Millennium Trails: "Honor the Past, Imagine the Future"

Article excerpt

"Millennium Trails will be very tangible gifts to the future. We will walk on them and hike on them and bike on them. They will be accessible to people of all ages and abilities. But in an important way, they represent more than the tangible effect of the trail. They represent a commitment and an investment in the kind of country we want in the next century." --First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, Millennium Trails Announcement Event, October 5, 1998, Baltimore and Annapolis Trail

To engage all Americans in marking the new millennium in ways that will leave a lasting legacy, President Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton created a multi-program initiative with the unifying theme "Honor the Past, Imagine the Future." Millennium Trails is one of these programs, involving a partnership between the White House Millennium Council, the U.S. Department of Transportation, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and many other agencies and organizations (e.g., the American Express Company, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Hiking Society, the American Association of Leisure and Recreation, Altrec.com, World T.E.A.M. Sports). This article will describe the major elements of the program and, hopefully, spark interest among AAPHERD members and encourage them to become leaders in the growing trails movement.

The Millennium Trails initiative promotes trails as a means of preserving open spaces, interpreting history and culture, enhancing recreation and tourism, improving physical fitness, and connecting our daily lives with the natural environment. Under this initiative, more than 2,000 trails across America will be recognized, enhanced, or built as part of our nation's legacy for the new millennium. These include hiking trails, bicycle paths, greenways and scenic byways through rural and urban landscapes, and cultural and heritage trails that preserve and commemorate major events in our nation's history. The promise and challenge of Millennium Trails is to preserve and enhance a precious part of our national heritage for future generations of Americans to treasure and enjoy. The core of the initiative centers on trails in three categories: National, Legacy, and Community Millennium Trails.

National Millennium Trails

Sixteen National Millennium Trails were designated by Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater on June 26, 1999, at the International Trails and Greenways Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The National Millennium Trails are visionary, ongoing projects that celebrate defining aspects of America's history and culture and the great diversity, complexity, and grandeur of our nation's trail system. In his conference speech, Secretary Slater said, "The National Millennium Trails connect our nation's landscape, heritage, and culture and demonstrate our national commitment to improving the quality of life for all Americans.

The 16 National Millennium Trails are:

American Discovery Trail--"From sea to shining sea" becomes a reality as the American Discovery Trail crosses the nation on a continuous line of existing trails, rail-trails, canal towpaths, forest lanes, and country roads. When complete, the trail will cover over 6,500 miles, connecting the past that we honor to the future envisioned in our imaginations.

Appalachian National Scenic Trail--This trail reaffirms our love and respect for the great beauty of our land. It is the nation's first major recreational trail--not a route of exploration, settlement, or trade, but rather a 20th-century recognition that we will have no trails in modern times unless we purposefully build and protect them. Stretching over 2,000 miles from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail is a narrow footpath traversing the Appalachian Mountains' ridgecrests and major valleys. The need to protect the Appalachian Trail from encroaching development led to the passage of the National Trails System Act in 1968. …