Our Mission

Washington Trails Association is a volunteer-driven nonprofit membership organization working to preserve, enhance, and promote hiking opportunities in Washington state through collaboration, education, advocacy and trail maintenance

History:

In July of 1966, a member of The Mountaineers Club, a small organization for Pacific Northwest hikers, decided that they needed better information dissemination than just word of mouth. So Louise Marshall, at the time the Backpack Committee Chair of the club, decided to start up a small newsletter for the organization. Signpost was born on a ditto machine, and right away was advocating for improved trails - the first issue described the logging and re-routing of the Goat Lake Trail, encouraging people to write to a ranger in the Mount Baker National Forest about the events. It worked - due to the letters, the trail was improved, and the park began to take interest in it. This was just the beginning.

Signpost was so well received, it became a permanent publication, eventually moving into Louise's barn, as it had started to overrun her house, and left behind the ditto machine for better-quality printing methods. By the early 1970's, it looked a lot more like a magazine than a newsletter.

Due to all the success, in 1973 Marshall decided to file Articles of Incorporation with the state of Washington, putting the magazine under the non-profit organization Signpost Publications. This worked decently, but wasn't good enough, and in 1980, created the Signpost Trails Association as a true 501(c)3 tax-exempt non-profit. Marshall continued to publish the magazine along with running the new organization, which involved fund-raising, lobbying the state and federal governments on behalf of trails, and setting up groups to work on improving trails.

At the end of 1982, after having assembled a Board of Directors and a set of advisors (which soon merged into one group), the board decided to change the organization's name. In February 1983, the organization became the Northwest Trails Association.

Early in 1985, the organization changed names yet again, this time deciding to call themselves the Washington Trails Association, and the Board of Directors became the WTA steering committee. The organization, under this new name, also began it's first attempt at actually influencing legislation. At the time, the 'Outdoor Recreation Bill' was working it's way through Washington State, and it would have directed some revenue from gasoline taxes to rebuilding trails - to standards for motorized use. As few hikers enjoy hiking down a trail next to loud ORVs and breathing their exhaust fumes, this was not wanted. Eventually, the legislation was adjusted to send part of the revenue to assist with hiking trails.

Since then, the organization has continued to grow and gain influence used toward promoting hiking, trail preservation, and trail improvement.

Activities:

The WTA is an organization meant to provide a voice for hikers and mountaineers in the Pacific Northwest, primarily in the state of Washington. It lobbies the government to promote setting aside more land as parks, to prevent any existing trails from being destroyed or heavily altered, and to promote the creation of more trails for the growing crowd of area hikers.

The organization also takes a proactive approach in keeping trails preserved, by setting up regular work parties. Members of the WTA head to trails and do a number of activities geared toward improving the trail and taking care of problem areas. They remove downed trees across the trail, rebuild sections that have become too muddy due to poor drainage, make minor reroutes of mountain streams to keep the streams and trails separate, and line the edges of trails on steep areas to prevent damage to areas outside the trail. There seems to be no shortage of members willing to assist in trail work, either - the site lists upcoming work parties, and most fill up - especially on weekend-long work parties, which seem the most popular.

Their web site also offers a rather well-done hiking guide, listing a large number of trails in the state, with information such as the altitude range for the trail, the approximate hiking distance and time needed, and a general description of the trail. Members of the WTA can also put their own trail reports on the site, allowing people to read about the status of the trail from people who recently performed the hike, allowing you a better guess at the condition (especially important as winter comes to an end, as trails often take damage due to the weather) and if you need to worry about things such as snow. It is definitely a place to check before you head out on your hike.

Sources:
Washington Trails Association, http://www.wta.org

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