Like many of the best ideas, Clean Trails was more of a slow trickle than a sudden thunderclap. Steve Jewett was always an avid hiker and climber, and gradually he became aware of trash on his favorite trails. He and his hiking partner, Bill Willoughby began to pick up items like cigarette butts, candy wrappers, and water bottle caps on their hikes together; at first just picking up what they could fit in their pockets and later carrying a bag with them.
There was still the problem of trash they didn’t want to touch with their bare hands, so one day Steve started trying out various types of barbecue tongs. Steve and Bill started to make a game of it; Bill would spot the trash and Steve would pick it up. If Bill missed a piece, Steve would point it out with a very loud, “You missed one!” They were having fun, and other hikers on the trail noticed and wanted to join in on the fun too.
While hiking, Steve and Bill would talk about your typical “save the world” topics, like ending hunger, homelessness, the world’s economic woes, and especially how their favorite places were becoming spoiled, so they began to brainstorm about how to motivate others to have fun while cleaning trails. They wanted to expand the idea to a nationwide movement.
Both Steve and Bill are serial entrepreneurs, Steve focusing in sales and Bill in marketing. Using their business knowledge base, they searched for concepts that would allow scaling nationally. While they hiked, they continually processed their ideas and concepts, validating some and eliminating those that they found impractical.
Steve and Bill then tested their concepts on hikers they encountered, discussing their successes and failures to discover which were the most effective and discarding those that did not work. They applied business and marketing processes to include the newly-learned information, creating a plan for the successful launch of a sustainable nonprofit organization called Clean Trails. They envisioned an operation that would be financially stable and not rely upon continuous fundraising, with a plan that would impact every type of trail, leading to a cleaner outdoor environment throughout the United States.
Knowing the importance of bringing in smart people who have experience in non-profits, fundraising and community organizing, Steve and Bill began the search to recruit board members and advisors. The next task was to bring in volunteers to support the local outdoor communities. Expanding into colleges, universities and academia, the organization has been successful in attracting a wide spectrum of hikers, bikers, skiers, snow boarders and outdoor enthusiasts. We are actively engaged in increasing our membership base and board and advisor representation.
- Expand national network of trail stewards by 2020.
- Advocate for “Leave No Trace” and Responsible Recreation.
- Create national awareness of the problems of trash on our public trails.
- Develop an educational program to eliminate the disposal of litter in our wild spaces.
Clean Trails is a grass roots, all-volunteer, 501 (c) 3, charitable organization, pursuing the sponsorship and funding opportunities to build a national infrastructure of trail stewards. Concurrent administrative activities include board development, a formal business plan, and the creation of formal policies and procedures.
Program Development Activity
During the first five years of operation, we have raised awareness of existing litter and created mechanisms for its removal through the following program activities:
- Education by linking with outdoor retailers. Activities include in-store training and collateral materials.
- Developed a system of litter removal tools and outdoor collection boxes as the mechanism of removal.
- Created a network of local trail stewards that develops and implements Clean Trails programs within their geographic areas. Our network is for stewards of our pristine wild places, community spaces and access points to our natural wonders.
- Clean Trails will work to improve co-branding with a variety of manufacturers.
- We will raise awareness through collaboration and events.
These program efforts will be enhanced by developing appropriate program guidelines with outcomes measurement, as well as a marketing campaign to extend outreach activities.
Clean Trails… Everywhere!
Create a national network of trail stewards for our pristine wild places, collective community spaces, and access points to our natural wonders.
Clean Trails promotes harmony with the land by encouraging stewardship and by providing mechanisms to keep the trail systems that lead to our wild spaces litter-free.
We respect the quality of life that comes from exposure to wild places that have been created through the forces of nature and which are untrammeled by man. We strive to protect these places in a positive and open-minded manner while encouraging visitors to take responsibility for their and others’ actions.
Together we can make a difference.