The Trails were There for You; Are You There for the Trails? WFTA Membership Plummets Year over Year
Last year during the worst of the pandemic, usage of Weston conservation land skyrocketed. Residents and non-residents alike sought out peaceful distancing in the white-pine and hardwood forests, and the open meadows and wetlands and streams. Along with that, membership in the non-profit Weston Forest & Trail Association (WFTA) also climbed into the hundreds, as trail users realized how the countless new mountain bicycles and tromping feet affected the quality of our paths. During the pandemic, WFTA continued to lead monthly trail walks (canceling only one due to restrictions) and care for the trails for everyone’s enjoyment.
As many residents know, Weston is the proud guardian of almost 2,000 acres of preserved land, along with 100 miles of trails. WFTA maintains and preserves trails, encourages land easements, mows field paths, and cleans up fallen trees and boughs. Small and large wind storms knock down trees that the WFTA trails manager, Lynn Atkins, swiftly cleans up to make the trails again passable. Lynn is the sole employee of Weston Forest & Trail, and she is only part-time; the rest of the board of trustees is volunteer–the work you see completed is a combination of volunteer and Lynn- accomplished.
What many trail and open space users may not know is that Weston Forest & Trail, as a 501c3, is not funded by taxpayer dollars. There is no line item in the town budget for the stewardship accomplished by the organization. While Conservation does have a budget for boardwalk and bog bridge and other materials, this budget does not belong to WFTA, which is responsible for preserving the open space of our town.
Membership funding is critically important to the organization. In May 2020, WFTA’s largest membership jump ever was recorded–104 members joined on with a donation of $35 or more. In June 2020, 42 more came on. These funds go to paying our part-time trails manager.
The numbers for 2021 have dropped precipitously: 19 members in May and 7 in June. Where have all the conservation and open space supporters gone? Possibly to Cape Cod and Maine. And yet, the trails await you when you come home. The barred owls and winter wrens won’t hold it against you that you left for a while. Neither will WFTA. In October 2021, the monthly walks will start again, with trustees leading new and experienced trail walkers on some of our 100 miles of trails.
Please support the WFTA. Do it now. https://www.westonforesttrail.org/join-us. All levels of membership are welcomed.
Full disclosure: The Weston Owl is an executive board member of the WFTA but receives no financial compensation. She does however get the benefit of a walk in the woods every single day. Just like you can. Priceless.