From the Executive Director: Multi-Use Trails Are Strengthening Our Force for Good

February 01, 2018
Edward Goodell
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


From the Executive Director: Multi-Use Trails Are Strengthening Our Force for Good
Mountain biker in the Catskills. Photo by Alicia Katsur.


By embracing all trail uses and users, we are creating exciting new experiences and creating new volunteers, new members, and new advocates.

The Trail Conference, founded in 1920 with the purpose of creating a network of marked trails for the public to enjoy the region’s parklands, recently adopted a new Trail Use Policy. In sync with our mission of ensuring that the trails and natural areas we share are sustainable and accessible for all to enjoy for generations to come, the policy acknowledges that “trails should collectively afford appropriate and satisfying outdoor experience to the widest possible segment of non-motorized users.” Rather than focus on particular use, it proposes that access to trails on public lands should be based on four principles:

Trail Experience

All trail users should respect and not disturb the ability of other trail users to enjoy the natural lands through which they pass.

Resource Protection

Trail use should minimize damage to the treadway and disruption of plant and animal habitat.


Safety of responsible users should be the primary factor in determining permitted uses.


Land managers make the final decisions about trail use. It is important for user groups to volunteer to assist with maintenance and stewardship.

This new policy does not contemplate the wholesale conversion of existing hiking trails to multi-use or shared-use trails. In fact, we believe the opposite: that trails built and maintained for a single use are most satisfying for that use, whereas multi-use trails may compromise design standards among the uses. However, we also believe we can help bikers and equestrians create trails that will be popular for hikers and trail runners, too. Bikers and equestrians have long been frustrated by the lack of places to ride, and there are many “vacant” public lands that could support trails systems and preserve their ecological integrity.

Our work on the Red Back/Hutchinson/Munsee Eagle loop in Sterling Forest, funded by New York State Parks and private donors such as the Tuxedo Hudson Company, is a good example of how we can build sustainable, multi-use trails with the successful participation of all user groups. We are not only creating exciting new experiences for trail users previously unaware of the Trail Conference’s 100-year legacy, we are creating new volunteers, new members, and new advocates. These are the alliances that will allow us to strengthen our force for good, and to build, maintain, and protect the public trails that connect people with nature for another century.