place. I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I wanted to be close to all of this — I was going over Rampart Ridge near Longmire and going down some switchbacks to Kautz Creek valley and the mountain unfurled before me.

I came to WTA because I want all of that natural beauty and access to trails to be there for future generations. And that’s the work WTA is doing all the time. We’re opening up out-of-shape trails, and we’re creating more for options for folks to alleviate strain on trails.

Jaime: You and I had different but complementary experiences. I grew up here, doing overnight trips in the North Cascades with my dad. But then I left, first to Washington, D.C., and then New York City. I went to places that are wonderful in their own ways, but good luck getting an overnight experience on the eastern seaboard. It just really increased the appreciation I had for the natural beauty, and the opportunities to get outside, that we have in Washington state.

Being back now, I think the fact that we have so much natural beauty and that we’re starting from a place of appreciating those public lands is a huge strength of our state.

I came to WTA because I was really drawn to our vision of trails for everyone, forever. I want to be able to keep having those conversations and shaping the trail system of the future.

Jaime Loucky smiles from a rocky outcrop above an alpine lake in the Enchantments. He is wearing his backpack and has his trekking poles in his hands.
Jaime Loucky at the Enchantments. Photo by Cassidy Giampetro.

If someone on trail or at a happy hour asks you what you do in your role, what do you say?

Matt: Well, the most prosaic of answers if that I run the board meetings as the president of the board. But what I really do is help lead a group of people who have raised their hands and said “Yes, I believe in this mission with all my heart and I’m willing to volunteer my time and energy to make it happen.” Together, we are all acting for the good of the organization. We all came to do the work of making sure there will continue to be a vibrant future for trails and the hiking community.

Jaime: The best way that I can describe what I do is that I speak for trails. I really try to do that in this role. I’m always keeping that mindset of ‘What do trails need?’ And the important complement to that is really trying to learn what the hiking community needs. How do we expand and grow and make sure that our hiking community is as thriving and welcoming and rich in 100 years as it is now? My goal is to help bring people into the community.

And one more key part of my work is helping everyone here at WTA bring their best self to work. I help us find the day-to-day work that moves us toward our bigger goals for the hiking community and trails.

What has been most exciting about your work with WTA so far?

Matt: What really excites me is telling folks I’m on the WTA board when I’m out on trail, and just seeing their eyes light up. And then we have a conversation and it’s usually about how invaluable WTA is as a trail resource — the website, the Hike Finder Map, the trip reports. And that’s when I really get excited, and I can talk about all the work we’re doing around the state on trail maintenance and advocacy. And I love telling them how they can get involved — through volunteering, donating or writing a trip report.

Jaime: I’m thinking about how the last couple of years have seen a seismic change in the number of people who are getting outside and the value that people see in the outdoors. It’s also been a really exciting couple of years for our work. We’ve launched innovative new programs, which readers of our magazine are probably familiar with, like our Lost Trails Found crew and the Emerging Leaders Program.

And I will say that I feel like my relationship with the outdoors has evolved as I’ve gotten older. I’ve got a 2-year-old and I’m enjoying the outdoors in different ways. One of the things WTA can continue to do is just show that there’s a wide variety of ways to enjoy the outdoors, and we can celebrate and support all those different ways.

Matt Martinez takes a selfie with a forested backdrop. He's wearing a beanie, backpack, and a jacket.
Photo by Matt Martinez.

Where are you excited to use your role to do more for the hiking community?

Matt: I think there are two main places. The first is my role in the boardroom. The other board members and I work with Jaime and senior staff and think through how to bring our mission and vision to life. Trails for everyone, forever, is really a deceptively simple vision. But the strategic planning that underpins that vision is immense. Our job as a board is to work through that at a high level as a partner.

All of the board’s work is in service to the hiking community. And that really relies on my other main role for WTA, which is as a community ambassador. I show up and tell the story of WTA. I help folks see that the health and vitality of our trail system impacts all of us. It’s good for our hearts and minds and bodies, and the more people that we can get out on trail, the better it is for us a society. And that getting out can be so many things. It could be a local park. Or a wilderness and a bumpy forest road. As the world is opening, I hope we can get out and talk to more people and spread the word about WTA and all the work we are doing.

I want folks to know that we’re really both energized by the work that is ahead. That’s what makes working together so delightful — the working relationship becomes almost celebratory. That’s not to say that there’s not a lot of hard work to come, but everything we do is in service to our mission.

Jaime: I agree, we work really well together and are excited about the work. And that goes for the rest of the organization as well. The board, our leadership team, our community and our staff are closely linked. We see the unifying power of the outdoors. We all appreciate trails and what they give us, and that’s a strong foundation to build on.

Our roles are complementary, but distinct. I am really out in the community and with hikers and other trail users or managers. My work is to keep investments in the outdoors on people’s agenda and to make sure people continue to prioritize protecting our public lands. People saw the value of time outside during the pandemic, and even now as we get into whatever this new normal is, I want to ensure people remember the value trails and public lands have.

My work is also about keeping the hiking community growing and thriving, welcoming and inclusive. I want to always celebrate all the different aspects of our community. The role I see in my leadership is just making sure that we are creating space for everyone who appreciates trails, and for whatever way they appreciate trails, whether that’s the long-distance, ultralight backpacker or the person who hikes with kids on neighborhood trails. We want them all to have a home at WTA.

Jaime Loucky and his family stand at the trailhead of the Olympic Discovery Trail. They are wearing jackets, hats, and hiking shoes. Jaime's child sits in a backpack on his back.
Jaime Loucky and his family. Photo by Jaime Loucky.

Lightning Round

Boots or trail runners?

  • Matt: Trail Runners
  • Jaime: Neither? Salomon GTX Lowtops

Salty or sweet snacks?

  • Matt: Salty
  • Jaime: Both! Cheez-Its & Peanut M&Ms are my faves.

Lakes or rivers?

  • Matt: Lakes
  • Jaime: Alpine lakes

Coffee or tea?

  • Matt: Coffee
  • Jaime: Coffeeeee

Sunrise or sunset?

  • Matt: Sunrise
  • Jaime: Sunrise (with coffee)

Beach or mountains?

  • Matt: Mountains
  • Jaime: Mountains

Short/steep or long/slow climb?

  • Matt: Short/steep
  • Jaime: Short/steep

Marmot or pika?

  • Matt: Pika
  • Jaime: Miles the Marmot FTW

Hiking poles or no poles?

  • Matt: Poles!
  • Jaime: Always poles, my knees aren’t what they used to be! 

Foam pads or air pads?

  • Matt: Air pads
  • Jaime: Air pads (with rails)

Car camping or backpacking?

  • Matt: Backpacking
  • Jaime: Backpacking 

Camp chair or on ground?

  • Matt: Camp chair
  • Jaime: Inflatable pad

Pie or cake?

  • Matt: Cake
  • Jaime: PIE

Cheese or chocolate?

  • Matt: Cheese
  • Jaime: Chocolate
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2023 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.