WTA's 2021 Accomplishments
Trails and the outdoors remain our sanctuary and our responsibility. This year, with new hikers continuing to explore their backyards and beyond, WTA launched a new strategic plan and made strides in campaigns which recognize that our strength lies in being a conduit for stewards and champions; activating the power of hikers to maintain the power of trails.
We have long worked to make Washington the nation’s strongest voice for hikers and trails. Most recently, we've realized these goals with successes like helping secure passage of key legislation providing funding for trails, exponential growth of the catalog of information available to website and app users, and expanding our Outdoor Leadership Training program.
In the first year of our new strategic plan, with investment in public lands more important than ever, we're continuing our role as a thought leader, trusted resource, and keystone advocate for trails.
In 2020, WTA saw the growing need, (heightened by COVID-19) for a set of guidelines to help people enjoy the outdoors safely. So we pulled together the Recreate Responsibly coalition to establish and amplify that advice.
This year we moved this work forward, publishing four new, customized sets of tips for special trail uses: Wildfire Safety, Creator Edition, a winter safety resource and a set of tips for hikers with dogs.
Trusted Resource: 200,000 Trip Reports
In August we hit 200,000 trip reports. These community-written conditions reports are full of real-time advice, heartwarming stories, and help land managers keep tabs on their trails!
A common refrain WTA staff hear about trip reports is: "I wish there was a WTA in every state!"
Thanks to our community, who freely shares their on-trail experiences, trip reports are a pivotal part of what makes us Washington's best hiking resource.
Keystone Advocate: Increased Investment
This year, WTA won victories at the state and federal level for deeper investment in trails.
That investment funded projects like our Lost Trails pro crew and our urban trails planning in Glendale Forest. Additionally, a national bill for funding roads and trails was approved thanks to the passage of the Infrastructure bill.
Hiker voices helped make this happen. Our advocates who spoke up for trails show legislators how important trails are to all of us.
"The Hiking Guides and trip reports have been invaluable in helping me plan my own trips over the years. I’ve seen your crews on the trails and appreciate all the hard work to maintain our trails and keep our beautiful wilderness accessible." — Joy Featherstone, WTA member
A Future Where All Can Safely Get Outside
We envision a future where everyone who seeks nature’s splendor can quickly find themselves outdoors.
To make this happen, we created four campaigns: Trails Rebooted, The Trail Next Door, Lost Trails Found and Trails For Everyone. Each campaign focuses on meeting a need we see on trail. While any given project is typically housed under a specific campaign, the outcomes frequently overlap.
Trails For Everyone
Everyone deserves to be able to confidently get outdoors and be safe and welcome there. But WTA recognizes that not all communities have equitable access to the mental and physical health benefits of nature. We are committed to reducing barriers to getting outdoors, and to do that, we need strong partnerships that represent the full spectrum of hikers and everyone who loves the outdoors. Enter Trails for Everyone campaign.
- Emerging Leaders Program Launches
The Emerging Leaders Program offers people a chance to steward the outdoors and kickstart an environmental career. Participants grow their leadership and professional skills while working paid trail maintenance positions with WTA. And once they finish the program, participants enjoy advance consideration for open seasonal and permanent positions at WTA. As we strive to live our value of being a conduit for stewardship, we hope this program will create future leaders who contribute to an outdoor community where people of all identities feel included and valued.
"I really appreciate the leadership ... WTA has shown through your promotion of equity in the outdoors. Your work and your willingness to share what you have learned along the way have made it easier for PCTA to change our operations and priorities."
— Michael De Cramer, Pacific Crest Trail Association, North Cascades Regional Representative
- Outdoor Leadership Training (OLT) Program Expands
WTA's OLT program trains leaders and lends gear to outdoor groups who complete one training with us. This year, we supported 51 trips by providing gear and distributing over $10,000 of funding assistance. Additionally, we opened a new Gear Library in Pierce County, hosted custom workshops for 3 partner organizations, and trained 41 leaders.
- Virtual HIker Rally Day amplifies more voices
Making this biannual lobbying effort organized by WTA virtual meant hikers statewide could attend, raising their voices for trails. Legislators praised our hiking guide and trail work, and one rep was even inspired to become a member during his constituent's meeting!
Trails Next Door
- Developing new urban greenspace
Glendale Park was an ivy-choked thicket last year. But after collaborating with King County and the nearby community, WTA broke ground on a trail network in this corner of North Highline. Youth and family work parties helped carve in trails and more work is slated for next year. Soon, this greenspace will be a new destination where people living nearby can immerse themselves in nature.
"It is so great to see kiddos involved in such a substantial project. The feedback we have been receiving from district staff has been great. They are blown away with the end result."
- Brian Lund, King County Parks
- Shoring up neighborhood trails
This year, we ran181 work parties in local parks. These places provide a breath of nature when you can't commit an entire day to getting outside, and our efforts have not gone unnoticed. During a council meeting, city of Vancouver councilman Erik Paulsen praised WTA's work improving a trail leading from South Cliff Park into Blandford Canyon.
