Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee Earns National Recognition

The National Coalition for Recreational Trails recently awarded DCNR’s Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee the 2018 Achievement Award for Outstanding State Recreational Trails Advisory Committee.
The Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee was honored along with 10 trail projects at a special Capitol Hill ceremony in Washington, D.C. on June 5 as part of the celebration of Great Outdoors Month.
The Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee is a 20-member committee staffed by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources that represents both motorized and non-motorized trail users and advises the state agencies on use of state and federal trail funding, and serves as an effective voice for trail interests in state trail policies and programs.
“The committee has 20 members, with 11 representing different trail uses. Okay; that’s not so unusual. But they didn’t stop there.
“A 12th member represents people with disabilities, which the NASPD committee particularly noticed, and the remaining eight are at-large members drawn from one of these four professional groups: trail advocates; trail planners; trail builders; and trail managers.
“Then they add, as ex officio members, the RTP coordinator from the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation; the RTP and Transportation Alternatives Program coordinator from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation; and representatives of both the Bureau of State Forestry and the Bureau of State Parks. These folks mean business.
“And to focus their efforts and increase their effectiveness, they have set up four dedicated subcommittees. The committee is charged with implementing the recommendations of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan. SCORP plans have been around for years.
“But Pennsylvania has also created a Trail Network Strategic Plan, based on an input session the committee hosted during the 2013 statewide Greenways and Trails Summit. And, in addition to that strategic plan, an annual trails report is prepared with the help of the committee’s Education and Communication subcommittee, which is also working with the DCNR on the development of a Committee Manual.
“The DCNR’s ambitious goal is to have a trail within 15 minutes of every Pennsylvania citizen and the advisory committee supports the state’s efforts to reach this goal.
“One of their best tools is the identification of the Top 10 Trail Gaps in the state, a program that began in 2015 to identify projects that will connect contiguous open miles of trails, require construction or rehabilitation of major infrastructure, have a large price tag and can be completed by the end of 2019.
“The committee’s Planning subcommittee is working with the DCNR on its Trail Gap analysis efforts and on improving the ability to close those gaps.
“Another new idea is the designation of a Pennsylvania Trail of the Year, which is coordinated by the advisory committee’s Events Subcommittee, to help build enthusiasm and support for both large and small trails, and raise public awareness about the value of Pennsylvania’s trail network.
“Since the program’s inception in 2013, a total of 75 nominations have been submitted, making this innovation one of the committee’s biggest accomplishments. The same subcommittee determines promotion strategies for Trails Month in September as well.
“NASPD also made special note of the committee’s outreach to the public. Members of the committee host trail forums across the state, bringing information and feedback to the full committee for action.
“So far, three forums have been held and two more are being planned. Clearly, this is a focused, dedicated, and effective group. And there’s one more adjective I’d like to add: enthusiastic.
“When they learned they had won this year’s Achievement Award and the ceremony conflicted with their own meeting, they changed their plans, and a 12-member delegation has come from all over the state to accept their well-deserved award.”
The state award winner is chosen each year by the National Association of State Park Directors Awards Committee—particularly appropriate because in most states, the state park agency administers Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds.
Visit DCNR’s Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee webpage to learn more about their activities.  To explore trails across Pennsylvania, visit the Explore PA Trails website.
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