Trail Conference Marks 90 Years of Building, Maintaining, and Mapping Trails in 2010

Trail Conference volunteers

Connecting people with nature since 1920

Over the past 90 years, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteers have helped to build and maintain what we think is the finest network of foot trails in a major metropolitan area in our nation. More than 1,750 miles of trails now provide the region's residents and visitors access to parklands and open space. And the trail system continues to grow.

We've come a long way since October 19, 1920, when representatives of several New York City hiking clubs met in the lean-to on the roof of Abercrombie & Fitch with the first general manager of the fledgling Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) to talk about creating a system of marked trails for the public to enjoy.

That meeting led to the creation of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. The new organization immediately set to work.

In just a few months, by the spring of 1921, Trail Conference members could proudly point to the newly built 24-mile Ramapo-Dunderberg Trail. It remains one of the most popular trails in the park today.

A year later, the Trail Conference enthusiastically got behind Benton MacKaye's proposal to build a trail along the Appalachian mountain chain as a refuge from "the shackles of commercial civilization." By early 1924, Trail Conference volunteers had built the first 20 miles of Appalachian Trail across Harriman and Bear Mountain parks. By 1930, they had completed all 160 miles from the Delaware Water Gap to Connecticut.

Those early Trail Conference volunteers were ambitious, hard-working people, and they left us a rich legacy that we proudly build on 90 years later:

  • An extensive trail network that we maintain, add to, and promote each year;
  • An ethic of trail volunteerism and civic engagement in conservation issues;
  • A model of partnering with public agencies to get trail work done and lands opened up for public enjoyment.

We have the trail experience that land managers, the public, and trail users can trust.

2010 marks our 90th year

  • The Trail Conference is supported by 10,000 individual members and 100 member clubs representing 100,000 trail users;
  • More than 1,600 people annually volunteer for trails in 20 counties across two states;
  • Volunteers create, maintain, and protect 1,776 miles of trails and 38 shelters;
  • Volunteers produce maps (10), books (9), and web publications that help guide the public onto trails and open space throughout our region.

In 2010, as in 1920 and the years in between, park managers find their resources are stretched thin.  The Trail Conference volunteer-power and resources are at work, as they have been for 90 years, helping to fill the gaps and protect our beloved parks.

You can be part of this proud tradition

Join the Trail Conference.
Volunteer for trails.
Donate now to support our work.

If you would like to read more about Trail Conference history, click here to view or download an account written on the occasion of our 75th anniversary.