- Success at Sehome
This Bellingham park is a model of how inspiring people to care about the outdoors can create a community that cares for the greenspaces near them.
- Hike Recommender Launches
Thanks to volunteers working with WTA's communications team, this summer we launched a hike recommender. The tool makes personalized suggestions based on hikes you've saved in My Backpack. Greeted with enthusiasm by our community, we are excited to refine and relaunch it in 2022.
- Hikers Use Their Trail Smarts
Part of being a hiker is caring for the trails you hike on. We've been promoting this stewardship in our Trail Smarts series, and this year we heard our community say that back to us in trip reports, from hikers who document the trash they packed out to praise about how clean some popular areas were over Memorial Day weekend.
Trip reports of trash-free trails
- Dog Mountain - Columbia River Gorge "For such a heavily trafficked trail, I was surprised to see absolutely no trash."
- Colchuck Lake - Central Cascades "Trail was beautifully maintained; I picked up a few loose pieces of trash but they looked to be dropped accidentally. Let’s keep up the good work all season. Enjoy
- Big Creek (Mount Ellinor access) - Olympic Peninsula "
Pristine, well-groomed trail, no trash or dog poop bags, fun incline, rushing water, and a few flowers."
- Expanding and improving Washington's trail network
WTA volunteers helped keep Washington's trails open in 2021. More than 3,000 individual volunteers contributed 128,000+ trail maintenance hours on more than 1,500 work parties in 304 locations statewide! Whew. Check out the map below to see where we worked in 2021. There's probably a trail near your home!
Building bridges and repairs at Lena Lake
The Lena Lake trail is one of the most-hiked trails on the Olympic Peninsula, used by families and first-time hikers, backpackers and climbers.
But it needed big-time repairs, so WTA stepped up, spending 31 days here prepping and installing a new bridge, making an old favorite safe for all hikers once again.
New trails in the Columbia River Gorge
Volunteers spent 3,475 hours building two new trails at Lyle Cherry Orchard this year. These new trails offer hikers more options in a very popular are.
Renee Tkach of Friends of the Gorge noted the impact of this work: "All your hard work...has created a fantastic trail legacy that will bring so much joy to hikers for generations to come!!"
Increased access to a Spokane trail system
Thanks to collaboration between WTA and Spokane County Parks, the Antoine Peak trail system now has a new access point and trail at Etter Ranch.
The project got the stamp of approval from one local: "I think it's one of your best efforts. Hiked up and around the Emerald Necklace today. Great views. The inclines and grading made for a afternoon in the hills. Awesome work, folks!
Creating a trail system in the Teanaway
The Teanaway Community Forest holds huge potential for dispersing hikers and expanding Washington's trail network.
But the area needs a sustainable, connected trail network that considers cultural, environmental and local needs. WTA's trail team gathered data, surveyed stakeholders, and put together a trails plan for this area that does just that.
Planning for the future
Lost Trails Found
Our Lost Trails Found campaign is working to save trails that are at risk of disappearing completely — preserving access to our stunning backcountry for generations to come. Through your generous support, boots-on-the-ground volunteer trail maintenance, voices in Congress and innovative partnerships, we are putting trails back on the map.
Volunteers restore a long-lost loop trail
The Independence Pass Loop at Mount St. Helens is a lovely 6.5 mile loop with views of Spirit Lake and the blast zone. But it's impossible to hike because of treacherous washouts.
That is, until this year. In August, WTA and Mount St. Helens Institute (MSHI) spent 3 days there breaking ground on repairs.
When work is done, we'll have added another excellent hiking option in this increasingly popular part of Washington.
Recovering trails in the Entiat
The Entiat is a quiet area to the west of Lake Chelan crisscrossed by trails. Since 2017, WTA has worked here to help mitigate wildfire damage, but we hadn't been able to get deep in the backcountry. In September 2020, one trip reporter noted that the Entiat River trail, the backbone of the network, was virtually unhikeable past mile 14.
We fixed that this year. Our pro crew spent an 8-day hitch clearing it of an astounding 231 fallen logs.
Now, thanks to their work, the Entiat is a great option for family day hikes and long backpacking trips.
WTA pro crew narrows the gap on deferred maintenance
The pro crew we hired this year cleared 81 miles of trails in several parts of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
This six-person crew was the first of its kind for WTA — as a paid trail crew, they were able to spend longer stretches in backcountry locations and focus on hard-to-reach areas.
In addition to the Entiat, the crew worked on sections of the cross-state Pacific Northwest Trail, the Boundary Trail in the Pasayten, and the Indian Creek trail, a key under-maintained route into the Glacier Peak Wilderness.
WTA is working each day to make trail access more equitable, maintain our state’s most beloved trails and advocate for investment in public lands.
But we can’t do this important work without you. Consider becoming a member today.