In the summer of 2020, trails became busier than ever. Amplifying already increased trail use, the pandemic prompted an astounding number of new and returning recreationalists. They found solace, social distance, exercise, and enjoyment on the world’s wonderful network of trails. These trails—as they always have—connect us to nature, and to each other.
With the increased number of trail users in 2020 came, at times, increased conflict. The need to work together and innovate shared use became prevalent. Unification of various user groups—hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, equestrians, motorized trail users, and trail users with disabilities—seemed more important than ever.
The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) began organizing a coalition where members from these user groups, both from national organizations and a handful of prominent players within each group (thanks, Leigh, Joe, Alfredo, and Lisa), could come together. While the catalyst was IMBA, the group took on new life and voices were heard.
Over the course of months, the incubus of user groups met regularly (via Zoom) and discussed the issues at hand. From acknowledging the gift of the land, to Indigenous and historically enslaved individuals and groups being heard (but not nearly enough), to the simple plea for all trail users to treat each other with kindness and respect, we discussed common goals.
We asked questions: How can we help different recreationalists share the trails? How can we help educate new and seasoned trail users alike? How can we be inclusive, facilitate access, and break down barriers to entry? How can we innovate trails for tomorrow? And most importantly, how can we work toward everyone having a fantastic time on trails?
As a coalition, we framed a shared mission and goals for the future. We dedicated ourselves to ongoing change and resolution of issues that arise. We launched a public awareness campaign while recognizing that Trails are Common Ground is a journey—one in which we are dedicated to constantly improving the trail experience for everyone.
From here, we grow.