On Saturday, April 18, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) hosted “Celebrate Trails @Home,” our all-virtual tribute to America’s pathways and their impact on communities everywhere—especially right now as people flock to their local trails for physical activity and solace at a safe social distance.
Held on the same day that we would have celebrated our 2020 Opening Day for Trails via in-person events around the country—the special home-based celebration brought together dozens of voices from the trails movement, who shared stories of hope, examples of community resilience in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and appreciation for trails everywhere!
Thank You to Our Celebrate Trails @Home Partners and Supporters
Special thanks to all our partners who helped make this celebration possible and shared inspiring stories of their work to create transformative trails and outdoor programs—and the benefits they’re bringing to their regions—including: American Trails, the City of Dayton, Cleveland Metroparks, the East Coast Greenway, Friends of Madison County Parks & Trails, the New Jersey Tree Foundation, the Rock Creek Trails Conservancy, the Circuit Trails, the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership and the William Penn Foundation.
We’d also like to extend our appreciation to America Walks, Hydro Flask, Sun Bicycles, Mirracle and the many other groups who shifted their plans from celebrating on the trail to celebrating with us virtually!
Highlights From Our Live Broadcast
The national broadcast, which began at 12 p.m. Eastern, was hosted by RTC’s very own Brandi Horton, vice president of communications—and was kicked off with a special welcome message by RTC President Ryan Chao and his two daughters, Sophie and Naomi.
The speakers also took advantage of today's technology to display some of their favorite trails and trail moments in their video backgrounds!
How Trails Are Vital for Health and Physical Activity
We were honored to have Dr. Jim Sallis, distinguished professor emeritus of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, and an RTC board member, discuss the importance of trails for enabling people to be active in the outdoors, manage stress and be more physically resilient to COVID-19.
Horton reminded everyone that as we seek to be active outside, it’s vitally important that we all practice self-care, adhere to expert guidelines on how to safely use trails and parks, which will also help protect them against forced closures due to overcrowding, and practice proper trail etiquette.
It’s important to note that the CDC recently put out guidance stating that trails and parks are safe places to get in that critical outdoor activity, as long as people maintain at least a 6-foot distance from each other, avoid group activity and take proper steps to protect themselves at all times.
For this and other resources on being outdoors during this time period, check out RTC’s growing COVID-19 Resources page.
Using Facial Coverings During COVID-19
Dr. Rose Gowen, RTC board member and city commissioner for Brownsville, Texas, discussed how cloth face masks can serve as valuable mitigation tools for the spread of the coronavirus for those going on essential trips to places where social distancing may be difficult or isn’t possible (picking up food, pumping gas, etc.). The value of wearing a cloth face covering outside and in public as a protective measure is compounded by the fact that 25% of people who are positive with COVID-19 don’t exhibit symptoms and may not know they're sick.
Encouraging everyone to adopt an “I protect you, you protect me” spirit of taking care of each other during this difficult time—Dr. Gowen used her own Great American Rail-Trail versatile head and neckwear to demonstrate safe use, and also showed other affordable face covering options and how to properly use them before and after being out in public.
For more information on how to create your own face covering, check out our recent blog on the latest public health guidance for safely being active in parks and trails during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(During the broadcast, we had many people ask where one could get their own Great American Rail-Trail covering. Check out RTC’s Trail Shop for details!)
Messages of Hope and Gratitude From Our National Trails Community
Thousands tuned in to Celebrate Trails @Home with us and thank their local trail groups via social media for their efforts to create safe places to be active outside. Their love for trails was evident in the 440 (and counting!) amazing comments—full of the spirit of virtual togetherness—we received on our live Facebook feed during and after the broadcast.
While we endeavor to heed expert advice to stay very close to home when in the outdoors, and practice safe social distancing and good trail etiquette, it’s clear that trails continue to inspire us all in so many ways.
To that end, we encourage you to keep sending messages of thanks and shouting out your favorite local trails—or even that favorite farther-away pathway you can’t get to right now but still love—using hashtag #CelebrateTrails.
Repurposing Streets to Create Safe Places to Be Active Outside
As many of the places where we normally get our physical activity—from gyms and parks, to playgrounds and sports fields, and even some trails—have temporarily closed, we have seen a surge in trail use of as much as 200% nationwide and a demonstrated need for more local places to walk and bike in the outdoors. This is particularly true in urban areas, where some trails and outdoor spaces are experiencing serious overcrowding.
During the broadcast, Horton discussed RTC’s current national efforts to call on local elected leaders to repurpose select streets to car traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that essential opportunities for physical activity and mental respite are available to all.
Thank You Trail Supporters!
Special shout-out to all the winners who were randomly selected during the broadcast to receive RTC gear and other prizes courtesy of Hydro Flask for sharing how they’re safely staying active, and for posting “thank you” notes to their favorite trails! The winners will receive a special Celebrate Trails @Home prize pack (which we'll send when it’s safe to return to the office!) to show our gratitude.
We hope this virtual celebration reminded everyone that trails connect and bring us together—all of us, everywhere, even when we can’t be together in person—and that the trails movement will continue to be strong and resilient thanks to the love and support of people like you.