On The Golden Anniversary Of The National Trails System

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. Among his conservation credentials, President Lyndon Johnson voiced the significance of trails. In an address to Congress, President Johnson stated, “In the back country we need to copy the great Appalachian Trail in all parts of America, and to make full use of rights of way and other public paths.”

The 1968 legislation established three trail classes in a national system: National Scenic Trails, National Recreation Trails, and Connecting and Side Trails. A decade later, in 1978, President Jimmy Carter added National Historic Trails.

A golden anniversary is a fine time to take stock, not only of the National Trails System, but also of the familiar variety of greenways, bike paths, boardwalks, commons and rails-to-trails that enrich the American experience closer to home. No matter what they’re called, from national to regional and local, they are resources where we go to grow and get around.

Trails encompass a variety of uses. Some trails are single-purpose, while others are multi-modal. There are both non-motorized and motorized paths in the panoply of America’s trails. People enjoy trails for walking, hiking, biking, skiing, and horseback riding. Trails augment transportation and contemplation, education and exercise. They bring us to school, the bus stop, the park, and the office. Trails are focal points for vacations to gateway cities and resorts, functioning as economic development magnets. Lately, trail requirements have been written into local ordinances for conditional approval of new subdivisions.

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