COVID-19 has impacted Ogden's trails. Here's how you can help, according to TFNU director Aric Manning
By Mekenna Malan | April 20, 2021
COVID-19 has impacted everything, and that includes your local trail system.
The Trails Foundation of Northern Utah (formerly Weber Pathways) works hard to build world-class trails that are safe and accessible for your walk, run or ride. TFNU director Aric Manning talked to us about some exciting new projects, the importance of trail maintenance, and how you can help support the trails you love.
Hey Aric! Go ahead and introduce yourself. How did you get involved with TFNU?
I am originally from Roy, Utah but have lived in the Ogden area most of my life and have raised two beautiful daughters here. I am a soccer player at heart, but I got into trail running about 20 years ago and from that point on have been hooked on trails. I was a board member on the Ogden Trails Network for about three years. In June of 2019, I was contacted by the Trails Foundation of Northern Utah about an opening for the Executive Director position. I jumped at the chance and have enjoyed working as the Executive Director for this amazing organization since. TFNU is the perfect fit - I love this community and it gives me a chance to give back to the thing that gives me so much happiness on a daily basis. Trails are such an important part of my life and I feel extremely lucky and fortunate that I get to be involved with an incredible non-profit, a supportive and dedicated board and a community that appreciates the trails. I really couldn’t ask for more.
Aric at the summit of King's Peak, the highest peak in Utah.
How has COVID-19 impacted our local trail system?
We saw a huge increase in trail use in 2020, largely due to the pandemic. Speaking with other trail organizations in the area, we believe it increased three-fold and our trails really took a beating. Along with our partners, we have identified areas that we believe need the most work and we will continue to rehabilitate and maintain trails to help with sustainability moving forward. We also saw a lot of first-time trail users, which is fantastic, but that comes with a need to increase education and awareness.
"We saw a huge increase in trail use in 2020, largely due to the pandemic. Speaking with other trail organizations in the area, we believe it increased 3-fold and our trails really took a beating … We also saw a lot of first-time trail users, which is fantastic, but that comes with a need to increase education and awareness."
How has COVID impacted your organization, the Trails Foundation of Northern Utah?
COVID hit us hard. We had to cancel Trailfest — an event that introduces more people to, and celebrates, Weber County’s trails — in June of 2020. We also had to cancel our Author event. These are the two biggest fundraisers we host as a non-profit. With the shift in the economy we saw a decrease in general donations, so we had to explore other fundraising opportunities. We also could not hold as many volunteer opportunities in 2020, and our trails could not be maintained as we hoped. In 2021 we are playing a little bit of catch-up and increasing volunteer opportunities.
What would a trail without volunteers look like?
This is something I don’t even want to imagine. Volunteers are critical for our trail system and community. We live in an amazing place where people truly have a passion for trails and the area. I feel proud every day knowing we have people that care and want to be involved. With that said, our trails cannot survive on volunteers only and we are lucky to have some great people and organizations that have the same passion and purpose as TFNU. Combining these groups and our volunteers sets us up for long-term success. We only ask that people who are interested in volunteering reach out to the proper organizations in our community to help. Going out solo or without permission and direction can also cause damage to trails.
What can locals do to help TFNU and why is it important for them to be involved?
There are so many ways people can get involved. We just launched our spring membership campaign, which really supports TFNU and all our efforts. We launched the program in the fall of 2020 and have seen great support from the trail community and local businesses. We really want to encourage people to become TFNU members and help support the trails with as little as $5 per month.
Volunteering is a great way to help sustain the trails we all enjoy, and it can be very rewarding. In 2021, we will be holding many more volunteer opportunities in the area and doing a lot of work with our partners. There will be volunteer opportunities for all types of projects and at various locations, from litter patrol to brush clearing, tread work, trail building and much more. These opportunities will be located on our website and via our GivePulse platform.
Without support in these areas, TFNU would not be able to continue the work we do on the trails. There is more and more work that needs to be done every year and we are always trying to increase the positive impact we can make in the trail community.
"Volunteers are critical for our trail system and community ... In 2021, there will be volunteer opportunities for all types of projects and at various locations, from litter patrol to brush clearing, tread work, trail building and much more."
Are there any trail projects in the works that locals should be excited about?
There are a few projects going on currently, namely Pineview Loop Pathway extension and maintenance, Blackners Bend Project on the Weber River, and the Riverside RV Park pathway. However, the one I am most excited about is our four-person Trail Crew that will be working on trails throughout the area all summer and into the fall. We are working together with the United States Forest Service, Weber County Parks and Recreation, Ogden City, Ogden Trails Network and Snowbasin to form a true trail collective in an effort to help maintain and work on a pretty spectacular trail system. Be on the lookout for our crews and trailer this summer!
What do you want locals to keep in mind about their trails now that it's hiking/biking season?
The biggest thing that everyone should understand is that most trails are multi-use for everyone, all skill levels and abilities. Let’s respect and appreciate not only each individual trail user, but the trails as well. We do not predict much of a trail use decrease in 2021, so we all need to do our part and use better judgement and etiquette when we are out. We love the “Be Nice, Say Hi” approach. Trails are meant to be enjoyed and avoiding conflict serves a purpose for everyone. Let’s keep the trails a positive and safe place to recreate.