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Outside Kind campaign encourages trail courtesy, respect and kindness

by WHITNEY ENGLAND
Whitefish Pilot | June 22, 2022 1:00 AM

A little kindness can go a long way.

Acting with grace and respect is becoming ever important in our local communities, on the trails and in daily interactions as the Flathead Valley grows. Recreation is a part of daily life here for most and with various user groups on the same trails and public land, potential conflicts could increase.

In an effort to proactively address future issues between recreationists as well as protect the land, a group of trail organizations and agencies recently launched a campaign that creates consistent messaging of kindness, respect and courtesy when using the public trails around the valley. The campaign is called Outside Kind Flathead and is designed to share best practices for enjoying the outdoors in any community while providing clear, consistent messages around specific activities.

In the Flathead Valley, several organizations and agencies came together to make the campaign possible; the partnership for the campaign includes Whitefish Legacy Partners, Foys to Blacktail Trails, Gateway to Glacier Trails, Rails to Trails Northwest Montana, Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Flathead National Forest and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“The Flathead Valley is home to many trail networks with varying and complex ownership and management. The goal of the partnership is to create consistent and clear messaging, so that no matter what trail users are enjoying, they are reminded to do it with kindness,” a release from the recreation groups states.

The Whitefish Trail, managed by the nonprofit Whitefish Legacy Partners, provides various recreation to different user groups every year. Margosia Jadkowski, Legacy Partners’ Director of Lands and Partnerships, said that for quite a while internally the organization has been thinking about ways to educate and communicate with trail users about courtesy and responsible recreation. WLP began conversations with other trail management organizations in the Flathead as well as around the state. Within the conversations, it was clear that a trail user courtesy campaign was on the minds of all who manage land with public trails.

“It seemed like a great opportunity for us all to work together,” Jadkowski said. “Having that consistency (in messaging) will help trail users to have a better understanding, there won’t be any conflicting information out there, and it’ll also help to amplify all of that messaging for all of us.”

The Flathead is the second community to join the Outside Kind Alliance, a brand that was born in Bozeman. Outside Kind was formed almost simultaneously when the Winter Wildlands Alliance created the Ski Kind campaign nationally in late 2020.

Outside Kind is encouraging more communities to take the pledge and start a campaign to further spread the message.

THE OUTSIDE Kind Alliance takes a different approach to trail and outdoor user education. Instead of presenting education as a general set of rules for all recreationists, Outside Kind breaks down trail courtesy and kindness into specific user groups.

So far Outside Kind Flathead has Hike Kind, Wag Kind, Bike Kind and Trot Kind guidelines. The local campaign hopes to soon launch a Run Kind, focused on trail running, and a Ski Kind campaign for the coming winter which will be mainly Nordic skiing courtesy guidelines.

All messaging, regardless of the user group, reminds users how to be courteous, aware, safe, inclusive and to leave no trace.

Jadkowski says different interactions between user groups and within the same group have many variables to consider — they won’t always look the same. But what can be the same no matter what is all recreationists treating each other with kindness and understanding.

“What it came down to was, in so many of those interactions, it’s just kindness and courtesy and respect. So that’s what we wanted to center our campaign around,” she said.

And by educating specific user groups with guidelines that make sense to the situations they are coming across, it is proactively addressing potential conflicts that could arise in the future.

“We want to be creating this culture of kindness on our trails before there are big conflicts,” Jadkowski added.

The potential for the campaign is endless as Jadkowski says all the organizations and agencies are already having ideas for more user groups — such as Float Kind for river and lake recreationists or Camp Kind for those visiting public lands.

“My hope is that it can start to shift how people think about our local trails and who they’re for... I think that translates to a lot of conversations we’re seeing happening in our communities,” Jadkowski said.

For more information visit www.outsidekind.org/flathead or www.whitefishlegacy.org

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The turn for the overlook on the Haskill Trail. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)

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Outside Kind Flathead's logo for the Wag Kind campaign.

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