In September, the D&L became the Keystone Trails Association’s (KTA) newest organizational member. The KTA is the commonwealth’s leading advocate for hikers and trails. From their headquarters in Harrisburg, the KTA protects hiking trail lands through support and advocacy and educates the public in the responsible use of trails and the natural environment. Through their quarterly newsletter and their website, members and hikers are informed of hiking-related activities in and around Pennsylvania.
The KTA has a rich history. In 1955, a group of Appalachian Trail maintainers, including Earl Shaffer, the first AT thru-hiker, hatched the idea for a Pennsylvania-focused organization to deal with local hiking and trail concerns. Previously, the Appalachian Trail Conference coordinated maintenance responsibilities with individual clubs and dealt with major issues on an ad hoc basis. The KTA was meant to streamline this process by pulling together all of the clubs with an interest in Pennsylvania hiking. In January 1956, thirty-two representatives of Pennsylvania trail clubs and the leaders of the Appalachian Trail Conference met in Harrisburg to found the KTA. In the first issue of “The KTA News,” the Club reprinted its raison d’être:
The purpose of the Keystone Trails Association shall be to coordinate the efforts of walking and outdoor groups in and around Pennsylvania, to build and maintain and use trails, shelters and camp sites in the area; to aid in the conservation of wildlands and wildlife and to protect places of natural beauty and interest and to further enhance the purpose of the Appalachian Trail Conference.
By 1958, in recognition of the need for a statewide organization to raise funds, lobby government, and oversee the commonwealth’s section of the AT, all of Pennsylvania’s oldest hiking clubs had joined the KTA. Ever since, the KTA has worked with AT maintaining clubs and others outdoor and conservation organizations, like the D&L, to preserve and expand hiking opportunities.
Organizational membership in the Keystone Trails Association will promote the D&L and the D&L Trail to the Pennsylvania hiking community. We hope to better understand the needs and concerns of Pennsylvania hikers and encourage them to use our unique trail. We also believe that our efforts to conserve open space and create outdoor recreation opportunities in eastern Pennsylvania will benefit from a partnership with an organization historically active in protecting trails and the rights of trail users.