Bay Area Ridge Trail Council II

Spring-Summer 2021
Project Type
Full team
Project Focus
Business Plans
Organization Type


Over thirty years ago, park visionary William Penn Mott, Jr., who served as Director of the National Park Service as well as East Bay Regional Park and California State Parks, brought forth a big idea. He wanted to unite the ridges encircling the Bay Area into one continuous park with a 550-mile Ridge Trail. In 1987, the Greenbelt Alliance, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the National Park Service, as well as citizen advocates came together to help form the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council (BARTC). Thanks to their pioneering leadership, the Ridge Trail is growing mile by mile since its first dedication in 1989. In 1992, the Council was established as a 501c3 nonprofit organization and continues today towards the goal of completing the Ridge Trail. The organization’s mission is to plan, promote and sustain a connected hiking, cycling and equestrian trail on the ridgelines above San Francisco Bay – linking people, parks and open spaces for today and future generations. The organization achieves success through advocacy, fundraising, stewardship, and providing trail planning and design expertise.


The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council recently completed a comprehensive Trail Gap Analysis and Action Plan to identify strategies and plans to complete the Ridge Trail (390 miles of the envisioned 550 miles are currently completed - see related tab or below). One of the strategic initiatives is circumnavigation, the organization’s term for hiking, biking or riding the entire Ridge Trail. BARTC is looking to answer these questions: How might it best support and connect with its most committed trail users – circumnavigators? And more importantly, how might it leverage and elevate circumnavigation to propel the mission of BARTC forward? In conjunction with assessing how to support the trail user’s experience, BARTC would like to develop methods for attracting new circumnavigators, encouraging them to climb the “ladder of engagement” with the organization to become committed Ridge Trail supporters, advocates, members, and donors.

Project Objectives

Bay Area Ridge Trail Council sought to tap ACT’s expertise to develop a business plan that would kickstart a sustainable, effective, and impactful circumnavigation program. Project elements included: obtaining user feedback, conducting a SWOT analysis, developing short- and long-term opportunities for expansion of the program, crafting marketing & engagement strategies, and assessing staff capacity and partnership opportunities.

Project Overview

The project consisted of key tasks such as conducting situation assessment and stakeholder interviews, creating a user survey, assessing stakeholder needs and opportunities for the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, and formulating strategies for the organization.

Key Recommendations

The ACT team recommended the following:

  • Develop a community of Bay Area Ridge Trail Council Circumnavigators and selected Heavy Users
  • Focus the community single-mindedly on gap closing
  • Engage the community to perform gap-closing advocacy tasks
  • Deploy the community on a regional basis
  • Structure the community in three tiers, with varying tasks and frequency of engagement:
    • “Advocates” for in-person high-level advocacy
    • “Supporters” to engage communities in targeted geographies
    • “Promoters” to act as organization spokespersons in media outreach

Key Conclusions

  • Both Circumnavigators and Heavy Users are important
  • “Local” is a critical element of the organization’s work
  • The organization’s level of engagement is an issue
  • An effective strategy requires a tiered approach