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Happy Hours and Happy Hikers: Building Community Among WTA's Fireside Circle

Posted by Brynna Counts-Morgan at Oct 21, 2022 02:45 PM |

When you hang out with WTA's Fireside Circle members, it's impossible not to be inspired by their passion for trails and spirit of stewardship.

by Brynna Counts-Morgan

Whenever I tell someone I work at Washington Trails Association, more times than not the response is: “Oh, I love WTA.” (Spoiler alert: WTA loves you back!)

Of course, the reason I work here is because I also love WTA — not just the organization, but our goal of creating a future of trails for everyone, forever. And, I especially enjoy the opportunity to connect with WTA's enthusiastic base of 27,000 donors who make every aspect of our work for trails possible.

This summer and fall, WTA held several events to celebrate and connect with WTA’s Fireside Circle. The Fireside Circle is a group of 1,000 WTA members who donate $500 or more annually to support WTA’s work for hikers and the trails they depend on. 

Meaningful connections & hike recommendations

During the two happy hours WTA hosted for Fireside members in the Puget Sound region, members connected with each other and WTA staff. Some members I spoke with told me about how much they value WTA’s Hiking Guide. Others told me stories about getting introduced to trail maintenance on one of our youth volunteer vacations years ago. Every person I met had a story of why WTA matters to them, and it left me feeling even more inspired by the work we do. 

Can you guess what the best part of bringing together avid hikers is? I came away from the happy hour with lots of excellent hike recommendations.

    “I appreciate having opportunities to connect more deeply with WTA members," said Corinne Handelman, WTA’s major gifts officer, about the member events. "Fireside Circle gatherings have provided an intimate space to get to know folks and what inspires them to support the hiking community.”

    A group of staff and donors are gathered at a brewery.
    Jaime Loucky, WTA’s interim CEO, addresses a group of Fireside Circle members and WTA staff at Two Beers Brewing. Photo by Corinne Handelman.

    Deepening impact by digging deep

    WTA members love trails and are passionate about protecting them. So it's no wonder that Fireside members were eager to deepen their impact on trails by volunteering their time to dig in the dirt for a day. We held four work parties throughout the state this fall, improving trails together from Anacortes to Issaquah to Vancouver. 

    I attended a work party on Tiger Mountain that focused on breaking ground for a brand new reroute of the current trail. Throughout the day, I learned so much working alongside Fireside donors who were also experienced volunteers with WTA: about the trees that surrounded us, the art of moving giant rocks and even better saw technique. 

    Two volunteers in WTA hard hats remove debris and tree roots from a trail.
    Working with a member of our Fireside Circle to remove obstacles from a new trail reroute on Tiger Mountain. Photo by Brandon Tigner.

    Most importantly, I learned that our donors care deeply about WTA’s work to improve trails and make them more accessible for their fellow hikers. I came away from the work party feeling inspired — not just by the incredible amount of work we had accomplished, but also by members who go above and beyond by giving their time and financial support to WTA. 

    To all of WTA’s Fireside Circle members, thank you so much for caring about trails. If you’re interested in becoming a Fireside Circle member, you can learn more about the benefits of joining or reach out to me directly at