In late 1999 a group called Forward Together was assembled by a non-profit organization called the Forest Foundation. Forward Together was essentially a think tank of prominent business people, elected officials, and non-profit organizations interested in public engagement on topics related to future transportation, education, housing, the environment, parks, and recreation in Tacoma and Pierce County. The question to be answered: “What does Pierce County need and how could we achieve it?”
After a few months of discussion, Forward Together held five public meetings at locations around the County. By the end of each meeting, public concern for the future of parks and trails in Pierce County tended to dominate the conversation. In response, in late 2000, Forward Together created ForeverGreen to address the issue of providing adequate recreation resources to a population growing at exponential rates. Forward Together disbanded after ForeverGreen was created.
The initial mission of ForeverGreen was to develop and implement a countywide “System of Parks” in which park and recreation entities at city, county, state and federal levels coordinated their programs, activities, and resources, in order to deliver a “seamless” park experience for the public. However, the main topic of discussion at ForeverGreen Board meetings was the need for collaborative planning and implementation of a countywide system of trails across jurisdictions. Therefore, in the summer of 2002, the Board submitted a grant application for planning assistance from the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program of the National Park Service, to conduct a countywide “Trail Implementation” project. The grant was secured and the project began in early 2003.
The focus of the project was on implementation as opposed to new trail planning. It included the following three elements:
Synthesis of existing trail plans (no new trail planning)
Development of a map graphic portraying the vision for a countywide system of trails (stitching together information from the existing trail plans of multiple jurisdictions); and
Development of an implementation strategy
The primary outcomes of the project were the development of a countywide trail map and an implementation strategy around the following recommendations:
ForeverGreen Board changed its focus to exclusively oversee the implementation of the countywide trail system (because no one entity is or was in charge of performing this function)
Create and fund a professional team of up to five full-time employees with the knowledge and skills needed to seriously go about the business of building a countywide trail system. For example, the team would include people with expertise in right-of-way acquisition, grant writing, civil engineering, planning, permitting and trail management.
The services of the team would be available at no cost to every jurisdiction in Pierce County desiring their services.
The ForeverGreen Board accepted these recommendations and in 2004 passed a resolution, officially changing its sole purpose to promotion and oversight of a countywide trail system.