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Trails for Everyone, Forever

Updated: Aug 16, 2023

An Interview with Anna Roth of Washington Trails Association



Have fun outdoors and make a difference...

YPCommunities social impact focus from July through September, 2023 is outdoor health and wellness and we have partnered with Washington Trails Association (WTA), a nonprofit working to get people all ages, races and abilities outdoors and connect them with the land and trails we so love.


We recently spoke with Anna Roth, WTA’s Hiking Guide and Content Manager who has been with WTA since 2013 and has her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Chapman University. She’s happy to hike anywhere, whether it's a miles-long walk through her neighborhood or a multi-day backpacking trip, as long as the payoff is a view from a mountain top, ridge, or pass. ___


Can you tell us about the Washington Trails Association (WTA) and its mission and vision?


ANNA ROTH: WTA's vision is for Trails for everyone, forever. We're working towards a future where anyone who wants to can easily get into nature when they want to. We do that by championing access to trails for people of all ages and abilities, facilitating trail work, and offering free, expert-level information about hiking in Washington.


WTA runs a few campaigns that are central to the work you do. I would like to talk about them. I was really excited to read about Trails for Everyone campaign, which focuses on making outdoor spaces safe and accessible for everyone. Making the outdoors accessible for everyone is one of the goals of YPCommunities Health & Wellness programming as well. Can you tell us some more about the Trails for Everyone campaign and the work you are doing?


ANNA ROTH: Our Trails for Everyone campaign is core to realizing our vision. It's about creating opportunities to help more people feel comfortable getting outside in the way they want to or are able to. We've done a lot of work under this umbrella, but a couple projects that spring to my mind are the wheelchair-friendly filter we added to our hiking guide last year and our shared-identity work parties. This filter in our Hiking Guide gives wheelchair users a starting list of hikes in Washington that - to the best of our knowledge - we understand to be wheelchair-friendly. Each hike on that list also includes details that help people decide whether that trail is right for them and the chair they use. It's about surfacing information that better informs a person about trail conditions so they can decide for themselves.


On the trail maintenance side of things, we created our shared identity work parties to help people feel more confident that they'll have something in common with the other folks they're spending a day volunteering with. There are plenty of other projects, but our work towards making trails more accessible to more people infuses all of our work.


Clearing trails to places like this is important in making trails accessible to anyone. (Photo Credit: WTA)

YPCommunities will be volunteering in August, helping with trail clearing and maintenance. Your Trails Rebooted campaign focuses on maintaining and upgrading popular trails, while your Lost Trails Found campaign focuses on maintaining backcountry trails and in some instances bringing lost ones back. Can you tell us a little about the importance of maintaining trails? Is it about making trails hikeable or is there more to it?


ANNA ROTH: Thanks for joining us on the trail! Trails require maintenance every year at least (sometimes more than once a year if storms or a fire comes through), so anyone who can join us on a work party is greatly appreciated.


Maintenance is definitely about keeping as many trails hikeable as possible. And another result of more trails being maintained is that there are more places for hikers to visit! When we recover a lost trail, it can sometimes mean many miles of trails reopen. In 2021, we did a lot of work on the Entiat River Trail, which is 15+ miles long. In addition to reopening this trail that hadn't been fully hikeable in years, it also re-established access to several other trails that branch off of it. The work we did on the Entiat resulted in at least 30 miles of trail becoming available to hikers. So one day of work to reopen a trail can have a much bigger impact than you might suspect.


Your Trail Next Door campaign focuses on making trails and the outdoors accessible in people’s backyards and not just a long drive away. Washington is a growing state and in Seattle, new buildings are popping up every day. What is the importance of having trails in urban areas and how do you preserve green spaces with population growth and urban sprawl?


ANNA ROTH: It's really important that people have access to green spaces. Greenspaces contribute to a more healthy urban population, and we think everyone deserves to be able to access nature near where they live. There's tons of research showing that regularly spending time in a park or on trail can benefit your mental and physical health. So as cities grow, they need to incorporate park and trail maintenance (and in some places, park or trail creation) into their expansion plans. We've done a lot of work in the past few years adding local parks to our online Hiking Guide so anyone who wants to find a hike can now see nearby parks as well. A lot of those entries also include bus directions, when they're serviced by transit. We're trying to highlight the places you can get even if you don't have a vehicle.



What kinds of resources for hiking can people find on your website and your WTA Trailblazer’s App?


ANNA ROTH: The website has a rich, deep collection of resources to help anyone become a hiker. Our Hiking Guide entries include everything you need to get to a trailhead, from the driving directions to the trailhead location to which pass you'll need when you get there. We even have information about whether or not toilets are available at the trailhead, something a LOT of people want to know about. There are so many great hikes to pick from, so we offer a way to save the ones you want to do in your account (which we call My Backpack). Then you can look at that list and pick from it later. We also have trip reports. They're essentially condition reports written by other hikers, so you can get a sense of what the trail will be like before you leave.


Aside from the Hiking Guide, we've got a how-to article on just about anything you could want to know about, from how to read a map, to how to avoid blisters, and some other great info you may not know you need, like why it's important to Leave no Trace on trail, and how to park considerately at the trailhead.


Our Trailblazer's app is essentially our Hiking Guide in your pocket, with a couple key extras. One is a "find a trail near me" function, which shows you nearby trails if you arrive at a trailhead and decide you want to find another spot. The other cool functionality of the app is that if you have an account on wta.org and you're signed in on the app, any hike you've saved in My Backpack will be available offline!

Information on trails like Sun Mountain can be found on the WTA website and Trailblazer's App (Photo Credit: Lousie Kornreich)

WTA does an annual Hike-a-thon in August, that gets people hiking while raising funds for Washington Trails Association. YPCommunities will be forming a team. Can you tell our readers a little about the Hike-a-thon and how it works?


ANNA ROTH: Hike a Thon is WTA's annual fundraiser. We're a nonprofit, and a large percentage of our annual budget comes from members and donors, so Hike a Thon is really important. Anyone can participate in it. You register, set a fundraising goal, and start hiking for the whole month of August! All participants will receive a 2023 Hike-a-Thon sticker, and participants who raise $25 or more are eligible for the 2023 Hike-a-Thon t-shirt. Thanks for participating in Hike-a-Thon!



How can members of YPCommunities contribute to and support the mission of WTA?


ANNA ROTH: Folks who want to support WTA can do so in a lot of ways! You can join a work party or do a Hike-a-Thon, like YPCommunities will be doing. You could support someone else who is doing Hike-a-Thon. You can make a donation to WTA. Even writing trip reports can support our mission, since they help spread information about what's hikeable right now.


 

Actionables:

Washington Trails Association: www.wta.org


+ Participate in WTA’s Hike-a-thon - Join our team and raise funds for WTA while hiking! + Meet some of the WTA team, in person, at the YPOSeattle September Happy Hour



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