While this year has brought many new unknowns, one thing we know for certain is the benefit of trails. Nationwide, trail use is up around 60 percent. We saw that locally also, when we conducted our first-ever LCTA member survey. Approximately 50 percent of respondents noted their trail use has increased in the past year.

The trails have provided a welcome relief from today’s challenges. Trails connect us to natural resources — fields, streams, wetlands and woodlands. They also provide a fun, safe way to spend time with friends outside.

We learned a lot by surveying all types of trail users from all over Linn County this summer. We noted a major preference for building paved trails that connect multiple jurisdictions. We also learned that we have a solid group of users interested in natural, scenic wooded hiking or singletrack trails.

Perhaps this year more than ever we have been so fortunate to benefit from years of work to expand our growing trails system. It is our goal to continue to “Make Trails Happen.” We can’t do this without your financial assistance.

LCTA has a long history of being ready to jumpstart projects when opportunities arise. When railroads were abandoning in the 70s, 80s and90s, early Linn County trails supporters acted on the vision of building the Cedar Valley Nature Trail — now identified as an important connection along two coast-to-coast, nationwide trails.

Years ago, Linn County Trails Association donated the right-of-way for a portion of the Hoover Nature Trail south of Ely to Johnson County. Today, that connection is paved and incredibly active. Our humble trails group also jumped on the opportunity to purchase the Grant Wood Trail right-of-way, east of Marion. Now this connection is becoming ever more popular and important.

Meanwhile, Federal and State budgets are tightening. As nearby communities and Linn County develop trail projects, it is important we are ready to assist financially to continue the incredible progress we’ve witnessed in the past five years.

For many years, LCTA has conducted an annual Fall Fundraiser — a direct-mail campaign asking for additional contributions from its members. LCTA has given more than $1 million to local jurisdictions in support of trails development. We’ve put your gifts to our organization to great use.

There is no question our members have secured a continued bright future for trails development in Linn County. LCTA’s advocacy work also contributes to the safety and growth of our trails system. LCTA has leveraged your gifts to accelerate trails projects, provide important match funds to secure grants, and work with local jurisdictions to prioritize the development of a system of connected trails in Linn County.

Your generosity can help us continue to blaze new trails for years to come! This year we are launching a $200,000 Capital Campaign effort to ensure our trail-building reserves are full and our organization can act fast on opportunities we are eying. We understand it may be a difficult time for many of you, so we are asking you please consider a gift of any amount. $1 helps. $25 helps. $1,000 helps even more.

We know you give generously to many during this season, and we appreciate you keeping the Linn County Trails Association in mind.

Thank you, and Happy Trails!