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Any hiker, mountain biker, or trail runner will tell you there are more people on the trails than ever before. According to a study commissioned by the Outdoor Industry Association, 8.1 million more Americans hiked in 2020 verses 2019. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, automated counters at trail systems around the country recorded four times as many users in the first seven days compared to the same week in 2019. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy reported a 79-percent spike in usage nationwide between March and July of 2020.
Recognizing that the community of trail users continues to grow at an exponential rate, an unprecedented consortium of advocacy groups, brands, media outlets, and ambassadors have come together to create a public awareness campaign. Launching today, the “Trails are Common Ground” campaign elevates the importance of respectful, inclusive, safe, and enjoyable experiences on trails. The coalition behind Trail are Common Ground includes representatives from the American Trail Running Association, American Trails, Back Country Horsemen of America, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, American Motorcyclist Association, International Mountain Bike Association, People for Bikes, US Trail Running Conference and Tread Lightly!.
Trails are being used more than ever before by an increasingly large number of people, many of whom recently discovered a love for the outdoors. It’s a complex ecosystem with lots of moving parts: people and animals, moving in different directions, in lots of different ways, for lots of different reasons. “This campaign is designed to remind experienced users to exemplify trail etiquette and inclusivity and introduce new users to our personal and collective responsibility outdoors” said David Wiens, Executive Director of the International Mountain Bike Association and member of the coalition behind Trails are Common Ground. “This isn’t a new set of rules. It’s an ethos that every individual is free to embrace in the way that works for them.”
Advocacy groups and industry leaders began collaborating in February 2021 to discuss the need for this campaign. Over 15 meetings have taken place with input from more than 20 organizations and outdoor industry brands representing all manner of activities that take place in the dirt, including hiking, trail running, equestrian, and mountain biking. Also present were representatives from groups advocating for adaptive trail users, land managers, and BIPOC communities.