Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn announced the release of Pennsylvania’s new Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan (PDF) extending through 2024. The plan’s vision is to develop a statewide land and water trail network to facilitate recreation, transportation, and healthy lifestyles for all.
“We are proud that our trails can serve Pennsylvanians in their time of need during this pandemic,” Dunn said. “Our state has a long history of supporting trail development. This Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan 2020-2024 outlines goals and strategies to ensure motorized and non-motorized trails continue to facilitate recreation, transportation, and healthy lifestyles for all Pennsylvanians for years to come.”
The plan is a blueprint including seven recommendations and 40 action steps for meeting the trail needs of all Pennsylvanians.
Specifically, the plan prioritizes the closing of Priority Trail Gaps, the completion of Major Greenways, emphasis on regional initiatives, the needs of specialized trail-user groups, and ensuring everyone feels welcome on trails in Pennsylvania. These actions are designed to eventually have Pennsylvanians living within 10 minutes of a trail.
Guided by the 20-member Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee, the Land and Water Trail Network Strategic Plan’s priorities, recommendations, and actions were well established before the challenges of COVID-19 and protests around racial injustice. However, the framework for state outdoors recreation addresses those and other pressing challenges of today.
In April 2019, DCNR began a more than a year-long public process of developing the plan in coordination with development of the state’s 2020-2024 Statewide Outdoor Recreation Plan. States are required to maintain a state trail plan to receive federal funding through the Recreation Trails Program.
The plan is the result of input from thousands of state residents, including local trail providers, outdoor enthusiasts, and the public at large. With more than 12,000 miles of trails, Pennsylvania is a national leader in trails and hiking opportunities.
Pennsylvanians took to trails and greenways in unprecedented numbers in 2020, according to an analysis of 67 non-motorized trail systems throughout the state commissioned by the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC). In March 2020 alone, the study showed trail traffic spiked by as much as 200 percent in some areas compared with the same period during the previous two years.
In a reflection of trail and hiking popularity, DCNR annually supports Trails Month each September. Also, each year DCNR, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee, designates a Pennsylvania trail for Trail of the Year honors. In mid-January, DCNR named the Delaware & Hudson Rail-Trail (D & H Rail-Trail) in Northeastern Pennsylvania as Pennsylvania’s 2021 Trail of the Year.