2024 National Trails Day® Grant Recipients Celebrate National Trails Day

American Hiking Society’s three micro-grant recipients organized meaningful events for underrepresented communities to celebrate the 32nd annual National Trails Day®.

Photo courtesy of Central Moraines Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance 

American Hiking Society’s micro-grant program is designed to reduce barriers for underrepresented communities to participate in meaningful events celebrating National Trails Day®.

We’re thrilled to share and celebrate the stories from these events, organized for historically underrepresented communities in outdoor spaces to engage in meaningful stewardship work and enjoy time spent outdoors.

Central Moraines Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance 

Event coordinator, Rachel, put together an amazing recap of this event, sharing all of the incredible ways event participants celebrated National Trails Day — from learning about the Ice Age Trail through a game of bingo, to getting onto the trail, and participating in a trail stewardship activity, too.

From Rachel:

When a group of 18 enthusiastic seniors from Mount View Care Center Nursing Home set out to explore the Ice Age Trail, they embarked on an adventure filled with learning, laughter, and a shared love for the outdoors. Hosted by the Central Moraines Chapter of the Ice Age Trail and supported by the American Hiking Society’s Stewardship Grant, this event was a delightful mix of games, exploration, and stewardship.

Ice Age Trail Bingo: A Fun Start — Despite a damp and rainy morning, spirits were high as the participants kicked off the day with a round of Ice Age Trail Bingo. For many of the seniors, this was their first introduction to the Ice Age Trail, even though 20 miles of the trail run through their county. The bingo game not only offered a chance to win exciting prizes sponsored by AHS, IAT, and the grant but also served as an engaging way to learn about the trail’s history and features. The room was filled with laughter and curiosity as they discovered more about the trail and its significance.

Trail Exploration in an Access Ability All-Terrain Wheelchair — After the bingo game and fabulous luncheon, it was time for some hands-on adventure. Each participant had the opportunity to take the Access Ability all-terrain wheelchair out onto the Ice Age Trail. The wheelchair ensured that everyone, regardless of mobility, could enjoy the natural beauty of the trail. One of the nursing home residents, with a huge grin, sped out of the parking lot on the highest speed. She was eagerly pointing out plants and asking questions about the trail. The joy and excitement were palpable as each person returned, thrilled by the experience and the opportunity to explore the outdoors in such a unique way.

Stewardship Project: Painting with Purpose — When they weren’t exploring, the participants were busy with a stewardship project, painting five directional posts and an Ice Age Trail sign. Guided by volunteers, they learned how these posts and signs are used to guide hikers along the trail. The seniors approached the task with precision and enthusiasm, contributing to the maintenance and enhancement of the trail they had just explored. Their efforts will not only beautify the trail but also provided a sense of accomplishment and connection to the larger trail community.

A Grateful Reflection — This unforgettable event was made possible by the grant support, and it provided an invaluable opportunity for the residents of Mount View Care Center. The combination of educational activities, hands-on exploration, and meaningful stewardship left a lasting impression on all who attended. The day was a testament to the power of community, the joy of the outdoors, and the importance of accessibility for all. Thank you to the American Hiking Society, the Central Moraines Chapter of the Ice Age Trail, and all the volunteers who made this day possible. Here’s to more adventures and shared experiences on the beautiful Ice Age Trail!

Appalachian Mountain Club & Unpaved Trails for All

In addition to enjoying a day on the trail, this National Trails Day celebration had an important advocacy element to it, too! Event coordinators Alexandra and Rae shared highlights from the event, including some incredible advocacy results!

“Thanks to the American Hiking Society’s grant, we were able to host a successful and accessible National Trails Day event for about 40 participants to take a 1.5-mile accessible hike at the Fort River
Accessible Trail in Hadley, Massachusetts. Our event gave trail users with disabling conditions
and their loved ones an opportunity to connect to the outdoors, try adaptive outdoor recreation
gear, and advocate for access to nature for all. We ultimately decided to hold our National Trails Day
event at the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge on the Fort River Accessible
Trail in Hadley, MA.

The National Trails Day event re-energized our grassroots advocates and legislative champions
in the Massachusetts State House to raise awareness about the MA Trails for All Act, one of the
main goals of the event. In attendance were several high-profile attendees including State
Senator Joanne Comerford; MA Office of Outdoor Recreation Director Paul Jahnige; and leaders
from several conservation and recreation organizations. We also got press coverage about this
event and our bill, which would not have been possible without funding for a public facing event.
Please see here for the article published by New England Public Media: Advocates call for more
accessible trails in Massachusetts: ‘These trails change lives’ | New England Public Media

Since the event, there have been over 200 messages sent to state legislators urging them to support the MA Trails For All Act, which is a direct result of our activism at the event and on-the-ground awareness raising about the need for more accessible outdoor recreation experiences.

Outdoor recreation organizations like All Out Adventures and the Hampshire County Bird Club
brought assistive and adaptative recreation gear for participants to try. This included rugged
walkers, grit wheelchairs, and experienced birders who gave verbal descriptions of different bird
songs for visually impaired people. The Hampshire County Birders informed AMC that they
were so inspired by this event that they are going to hold more adaptive birding events for people
with visual impairments.

It was revolutionary and transformative to hold a National Trails Day event that centered on the experiences of people with disabilities outdoors. People with disabilities are often overlooked in outdoor spaces. Holding a high-profile event with elected officials to highlight why we need more accessible trails has garnered a lot of public awareness about this issue and shows disabled people that their voices matter in the outdoors. We are grateful to the American Hiking Society for making this event possible.”

Friends of Mill Ridge Park

Mill Ridge Park is located in the most diverse zip code in Nashville, and this year Friends of Mill Ridge Park put together an event for participants to enjoy the outdoors, give back to the trails, and participate in a special forest bathing activity to further connect with nature.

Event coordinator, Katherine shared “Participants of all ages explored Mill Ridge Park’s Blue Trail on a guided hike and connected with nature during a forest bathing activity. Volunteers beautified Mill Ridge Park’s Blue Trail with additional signage and maintenance work, incorporating sustainable trail building techniques.

One of the NTS participants said, “I would love to get more involved and connected with Friends of Mill Ridge Park as well as help out with whatever is needed to continue to build/maintain the trail. I’ve been very impressed by how many folks seem to be involved and with the community that has been created through Mill Ridge Park. It’s a much needed outlet in this area especially.””