Written by Teresa Ana Martinez, CDTC Executive Director
When Congress designated the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDT) on November 10, 1978, it opened a new chapter in preserving the landscapes of the Rocky Mountain West.
Winding through the dramatic and wild landscapes of the American West, the CDT provides access and a view into our nation’s heritage and an open door for adventure and exploring. Home to some of America’s most important historical, cultural, and natural treasures, the CDT offers the opportunity for modern day explorers to experience the great outdoors in the beauty and solitude of America’s last remaining great wild areas and landscapes.
The story of the divide began hundreds of years ago, and it is still being written today. Because, along the Trail, everyone has a story. From the artist looking for inspiration, the cancer survivor taking their life back, the father and son hiking together toward a triple crown achievement, or to combat veterans attempting to “walk off the war”, the CDT is richer because of these and all of the stories experienced along its spine.
It’s simple. The CDT connects people to the land, to each other, and to ourselves – the day traveler and the long distance traveler alike. It’s inspirational in its scope, grandeur, and geography.
Through stories, the Trail helps us pass a love of the land, share the inspiration of wild places, and the determination to take on big challenges to the next generation. And it’s a big challenge to complete, protect, as well as travel the CDT.
It has always been our hope that the story of the CDT inspires folks to take on big challenges and to find solace in the Trail when its needed most. In this way, the story and connection to the CDT is never lost and continues well beyond the time spent on it.
The Continental Divide itself is a landscape feature worth reverence, but with a Congressionally designated National Scenic Trail along its spine, it’s a critical connection to the past, present and future of not only the American West, but to the history that defines and exemplifies the spirit of American life.
We launched the Coalition because we knew that a conservation legacy so rich was worth saving and fighting for, and ensuring that no one ever doubted it was in the public’s best interest to protect the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.
Since 2012, we have made huge strides in uniting all the voices of those who love, care, steward, enjoy, and wish to see the CDT flourish. Today CDTC is recognized as the lead national partner working on behalf of the CDT by our Federal Agency partners. And, as we look back over the past 6 years, and look toward the next 40, we know we are heading in the right direction.
As a testament to that, and to our volunteers, members, supporters, friends, our membership has grown from 25 to over 1200 members, our annual budget from $4,000 to over $450,000. Our annual volunteer hours have grown from 5,910 to over 14,000 hours in 2017, and their value from $131K and $343K respectively. Combined, that equals 68,300 hours of volunteer labor valued at $1.6 Million- all to benefit the CDT!
Most importantly to us, we have strengthened relationships with our gateway communities, partner organizations, agency partners, and the general public, all of which are critical in order to protect and preserve the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. And because of you, CDT’s grassroots community, more people than ever before are able to experience the natural, cultural, historical, and spiritual significance of the CDT.
Each of us has a unique opportunity to participate in a once in a lifetime chance to be a part of history in the making, to actually help build this incredible trail as a tribute to our country and demonstrate a commitment to our public lands. It’s the right thing to do, and the right time to do it.
The Continental Divide Trail is better now than it ever has been, and together we are building, saving, creating, and managing a world-class National Scenic Trail across the rooftop of America, so that all of us may discover our own story along its spine.
As we celebrate 40 years of the CDT, we invite you to become a part of our story and the Story of the Continental Divide Trail. We invite you to help us inspire preservation of the Trail and its experience so that one day, we will all be able to say that webuilt the Continental Divide Trail – a trail along the spine and backbone of America- for us, for our children and for future generations yet to come.