Hiking: Play it Safe on the Trails with Sally Grimes

By Sally Grimes
WebMD Live Events Transcript

Are you heading to a national or state park for your family vacation? Join Sally Grimes of the American Hiking Society to discuss summer hiking and outdoors safety tips.

Event Date: 05/31/2000.

The opinions expressed by Ms. Grimes are hers and hers alone. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to the Women's Health Place on WebMD Live. Our guest this afternoon is Sally Grimes, the director of communications at the American Hiking Society and a certified Leave No Trace trainer.

Welcome to the program, Ms. Grimes. Thanks for joining us. It's a pleasure having you here. Before we begin taking questions, can you please tell everyone a little bit about your background and area of expertise?

Grimes: Thank you for inviting me. I've been an employee of American Hiking Society for five years. Having worked in virtually every department, I've been involved in the legislative, membership, marketing and communications. I've also taken Leave No Trace training, led trail maintenance crews, and led many hikes with my nieces and nephews.

Moderator: What does Leave No Trace training consist of?

Grimes: Leave No Trace (LNT) training teaches wilderness ethics. They aren't rules to live by, but basic ethics that simply make sense when you're in the backcountry. Examples include leaving an area as it looked when you arrived (or more "natural"), not disturbing wildlife, etc.

Moderator: Can you tell us about the American Hiking Society?

Grimes: American Hiking Society (AHS) is a 25-year-old recreation-based conservation organization. We're the only national nonprofit working for hikers and speaking for hikers in regards to federal legislative issues. Our mission is to establish, protect, and maintain foot trails in America, and we do this through federal legislative work, Volunteer Vacations trail maintenance crews, National Trails Day (this Saturday, June 3), National Trails Endowment grants, and many other programs.

Moderator: If someone wanted to volunteer for the American Hiking Society how could they go about that and what type of activities would they be doing?

Grimes: The simplest way to find more information is through the AHS website, www.americanhiking.org.  Here you can search the Hiker's Information Center, a comprehensive listing of thousands of volunteer opportunities on public lands, everything from one day crews (like this Saturday) to two-week backcountry trips to year-long campground host positions.

Moderator: Before we talk about this Saturday's event, what type of efforts are currently going on to urge Congress to support full federal funding for trails?

Grimes: We recently testified before the Interior Appropriations Committee in April. We directly lobbied the House and Senate -- the members of those committees. We joined together with 10 other outdoor non-motorized recreation groups and put together a proposed budget which we presented to Congress. We recently trained over 50 trail advocates from around the country on how to lobby at their state or local level. On our website is a prewritten letter that a visitor can send to their member of Congress urging them to support full federal funding for trails.

Moderator: What has been the federal response?

Grimes: It's been very positive We recently received a $500,000 increase to the River to Trails Coalition program and other  programs within the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management, plus we had some recent successes with the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Moderator: How important is it to speak out and communicate the importance of the need for trail protection and expansion?

Grimes: It's imperative. The more people our congressional members and representatives hear from, the more likely we are to have trails to hike in the future. If they don't think the public wants trails, there eventually won't be any trails and vice versa, the more they think the public wants trails, the more trails we'll have.

Moderator: What do you say to those who are vacillating on whether or not to get involved, thinking that they can't make a difference?

Grimes: I'd point out that until very recently, few members of Congress knew about issues surrounding the importance and benefits of trails. Because of the work of American Hiking and because Congresspeople and our representatives heard from their constituents, we now have a House Trails Caucus that helps us with legislative issues. There would be no House Trails Caucus if the members didn't think trails are important to their constituents.