Virginia Horse Council joins the Virginia Trails Alliance
Virginia Horse Council is one of a handful of organizations represented on the Virginia State Trails Advisory Committee (STAC), which was created through legislation in 2015. The committee, is comprised of recreational groups in addition to the staff from national, state, and regional organizations that are trail focused. The task of the Committee is addressed in the Code of Virginia https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/10.1-204.1/ and includes broad initiatives such as closing the gaps in a statewide trail system; encouraging private/public partnerships to leverage resources and fund development; integrated approaches to promoting and marketing trail values and benefits; strategies to encourage and create linkages between communities and open space; fostering communication and networking among trail stakeholders, etc.
The STAC has worked with the staff from the Department of Conservation and Recreation to address these concerns and provide annual reports to the General Assembly and advice on the Virginia Outdoors Plan. However, one of the limitations of the STAC is that it cannot perform any advocacy work to support its recommendations since it was created through legislation.
In November 2018, the non-agency members of the STAC agreed to form the Virginia Trails Alliance, for organizations with an interest in working together to promote trails in Virginia. The Virginia Trails Alliance was formed to be a champion for all trail systems. The formation of the Alliance does not end the work done by the STAC, but it should further enhance it. The founding organizations include:
- Appalachian Trail Conservancy
- Chesapeake Bay Commission
- City of Richmond VA Parks and Recreation
- East Coast Greenway Alliance
- Expedition Outfitters
- Great Eastern Trail Association
- International Mountain Bike Association
- James River Association
- NOVA Parks
- Richmond Cycling Corp
- Roanoke Valley Greenway Commission
- Southwest Regional Recreation Authority (SRRA) -Spearhead Trails
- The Nature Conservancy
- Virginia Bicycling Federation
- Virginia Capital Trail Foundation
- Virginia Horse Council
- Virginia Interactive
- Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF)
- Virginia Recreation and Park Society
The list of organizations signing on as participants continues to grow.
As a first step, the Alliance identified the following key initiatives and forwarded them to the current state administration with a request for funding in the pending budget:
- State Trails Grant: Create a competitive state grant source to promote trail development across the Commonwealth. A grant program will bring together local and state partners to dream big and create amazing trail systems, leveraging local and federal funds (like Recreational Trails Program), with this new state grant source.
- State Trails Conference: Host a state conference to focus on the development and promotion of trail systems in Virginia.
- Additional State Staffing for Trails Coordination – Fund the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) to fully support statewide trail coordination. Some of the trail planning is conducted through the Virginia Outdoors Plan. Additional staffing in this area will benefit trail projects all over the Commonwealth.
- Signature Projects – There are trail systems in the planning and development stages in every region of the Commonwealth that could benefit from direct action and promotion by the administration. A few examples include the East Coast Greenway, which would be a trail connecting the eastern seaboard, running through Virginia along the north/south rail corridor, and the Beaches to Bluegrass Trail that would go from Virginia Beach to Cumberland Gap.
Equestrian organizations that value healthy, vibrant trail systems are invited to join the Virginia Trails Alliance. Participation is voluntary, non-binding and free. As a partner you’ll receive alerts on issues and opportunities to collaboratively develop guidance, positions, and information that will impact the management and growth of Virginia’s trail system.
To join, please complete the contact form at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VirginiaTrails.
The website http://www.virginiatrails.org/ is under construction and we welcome your suggestions for content.
You can contact the info@VirginiaTrails.org if you have any questions.