When I think of a footpath I think of nature. I think of wild land, no doubt government owned. Preservation comes to mind. So does conservation and perpetuity. I don’t want roads to take me into this kind of country. I want a foot path. I’m delighted when I come upon a routed, wooden sign that says simply, “Wilderness Area.” The liberal members of Congress are far more inclined to support such areas, to keep them pristine. This thought comes to mind first.
But then I have other thoughts. Rugged individualism is often a character trait associated with an adventurer of any stripe. This includes the person who straps a pack on his back and walks into the wilderness. He can take care of himself. In his mind he doesn’t need others, particularly the government, to look after him. If he must find help, he’ll think first of a family member. He eschews the comfortable and the safe. He is a bit of a gambler with his time, talent, money and heart. He wants freedom more than security. A foot trail can often take him exactly where he wants to be.
And another conservative thought. There is a culture among the hiking clubs: We’ll take care of our resource, this foot path. And trail clubs do. Congress had the wisdom to attach a hiking club with each long trail identified by them as a National Scenic Trail. Volunteers maintain these trails for the public. The government contributes, usually through the Forest Service; but even if it did not, these trails would get groomed by the volunteers. Not so for maintenance of other destinations in outdoor recreation: Our State and Federal National Parks, National Seashores, public boat ramps and National Monuments. They would fall into disrepair without lots of government money and employees. If federal dollars stopped flowing into the Appalachian Trail tomorrow, the average hiker would never know the difference; over two dozen volunteer groups from Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin would provide the manpower to keep the trails groomed.
Another thought. These destinations in outdoor recreation are usually far from urban centers. People living close to them, either individually or in small towns, care that these places are used and appreciated. People on the interstates are headed for the big tourist destinations and the even bigger cities. The big travel dollars and tourist dollars get spent along these corridors and at these destinations. But the small towns benefit from those who search out outdoor recreation. And these small towns are overwhelmingly conservative. So there is an obvious link between small towns and outdoor recreation, a conservative link.
Can you add to these thoughts? We would love to have them. Are you a hiker or a backpacker? We would like to know if you are liberal or conservative and once we have a significant sample, we will share the results on Facebook and our websites.