July 18, 2016
Celebrating 50 years of protecting trails
By Kindra Ramos
Photo at right: Washington Trails Association founder, Louise Marshall, poses in front of a Mt. Baker National Forest trailhead marker, circa early 1960s. Photo courtesy Washington Trails Association
50-Year Celebration Party!
The Washington Trails Association’s 50-year celebration is Sept.17 at Snoqualmie Point Park in Snoqualmie, Washington. The party will include a beer garden, talks from hiking experts, a geocache scavenger hunt and more. Purchase tickets at wta.org/50
From humble beginnings as a homemade newsletter to its current role as a leading voice for trails, the Washington Trails Association’s goal to empower hikers has continued to drive its work of protecting and promoting trails throughout the state for the past 50 years.
In the summer of 1966, Louise Marshall, who moved to the Seattle area from Boston in 1952, was leading hikes with the Mountaineers and believed her fellow guides could use a way to share trail conditions. So, she created Signpost, a newsletter that featured trip reports, announcements from local land managers and letters to the editor. This small newsletter quickly created an outdoor community that shaped the conversation around trails in Washington.
The early days of Signpost had an air of arts and crafts. Trip reports would come in many forms from hand-written notes to transcribed phone calls. With the help of family and friends the publication would be mimeographed, collated and processed for mailing. The entire operation took place in Marshall’s barn in Lynnwood, Washington.
A voice for hikers
Signpost soon became much more than a newsletter and under Louise’s leadership it evolved into Washington Trails Association, a nonprofit community of hikers speaking out for trails and wildlands. The late hiking guidebook author Ira Spring was also an instrumental force in the creation of WTA, serving on its board of directors for 20 years.
In 1993, WTA responded to a backlog of trail maintenance repairs by creating a volunteer trail maintenance program. Although it started small, the program quickly grew from 250 hours of trail work completed in its first year to 140,000 hours logged by volunteers in 2015.
Looking to the future
As WTA celebrates its golden anniversary, the organization has developed a strategic plan focusing on inspiring a movement of hikers empowered to protect Washington’s trails and ensure the outdoors is equally accessible to everyone. As more people venture outside, WTA will also redouble its efforts to promote both the value of hiking and the responsibilities of trail users.
Join WTA in celebrating
Today, WTA’s programs are stronger than Marshall ever dreamed. Over the course of 50 years WTA’s members and volunteers have helped make the organization the largest statewide nonprofit hiking organization in the nation. From advocacy efforts, an online hiking guide, up-to-date trip reports, over 4,400 volunteers maintaining trails each year and growing efforts to get children outside, WTA is truly powered by hikers.
Kindra Ramos is Director of Communications for Washington Trails Association. Whether encouraging activists to speak out for trails or thanking volunteers, Kindra enjoys hiking and helping people get involved.