National Trails Day® History

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American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day® History

Historical Timeline

October 2, 1968 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law the National Trails System Act, establishing national recreation, scenic and historic trails.

October 13, 1976 – Formed to give voice to the national hiking constituency, American Hiking Society becomes an official organization after receiving its 501(c)(3) designation, and holds its first board meeting.

January 28, 1985 – President Ronald Reagan signs executive order 12563, the Presidential Commission on Outdoor Recreation Resources Review, ordering a bipartisan commission led by Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander to conduct a thorough review of America’s outdoor recreation resources.

August 14, 1985 – The Commission is renamed President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors. Commission features well known contributors Gilbert Grosvenor (President, National Geographic Society), Sheldon Coleman (The Coleman Company), Derrick Crandall (President, American Recreation Coalition), and Senators J. Bennett Johnson (Louisiana), Morris Udall (Arizona), Barbara Vucanovich (Nevada), and Malcolm Wallop (Wyoming), among others.

January 28, 1987 – The President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors publishes its Report and Recommendations to the President of the United States. After analyzing thousands of American testimonies and contributions from hundreds of experts, the Commission asserted, “There still is a need for a strong outdoor commitment from the nation’s capital: to safeguard the environment, to expand recreational opportunities on federal lands, to protect and improve the federal estate, and to provide money to support state, local and private sector efforts.”

1988 – National Trails Agenda Project is initiated as a cooperative venture between the National Park Service and American Trails to look at trail issues and develop recommendations to satisfy America’s current and future need for trails.

1990 – Borrowing heavily from recommendations espoused in the President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors report, the National Trails Agenda Project issues its own set of recommendations in a report named “Trails for All Americans” that focuses intently on the importance of trails in America. Among the 15 report contributors are David Startzell (Chair, Appalachian Trail Conference), Peggy Robinson (Director, Rails-to-Trails), Paul Pritchard (President, National Parks and Conservation Association), and Susan Henley, Executive Director of America Hiking Society.

1991 – American Hiking Society responds to report recommendations and conceives of a program to highlight the importance of the National Trails System and simultaneously advocate for increased trail use and volunteer stewardship. The program is dubbed National Trails Day and proposes highlighting one day each year to celebrate America’s trails and their use.

June 5, 1993 – American Hiking Society, under the direction of David Lillard, launches its first ever National Trails Day®. Hundreds of organizations participate around the country.

June 2, 2012 – American Hiking Society celebrates its 20th Annual National Trails Day®. An estimated 157,000 Americans participated in over 2,000 events.