American Trails named Missouri the Best Trails State.

American Trails named Missouri as the Best Trails State this year. Missouri's rocky, hilly terrain may be frustrating for farmers but it is ideal for trails and waterways-- and outdoor tourism. So the Missouri Trail Summit in Columbia, MO was exciting this year. Governor Nixon spoke at the opening reception. His 100 Missouri Miles Challenge is on track to reach 1 million miles by December. Sign up now if you haven't already to help reach this goal, and if you have signed up, keeping logging your miles.

I was pleased to see Bill Bryan, director of Missouri State Parks, and many other Department of Natural Resources faces I recognized from work they've done for Forest Lake Area Trail System (FLATS). I met Parks & Rec personnel from several other cities and counties, greeted bike/ped advocacy friends, and toured one of Columbia's new connector trails, adorned with bicycles hanging in trees!

The morning session featured Visit Missouri Trails, a resource that will function sort of like Google maps for Missouri trails. (It isn't affiliated with Google at all; that was just the easiest way to describe it.) If you are looking for a new trail in your area, you will be able to enter your town or zip code into the search box and get a list of trails and a map. Filter the list by surface type or the presence of bears and snakes! A wealth of information about each trail comes from the agency submitting the trail, with links to the agency's website for more information.

This will be a valuable resource if you are looking for a new trail in your area or if you are visiting or moving to a new area. No other state has anything quite like this, and I predict if it is successful here, that other states will want their trails listed. They are beta-testing right now, and will launch soon.

The afternoon sessions consisted of several workshops. The US Forest Service workshop was canceled because of the government shut-down, but I learned a lot about trail management in the other workshops. For example, the sign of a successful trail is when there are so many special events that you have to start issuing permits! I also learned that trails will be directly impacted--for better or worse--by the transportation initiative, so if you love trails, pay attention to the MoDOT 1% sales tax proposal slated for the November 2014 election. With the federal government shut down, national parks and their trails are closed, and our state parks and state trails are more important than ever.