Establishing an International Day for Trails
Words by Galeo Saintz – International Chair, World Trails Network
At the close of the 6th World Trails Conference in Tottori Japan 2016, the delegates of the conference from over 26 different countries signed a declaration to encourage the United Nations to establish a World Trails Day to celebrate and recognize the value of trails.
According to the United Nations International Days are occasions to educate the general public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.
The World Trails Conference – Tottori Accord, stated the following:
“We the undersigned are a global trails community and share a voice for trails, as dedicated trail users, trail operators, trail associations, trail managers and trail supporters. We represent trails from countries across the world and call for the recognition for the role trails play in:
- global peace-building
- international cooperation
- the building of the health of communities through opportunities for active lifestyles
- economic value created for rural peoples through trail tourism
- connecting people to nature and culture
- championing access to nature
- in fostering spiritual connection through pilgrimage
- in facilitating deepened relationships with self, others and diverse communities
We herewith call for the establishment of an internationally recognized World Trails Day by the General Assembly of the United Nations to celebrate the unique collective values trails offer the global community of humankind.“
Global Survey by the World Trails Network
The World Trails Network ran a snap-shot survey amongst its members in April 2021 to establish what its members thought of creating an International Day for Trails.
Participation was extremely limited, which needs to be considered when observing the results that follow:
82% of respondents selected that the most appropriate name for such a day would be: World Trails Day, with International Trails Day as the alternative option.
45% selected the first Saturday in June as an appropriate day to celebrate a World Trails Day. However this may have been biased as predominantly northern hemisphere participants took part in the survey, with June being the beginning of summer in the north and winter in the southern hemisphere. The United States and some other countries currently celebrate a National Trails Day on the same date.
81% maintained that the international day should focus on increasing awareness of trail etiquette, leave no trace principles and how to be trail ready when heading out on a trail. In addition respondents indicated that an international day would bring more awareness about the benefits of trails.
About United Nations Observances
According to the UN website: The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. The United Nations observes designated days, weeks, years, and decades, each with a theme, or topic. By creating special observances, the United Nations promotes international awareness and action on these issues. Each international day offers many actors the opportunity to organize activities related to the theme of the day. Organizations and offices of the United Nations system, and most importantly, governments, civil society, the public and private sectors, schools, universities and, more generally, citizens, make an international day a springboard for awareness-raising actions.
The United Nations General Assembly designates a number of “International Days” or “World Days” to mark important aspects of human life and history. Each international day offers many actors the opportunity to organize activities related to the theme of the day.
History of Existing Trails Days
National Day of Hiking – GERMANY marking the German Hiking Association’s (DWV) foundation on May 14, 1883, takes place each May 14. Known as the Deutscher Wandertag it is now in its 120th year. The dates vary and in 2021 will be taking place over 5 days in July. It attracts over 30,000 participants at specific locations around Germany.
National Trails Day – USA is celebrated since 1992 by the American Hiking Society. The intention was to create a day that encouraged not only hikers to get out and enjoy the trails around them, but also horseback riders, cyclists, bikers, and everyone else to get out on the trail and enjoy nature. This day is on the first Saturday in June. The Society also celebrates “Take a Hike Day” which is on 17 November each year.
Celebrate Trails Day – USA is hosted on the fourth Saturday of April, Celebrate Trails Day (formerly Opening Day for Trails) is an annual spring celebration of America’s trails. Started by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 2013.
International Trails Day – 16 National Trails across England and Wales celebrated an International Trails Day on the first Saturday in June 2020. This was mainly a virtual event to meet virus control measures. A similar celebration is taking place in 2021 on 5th June and includes fundraising for volunteers who help look after the trails.
National Trails Day – Ireland is listed on a webpage as taking place on 2 January, but this might be more of an Irish joke as it is mid-winter at that time of year.
National Trails Day – Australia only showed a facebook page, but not official events or body organizing it. It was scheduled for 7 September.
Our research revealed no national trails days in other countries and were not mentioned for Russia, Brazil, Japan, Korea, China, Span, Italy, UK, Nepal or anywhere in Africa.
The Importance of Trails is Why we Need a Dedicated Day Celebrating Trails
Trails are important to the public at large in every country, as well as to rural economies, tourism and well-being. Trails do the following:
- they allow people to enjoy and access nature.
- they provide visitors with insights of culture and history.
- they get people active and outdoors doing physical activities.
- they connect people to each other, themselves and their country.
- they can literally change the world.
How Might the World Trails Network Observe a World Trails Day?
Our first priority is to encourage and put in motion that the United Nations declares an international or world day for trails. And possibly even a decade for trails given the important role trails have played in access to nature and wellbeing during the current pandemic.
As a network we are canvassing ideas and proposals from members and network associates as to what kind of programme to develop for an international day. This might include some of the following:
- encouraging people to head out to their favorite trail and enjoying it for the day
- dedicate time to volunteer and clean-up or maintain a trail nearby
- share images or comments about favorite trail/s on social media accounts
- raise awareness for leave no trace on trails and what it means to be “Trail Ready”
- organize appropriate events on local trails
- invite trail personalities and celebrities, adventurers, etc. to compose a message to inspire people to care for and celebrate trails
- host specific events and festivals across the world on this day
Creating an international day for trails will aim to be a wake-up-call for governments, politicians and institutions that have not yet recognized how important trails are to the world, to health, to wellbeing and to economies. That they realize trails require on-going investment, maintenance and preservation and love. And that in the end trails are a global heritage that touch on spirituality, sports and human happiness.