From the Executive Director: Revisiting Our Mission

September 20, 2017
Edward Goodell
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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From the Executive Director: Revisiting Our Mission
View of the Shawangunk Ridge from the Long Path. Photo by Steve Aaron.

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The heart of the Trail Conference has not changed, but our updated mission-vision statement better addresses the contemporary challenges and opportunities we face.

When the Trail Conference was founded in 1920, its purpose was to develop a system of marked trails and shelters so that parklands could be better enjoyed by the public.

As the planned trails were completed over the next decade, it became evident that ongoing trail maintenance was needed, too. Over the years, other activities in support of public trails were added to the mission of the organization, including the publication of trail guides and maps, trail advocacy, land acquisition, and habitat protection.

Nearly a century later, our mission is essentially the same as it was when the Trail Conference was founded. However, the environment in which we pursue that mission continues to change. Trail users are more numerous and diverse, the internet makes trails profusely accessible but doesn’t promote trail knowledge or etiquette, park budgets are stretched thin, habitat protection has become increasingly important, and global warming is altering everything.

Yet despite—or perhaps, more accurately, because of—these influences, creating and protecting high-quality trail experiences remains our primary purpose. Volunteering will continue to be the primary means by which we are able to accomplish the most with the least. Increasing awareness of the scope and scale of the Trail Conference’s work is perhaps our greatest challenge, and it is absolutely essential for attracting sufficient volunteers and donors to accomplish it all.

That’s why, as the Trail Conference approaches its 100th year, we’ve updated our mission statement. The heart of the Trail Conference has not changed since the mission was last revised 20 years ago, but the words we use today better address the contemporary challenges and opportunities we face:

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is a volunteer-powered organization that builds, maintains, and protects public trails. Together with our partners, we strive to ensure that the trails and natural areas we share are sustainable and accessible for all to enjoy for generations to come.

The new statement is a combination of mission and vision. In two sentences, it provides a high-level description of who we are, what we do, and what we expect to achieve. It is meant to inform, challenge, and inspire.

Paired with an updated set of values statements, we aim to reach and inspire a broader audience than ever before. The Trail Conference has always been a values-led organization; these core values are meant to be used to guide our attitudes, actions, and decision-making on a daily basis:

  • The joys of nature belong to everyone. All people—regardless of age, ability, or location—should be able to experience the rewards of connecting with nature.
  • Volunteers are our superheroes. Creating and protecting trails is a labor of love. We celebrate our volunteers—their passion, dedication, and leadership make the trails we all love possible.
  • Environmental conservation is a shared duty.  We must preserve the integrity of our natural world—not only to sustain our trail systems, but to ensure future generations can enjoy the outdoor experiences a healthy planet has to offer.
  • The right path is always a responsible one. We take land stewardship seriously and approach every decision—whether we’re out in the field or in our headquarters—with balanced judgment and firm conscience.
  • Respect is essential to success. In our partnerships, we exercise the same courtesy we advocate for on the trail, and we strive to be a trusted source of information and expertise for the trail community.

Trails have always belonged to all of us. And in that spirit, we want the Trail Conference to be a place where everyone who has a love of trails and natural areas feels like they belong and can give back. We hope our new mission, vision, and values statements reach everyone, promoting our integral role in their connection with nature and inviting them to join us in the cause.