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Recap of the 1st Brazilian Trail Congress

Recap of the 1st Brazilian Trail Congress

By Paula Rascão & Nat Scrimshaw

The 1st Brazilian Trails Congress (Congresso Brasileiro de Trilhas) was held in Goiânia on May 25–29 as an initiative of the Brazilian Trails Network (Rede Brasileira de Trilhas) supported by the State Government of Goiás, home of three outstanding long-distance trails.

The event was held in three different auditoriums with simultaneous panels, a space dedicated to trail information and memorabilia, and an outdoor sports industry fair with booths dedicated to selling local products. On the last day, the attendees made technical visits to several trails throughout the Brazilian cerrado biome. 

The Congress was conceived and organized in just 4 months, mostly by volunteers, so no one was sure what to expect. We were all surprised by the number of people who saw the presentations. 1,753 people signed up, 700 of which traveled from different parts of Brazil to attend the event in person. This is but a small sample of the collective efforts and of how the outdoor living industry is consolidating in Brazil.

During the event, the panelists addressed topics such as trail signage, trail building, trail management, trails and protected areas, safety standards, tourism, technology, marketing, volunteering, and governance, including prominent case studies for strengthening our industry. Nathaniel Scrimshaw, Chair at WTN – Hub for the Americas, represented the World Trails Network in the event by attending the debate on implementing the Pan-American Trails Network. 

The Pan-American Trails Network envisions a primary trail from Alaska to Patagonia with long loops and branches that form a larger continental trails system. For example, if the Pacific Crest Trail is a primary route through the United States in the West, it can link to the Appalachian Trail in the East using other National Scenic Trails, and then connect with the Trans Canada Trail, looping back west. Similar links and loops can be made from the Andes into Brazil and other South American countries. We also hope to include trails on the Caribbean islands. It is a project that coordinates and links existing trails and trails organizations, much like the Appalachian Trail. At the Congress, we agreed to form a Pan-American Trails Network Steering Committee made of representatives from leading trails organizations throughout the Americas that will begin meeting in August. WTN – Hub for the Americas is facilitating these initial meetings.

The Congress was a milestone for the consolidation of the Brazilian National Trails and Connectivity Network, with several technical cooperation agreements entered into, as with Fundação Florestal do Estado de São Paulo, o Legado da Águas, a Aliança Bike, a Rota Vicentina, between others. At the end of the event, there was a reading of the Goyazes Statement (Carta aos Goyazes), a document agreed upon by the participants of the event, containing demands and conclusions arising out of the debates held during the event. The statement will be sent to several Brazilian governmental authorities aiming to provide expert insight into public policies to help structure the outdoor living industry, improve visitation to trails, environmental conservation, and the rural economy using Brazilian trails as a tool. 

As an immediate result of the Congress, many new groups willing to implement long-distance trails in their regions were formed. Trails have the potential to transform Brazil by connecting landscapes, promoting environmental conservation, developing territories, empowering communities, and generating employment, income, and quality of life for all. This is the mission of the Brazilian Trails Network. The birth of the exciting new Pan-American Trails Network at the Congress is another example of the leadership and energy coming from Brazil.  Let’s move forward!

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