Bay Area Ridge Trail Council

Fall-Winter 2011
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Marketing & Communications,
Strategic Planning
Organization Type


Bay Area Ridge Trail Council’s mission is to plan, promote, and sustain a connected hiking, cycling, and equestrian trail on the ridgelines circling the San Francisco Bay.  The trail crosses nine counties, linking people, parks, and open spaces for today and future generations. The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council was organized in 1986. To date, the organization has developed, dedicated, and opened over 330 miles of ridge line trails with approximately 70% of the dedicated trails open to all three target user groups – hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. The organization has an all-star board of well known outdoorsmen, a staff of 6.5 full-time employees, and over 1,000 volunteers. It has a positive reputation for steadily advancing its goals and working effectively and creatively with a wide range of agencies, nonprofits, and other partners.  


Bay Area Ridge Trail Council had recently developed a three-year strategic plan to promote and advance new trail access through trail planning, design, and construction; develop more specific strategies for the more challenging long-term trail gaps; raise awareness and get people out on the trail – improve targeted outreach and access; and build and sustain organizational success.

The Council’s marketing efforts had previously been somewhat ad hoc. During a strategic planning retreat prior to approaching Stanford, board members expressed keen interest in developing a marketing plan. The plan would increase advocacy support (especially among key stakeholders), expand and diversify financial support, and reach a broader and more diverse audience.

Project Objectives

The ACT team aimed to flesh out the marketing plan that had been outlined by the Council prior to the beginning of this project.

Project Overview

The ACT Team interviewed over thirty stakeholders, including Board members, local agencies, landowners, and major donors in order to understand perceptions and motivations to donate or volunteer. BARTC also allowed ACT to send an online survey to its entire email list of over 5,000 past trail work participants and members, and received over 900 responses.

Findings and marketing recommendations were presented in two mid-project updates and a final report, including a presentation to the full board.

Key Recommendations

  • Implement a messaging strategy for BARTC focused on the unique mission of a complete ridgeline trail providing access to Bay Area open space
  • Provide high touch contact for major donors, using social media and creating regional BARTC chapters to increase outreach to individuals, in order to build on a successful partnership with REI for corporations and identify supportive foundations

Key Conclusions

From the online survey of members, the ACT team found that increased engagement, such as attending a trail cleanup or maintenance day, resulted in increased trail usage and more donations to BARTC. Interviews showed that BARTC’s mission of completing the entire trail loop was the primary reason for donations, and stakeholders appreciated BARTC’s unique cross-agency coordination to link together access to multiple properties for one continuous trail.

Final Report Outline

  • Project Work Plan
  • Interview Results
  • Trail User Survey Results
  • Context (SWOT Analysis)
  • Overall Messaging
  • Channel Strategy
  • Grassroots Social Media Strategy