The State of Our Trails



Owen Dorau, The Baron of Bad News

Everyday we spend hours looking at our screens. The efficiency of our work and the things we are able to do with our technology by no means makes it a bad thing, but something has been lost. Time moves faster than ever today and with everything going by before our eyes it’s important to stop, walk, and think.

Now more than ever, we are spending more time inside on screens, than we are outside and observing. According to the Nielsen Total Audience Report of 2018, the average U.S. Citizen spends roughly 11 hours a day using a form of electronic media. This data is gathered from adults, however, the use by teens is most likely much higher. The disconnection from nature has yet to show its long term effects, but it could prove to be dangerous to organizations that survive off of outdoor activities.

We are highly drawn to finish another episode rather than go out and spend time outside. Does this mean we are forever unable to escape screens? Of course not. Plenty of us go for runs, walk our dogs, or ride our bikes. However, the very essence of walking or hiking just to be outside, is becoming harder to find.

Part of the problem is that most people do not know how many trails surround our community. Throughout Ipswich, Hamilton Wenham, Topsfield, and Essex there are over 450 miles of trails. Most of these trails are protected and all are maintained by the Essex County Trail Association. The ECTA works with local private land owners to ensure permanent trail easement and public access to trails.

To understand more, I spoke with Carol Lloyd, the Director of Trail Management for the ECTA. Lloyd is responsible for maintaining and upholding trails and parks under ECTA protection. She makes sure that trails are passable and accessible to those walking on them. When I asked about the importance of upholding trails she explained that “If we don’t protect them we lose them”. “Out of the 450 miles of trails, only half of them are protected”, she added. This means the land owners of the trails can pull their section out at any time, denying access from the public. Without strong community support to protect and use our trails, we could lose them. You never know what you have until it’s gone.

So what is being done? Currently, the ECTA outreaches the best it can, but there are more efforts being made. At Ipswich High, a recent club has sprung up to help the cause, and provide its members with a much needed incentive. The club offers community service in return for organizing and maintaining the well being of trails in Ipswich and its surrounding towns.

To get more information about the club, I asked Ben Gibbs, a senior at Ipswich High School and a member of the Trail Conservation Club. “At the moment we’ve only had one meeting, we cleared debris and marked trails in Hamilton” Ben Gibbs said. When I asked how people could get involved, he said “We need publicity, especially among underclassmen, making sure they know that this is a fun way of getting community service and getting outside”.

If you or anyone you know would like to get involved, visit