In a park like Golden Gate, it’s easy to take for granted our well-maintained and highly accessible trail system. Golden Gate National Parks boasts over 250 trails, stretching over 140 miles from Marin to San Mateo County. National Trails Day, celebrated on the first Saturday of June (June 1 this year), aims to promote the importance of trails and the outdoors to our overall quality of life. It’s the perfect time to celebrate and engage with the trails in our parks, which are just some of the 50,000 federally recognized trails in the National Trails System.
The National Trails System, created by the National Trails System Act of 1968, aims to promote “the preservation of, public access to, travel within, and enjoyment and appreciation of the open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources of the Nation.” It establishes the legislative groundwork for the creation and maintenance of trails nationwide. More importantly, it acknowledges the importance of community engagement and pledges federal support of local community efforts.
Most trails in America are publicly built and managed, and the most enduring ones occur in a partnership between agencies and citizens. The 1968 Act authorizes and encourages volunteers and volunteer organizations to “plan, develop, maintain, and manage, where appropriate, trails throughout the Nation.” The legislation states that federal land managing agencies must utilize volunteers and make available facilities, equipment, and assistance to trail volunteers and volunteer organizations.
The old adage that “parks are for the people” rings loudly in this commitment to not only provide accessible and enjoyable trails to all citizens, but engage them totally in the trail creation and maintenance process. Our park is no exception to this fact, and National Trails Day provides a unique opportunity to embrace this civic privilege.
In truth, trails provide more than just a walking path. Trails connect urban centers to their open spaces, provide affordable exercise and recreational opportunities, and serve to bring communities together. For children, trails encourage and facilitate interaction with the natural world—offering a comfortable and safe outdoor classroom that teaches respect and stewardship of the environment. We are so lucky to have the extensive trail system that exists in Golden Gate!
Do you already have a favorite trail? Consider giving back to it by volunteering during National Trails Day, or joining one of our volunteer work days, held regularly throughout the year. The National Trails System and the trails system within Golden Gate can only thrive if citizens like you pledge to help build and maintain them. So, get out there and enjoy your trails!