A Q&A Conversation About Protect the View with Mark Zakutansky, Director of Conservation Policy Engagement, Appalachian Mountain Club

Photo courtesy of Protect the View

The Circuit Trails Coalition recently connected with the team behind Protect the View to discuss the initiative and how it can benefit the Circuit Trails network’s developing 800 miles of connected trails in the region.

Read the interview to learn more!

Q. What is the vision for the project? And what is currently being done to bring it to life?

Protect the View is about bringing science, people and policy together to make sure these trail experiences are available for future generations to enjoy. Led by Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), this initiative hopes to help bring the science of trail planning and land conservation to life and to catalyze communication about the need to preserve the scenic value of these places.

Through data analysis, this initiative identified 10 threatened trail views along six trails within the Circuit Trails network, which are being used to demonstrate and bring to the forefront the link between trail viewshed and trail experiences.

Protect the View has an online presence, where each identified threatened trail view has its own webpage for people to learn about these spaces and take action to protect them. Each webpage features a form that can be used to send a customizable letter to your state representative asking them to support of open space funding.

Delaware River & Tohickon Creek Junction | Photo courtesy of Protect the View

Q. What is a viewshed and why is it important?

A viewshed, generally-speaking, is the area that is visible from a specific location. This study identified trail viewsheds, which are the geographic areas that can be seen from a trail. For the purposes of this Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis, the researchers determined a trail user to be roughly 6-feet in height.

A trail viewshed is tied to trail user experience, and that is its importance. Imagine yourself on a nearby trail, you may see a local creek or the greenery of an area park… You may hear the sounds of the water flowing or birds chirping. Your visual, sensory experience is largely based on the composition of the surrounding area. By being able to experience nature while exercising, commuting, or getting around on the trail may enhance your experience and deliver benefits. For example, studies have shown that spending at least two hours a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. The landscape can change the experience.

Q. How were these viewsheds #OnTheCircuit chosen?

Of the 30 trails studied as part of the Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Project, 10 focus areas from along six trails were selected based on a two-step process. First, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s GIS Specialist, in consultation with the Recreation Planner, prepared an assessment of development risk. Second, the results of this analysis were overlaid with significant trail views determined by a visual assessment study. From cumulative data, the researchers identified trail views that are at a high risk for development in the greater Philadelphia region.

Kinkora Farmlands | Photo courtesy of Protect the View

Q. Where can people learn more about them?

You can find more information about the trail views by visiting the Protect the View site. The website features  visuals to showcase a primary facet of the trail experience and call our attention to the importance of the trail viewshed. Each of the 10 views have their own webpage with drone footage, beautiful photos, trail information, interactive maps, scientific data,and the research reports. For more information on the 10 trail focus areas, check out .Protecting Trail Views Along the Circuit: An Assessment of Land conservation Priorities and Development Trends Along the Circuit.

As you visit these pages, please Take Action to #ProtecttheView.

Q. How did this project get started?

Protect the View began with the science, as well as the desire to provide professional trail and recreation planners with information about high scenic value lands through the Circuit Trails Visual Assessment Project. From that study, the desire to raise awareness emerged. In order to protect these views, we need strong policy and funding in support of open space. That need led to the creation of the advocacy component of the Protect the View initiative. Finally, any campaign needs its people. The drone footage and photographs of these special places were commissioned to help catch your attention. With the help of trail lovers and recreationists, like you, we can make a difference and protect these trail views into the future.

Douglasville Views | Photo courtesy of Protect the View

Q. Trails can help conserve natural resources while benefitting the local economy and boosting small businesses. What’s the balance between protecting viewsheds and supporting economically vibrant communities?

When you stop to have a light lunch during your bike ride or travel along a trail to meet a friend at a coffeeshop, you are supporting the outdoor recreation-based economy. Communities and downtown areas close to trail and recreation resources benefit from recreation-related spending by visitors and locals who use these resources. When decision-makers and planning officials preserve scenic trail views, their action ensures that the quality of the trail experience is not degraded. Consequently, that trail continues to be a community asset and local economic driver. The communities that prioritize the viewshed and trail experience will most benefit from the increased demand for that experience.

Q. How can people experience these views #OnTheCircuit for themselves?

You can experience these trail views by visiting protecttheview.com to see photos and videos of some the trails within the Circuit. For information on all the Circuit Trails, visit circuitrails.org, select a trail and get outdoors and enjoy the view.

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