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November E-Blaze Trivia

Q: What law established our National Scenic Trails (NST)?

A: The National Trails System Act of 1968, established our NSTs.

During the early history of the United States, trails served as routes for commerce and migration. Since the early 20th century, trails have been constructed to provide access to scenic terrain.

In 1921 the concept of the first interstate recreational trail, now known as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, was introduced. In 1945 legislation to establish a “national system of foot trails,” an amendment to a highway funding bill, was considered but not recommended by committee. 

01920’s Hikers

As population expanded in the 1950s, an eager nation sought better opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.

In 1958, Congress established and directed the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRRC) to make a nationwide study of outdoor national recreation needs. A 1960 survey conducted for the ORRRC indicated that 90% of all Americans participated in some form of outdoor recreation, and that walking for pleasure ranked second among all recreation activities.

On February 8, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson, in his message to Congress on “Natural Beauty,” called for the Nation “to copy the great Appalachian Trail in all parts of our country, and make full use of rights-of-way and other public paths.”  Just 3 years later, Congress heeded the message by enacting the National Trails System Act of 1968.

The National Trails System began in 1968 with only two scenic trails. One was the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, stretching 2,160 miles from Mount Katahdin, Maine, to Springer Mountain, Georgia. The second was the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, covering 2,665 miles from Canada to Mexico along the mountains of Washington, Oregon, and California. The System was expanded a decade later when the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978 designated four historic trails with more than 9,000 miles, and another scenic trail, along the Continental Divide, with 3,100 miles.

Today, the federal portion of the System consists of 30 national trails (11 scenic trails, 19 historic trails) covering more than 50,000 miles. In addition, the Act has authorized 1,000 rails-to-trails conversions, more than 800 national recreation trails and two connecting or side trails.

Source: American Trails