Gregg Berggren: 50th Anniversary of the National Trails Act

Ash Canyon mountain bike trails, in Carson City.

Ash Canyon mountain bike trails, in Carson City.

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The year 1968 was one of turmoil. The Vietnam War was intensifying, and protests were increasing back home. Martin Luther King Jr., and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated. Urban riots were common, and college unrest was widespread.

Yet, 50 years ago this month, both chambers of Congress made time to hold hearings on a national system of trails. They passed the National Trails System Act, which created National Scenic Trails and National Recreation Trails. The act designated the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail as the first National Scenic Trails, which were meant to be longer trails of over 100 miles. National Recreation Trails were meant to be more urban, and Congress included “rail-trails” in this category. Ten years later Congress amended the act to include National Historic Trails.

Today our nation has over 50,000 miles of congressionally designated trails, plus many more thousands of miles of state and local trails. Trails are made possible through a complex web of partnerships often involving a variety of volunteer organizations, state and local agencies, tribes, federal agencies, landowners, land trusts, service organizations, and historical societies. Nationally, thousands of volunteers devote hundreds of thousands of hours each year to advocacy, planning, design, building, and maintenance.

Our region is fortunate to have many organizations who are working to build a system of trails that provide outstanding recreational opportunities, promote tourism, increase real estate values, and enhance the quality of life for our residents. These groups include Muscle Powered, the Carson Valley Trails Association, the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, the Eastern Sierra Trails Coalition, the Eagle Valley Trails Coalition, the Biggest Little Trail Stewardship, several off-highway vehicle and equestrian advocacy groups, numerous state, county, and city agencies, and others.

In Carson City we partner with a variety of organizations, private landowners, and state, federal, and tribal land managers to help us work toward the goal of a trail network that will ultimately connect with Lake Tahoe and our neighboring counties, and in some cases highlight our colorful past (there is a group planning for a historic V&T Railroad trail). Our Unified Pathways Master Plan ensures that trails, and access to public lands, is included in planning and development as our city grows.

The 1996 Quality of Life Initiative continues to help us acquire critical parcels of land, many of which are important to the effort of connecting trails and ensuring public access to more remote public lands. For example, the Ash Canyon Gateway, the C-Hill area, the Prison Hill Recreation Area, Silver Saddle Ranch, and the Carson River corridor are managed either partially or entirely by Carson City as Open Space. Most of the lands adjacent to the Carson River Aquatic Trail have been protected by Carson City, so our residents and guests can be assured that this stretch of river will remain scenic forever.

Trails connect people to public lands, build community, encourage conservation, promote health and wellness, preserve our cultural heritage, increase awareness of history, and reflect the best of who we are as a nation. So, this October go out and hike or ride your favorite trail. Enjoy the wonderful fall weather and beautiful scenery that make our region special. Contemplate the people who built the trail, be courteous of others you meet along the way, and be mindful of those who will follow. Oh, and consider getting involved with one of our many advocacy groups.

Happy Trails!

Gregg Berggren is trails coordinator for Carson City Parks, Recreation & Open Space. Email


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