The Trail Forward: A Message From RTC President on COVID-19

Posted 03/16/20 by Ryan Chao in America's Trails

Mass Central Rail Trail | Photo by Milo Bateman

This blog was originally published in mid-March and was updated on April 10, 2020.

As I write this note, I hope it finds all of you well and safely navigating the rapidly evolving COVID-19 public health situation.  

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we are taking it very seriously. We care about our staff, our partners, and all of you—the trail users we serve every day. While much about COVID-19 is still unknown, one message has been quite clear: Social distancing is the primary way to prevent the spread of the virus. It is our responsibility as global citizens and as leaders in our field to do our part to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the pandemic. 

For this reason, our staff has moved to 100% telework and postponed nonessential travel and in-person events. In this spirit, we have made the difficult decision to cancel all in-person Opening Day for Trails events, though we encourage all of you to celebrate with us virtually at home.

As the country stays home to slow the spread of COVID-19, many people have looked to local trails for physical activity and solace, demonstrating how vital access to these safe outdoor spaces is in all of our communities. While public health professionals are encouraging us all to stay close to home and not overcrowd these vital assets, we can still come together in a virtual celebration of trails, sharing messages of thanks to our trail managers everywhere, and stories of hope during these difficult times.

We will continue to seek out and share authoritative public health guidance about ways people can get outside and maintain their physical and mental health while still following best practices on protection and safety.

As the situation is changing quickly from community to community, before getting outside, we recommend that you take precautions by:

  • Following the CDC’s most current public health and safety guidance: CDC.gov.
  • Referring to the guidance provided by your local/state government for more specific information about your community. A current list of stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders is available here.
  • Checking with the local trail management organization to confirm the status of trail facilities. That contact information is available when accessing individual trail records at TrailLink.com.
  • Check out RTC's growing list of resources on the COVID-19 pandemic, including tips and information on how to be safe in the outdoors, where to find out about park and trail closures, and more.

While our physical offices may be temporarily closed, our mission to create a nationwide network of trails and build healthier places for healthier people advances unabated. Trails are powerful assets in building a nation that is resilient and an essential resource as we navigate the path forward.

Trails have a restorative power and will be vital to our nation’s and our people’s persistence and recovery. We will get through this together, and trails will help heal us.

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