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  • Coons seeks national recognition for American Discovery Trail

  • When lawmakers return from Easter break, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) says he plans to introduce legislation that would provide federal designation for the American Discovery Trail, which runs from Delaware’s Cape Henlopen State Park to California’s Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
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  • When lawmakers return from Easter break, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) says he plans to introduce legislation that would provide federal designation for the American Discovery Trail, which runs from Delaware’s Cape Henlopen State Park to California’s Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
    “The American Discovery Trail connects trails in state parks and federal lands with county roads in rural areas and sidewalks in towns and communities from coast to coast,” Coons said. “Bringing national recognition to the American Discovery Trail will give more Americans the opportunity to enjoy this unique network of trails.”
    The National Discovery Trails Act of 2014 would make the ADT part of the National Trails System, which was established in 1968, creating a framework for a national network of connected scenic, historic and recreational trails. The system currently includes eight National Scenic Trails, 15 National Historic Trails and more than 1,000 National Recreational Trails, but no trail linking the network from coast to coast.
    Coons’ proposed legislation would create a new category within the system for long distance trails that connect urban areas with outdoor resources, public lands, rural areas and other communities. The ADT would be the first in this new category of “Discovery Trails.”
    “Federal recognition will cost a modest amount of money, but will help facilitate signage, publicity and sustainment for a trail that already exists in the hearts of many Americans,” Coons said, adding the trail would continue to be maintained by nonprofit organizations, rather than by the federal government.
    The ADT is made up of 6,800 miles of continuous, multi-use pathways. The trail splits into northern and southern routes at Cincinnati, Ohio, rejoining at Denver, Colo.
    According to Coons, the trail is derived from the late 1980s event Hike a Nation, spearheaded by the American Hiking Society and Backpacker Magazine. The two groups planned a 4,800-mile hike that, like today’s ADT, began at Cape Henlopen and ended at Pt. Reyes. Coons said those who made the trip faced great difficulty due to the absence of a clear, marked route.
    “An effort began to create the American Discovery Trail, to have coordinators in every state and to connect existing trail systems with existing national parks and forests,” Coons said.
    The ADT was officially mapped out in 1991.
    In 1999, Coons said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced legislation to add the ADT to the National Trails System. The measure unanimously passed the Senate, but did not make it through Congress and has not been reconsidered, until now.
    When the bill was first introduced in 1999, Coons said it was estimated that $2 million in federal funding would be allocated for the ADT. He said there’s no current estimate available.
    Page 2 of 2 - Coons said it’s not the funding aspect that sparks opposition in Congress. Pushback is mainly coming from western representatives whose constituents do not want the federal government to get involved.
    “My impression is there are members of the House who mistakenly fear this designation would lead to federal appropriation of private land,” he said. “However it’s a designation, not an ownership.”
    Serinda Conner, the ADT coordinator for Delaware, said the federal government is already very involved in the ADT.
    “Of the 6,800 miles of the entire trail, about 100 miles is on private land and those land owners do not take issue with this designation,” Conner said.
    Peter Schoettle, the ADT coordinator for Maryland, said those who oppose the bill simply misunderstand the measure.
    “It’s a fear that making this official would increase the power of the government, which it doesn’t do,” Schoettle said. “We’re not buying any land and there’s no money for appropriations.”
    For more information on the ADT, visit discoverytrail.org.

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