Volunteers use equine power to make upgrades to public trails.

Photo: Courtesy Ami McBride

As a trail rider, trails are central to my recreation. Except trails aren’t just central to trail riders, they are important for the relaxation, recreation and soul-quenching connection that we all crave: the hikers, bicylists, and riders.

Before I knew about Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA), I thought trails just existed without maintenance. I’ve learned since then, it takes quite a bit of horse-/mule- and manpower to keep trails open and public land accessible. That job takes a community, one of which I’m proud a member. BCHA has dedicated its sole focus to maintaining those trails, which are our access into our land. For the sake of us and our children, I’m so thankful they do. When you look at the statistics, they are absolutely amazing: $86.6 million in volunteer hours since 1995, 176 chapters in 28 states, and still America’s best kept secret.

Last year alone BCHA chapters were responsible for clearing more than 30,000 miles of trail. But even those numbers are just a small drop in the bucket. So much more needs to be done.

For 40 years, Back Country Horsemen of America members have been traipsing into our public lands and clearing trails for anyone who cares to travel behind them, asking nothing in return but the satisfaction that they had preserved access into public land, until now.
 
BCHA is spreading awareness about our dwindling, under-maintained trail systems and making a proactive effort to keep trails open by launching a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. If BCHA reaches its crowdfunding goal, a family foundation that chooses to remain anonymous will donate $25,000 to BCHA’s cause. That's an extra $0.50 for every dollar donated!
 
Like I was before, so many people just don’t know how deep the trail loss issues is. According to the Government Accountability Office, as of 2012 the U.S. Forest Service has a $314 million trail maintenance backlog and just an $80 million budget for trails and everything related to them. With a deficit like that, we are losing trails to reclamation at an alarming rate. Once a trail is reclaimed, it’s gone forever.
 
Public land is owned by every one of us. We need to be proactive if we want to keep our access into our land. BCHA’s chapters do the physical labor. I would challenge each one of you to support BCHA in their effort. By supporting their “Keeping Trails Open for You” campaign, you are making a statement. You are telling the world that accessing public land is important to you and that you want your babies and grandbabies to have the same soul-quenching experiences you have now. Share the campaign, donate, and tell the world how important access is to you.
 
Enjoy the trails this summer!
 
Ami