Introducing PCTA’s 2024-2026 Strategic Plan

We’re excited to announce our new 2024-2026 Strategic Plan (PDF view/download link). The plan was written and developed by our communities and partners, and has been the most involved listening process we have ever undertaken. The new plan also includes updated mission and vision statements for the PCTA. So thank you for guiding us into the coming years of work in support of the PCT.

In a meeting on September 23rd, the PCTA’s board of directors approved the new plan. The approval was the culmination of more than a year of hard work to better understand the perspectives, values, and needs of everyone who cares for the Pacific Crest Trail.

Community input was central to this new plan. The results are not solely for us—the board and staff of PCTA—to own, but were co-created with input from a broad range of important voices. We listened to hikers and equestrians, volunteers, state and federal land managers, trail town business owners and residents, trail angels, business partners, and many more. To see how your feedback influenced the final plan, click here to view our Community Feedback Acknowledgement PDF.

“In listening to our community, three things really rose to the top of everyone’s priorities,” said PCTA’s Chief Executive Officer Megan Wargo. “The first was that we must continue prioritizing our core mission to protect and maintain the PCT and the trail experience. This was crystal-clear to us, and remains the biggest part of our new strategic plan.

We also heard from many that adapting to the effects of climate change on the trail and making the PCT a more welcoming place for everyone are also priorities. Those are both now included in our new plan as well.”

An important aspect of the new plan is its focus on people and not just strategies and goals. “The PCTA is powered by people like our incredible volunteers,” said Megan. “So we need to adapt to better recruit and retain future generations of volunteers. We also need partners to engage with people and communities where they already are. At the community level, we recognize the communities who help the PCT also need help and the PCTA can and should be a good neighbor.”

“On behalf of the PCTA staff and board, I’d like to thank everyone in the community who was involved in this process. From the start, we wanted this plan to reflect your priorities, and we’ve worked hard to ensure that it does.”

PCTA’s previous strategic plan was developed to encompass the years from 2018-2021. That plan was extended to cover 2022-23 while the organization made the transition to new long-term leadership and took on this strategic planning process to define the type of leadership necessary to carry it forward. With Megan Wargo’s appointment to Chief Executive Officer and the approval of the new Strategic Plan, we’re in a strong, stable position to move forward in our work for the PCT.

Now the hard work begins. Doing what you’ve asked us to do is going to require planning, structure, and intent. In the coming months, we’ll evaluate our resources and plan our steps to implement the components of this new strategic plan. The interval the plan covers was shortened to three years so we can refresh our strategies as the world continues to change around us. We know climate change will continue, and there will be changes to demographics,  congressional funding, federal agencies, the economy, and much more.

Visit our Financials, Reports and Plans page to read and/or download the final 2024-2026 Strategic Plan.

To see how your feedback influenced the final plan, click here to view our Community Feedback Acknowledgement PDF.

Below, you’ll find a series of Frequently Asked Questions about the plan with much more detail on the process behind the plan and what it contains.

Frequently Asked Questions

As an organization, PCTA has regularly undergone strategic planning efforts to ensure that our work is having the greatest impact for the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Our previous strategic plan was originally set to run from 2018-2021 and was extended to include all of 2022 and into 2023.

Given the new external challenges we are facing, this current strategic planning effort is more than a simple update to the previous plan. With these new challenges, we have taken the opportunity to engage our community throughout the process of updating our mission, vision, and values alongside developing new strategies to help us achieve this mission.

PCTA’s core mission hasn’t changed through this process. We are still here to work with our volunteers and community to ensure that the trail is well cared for today and for future generations.

However, we have changed the wording of our mission—along with our vision and values—to better represent PCTA in the world today. We prioritized the rest of the strategic plan first so that the results would influence our discussions and decisions to changing the wording.

The PCT community has provided us with valuable wisdom in recent years: slow down and listen. Though it posed a challenge for a busy nonprofit to take such time, we learned this was necessary to listen deeply enough to understand our communities’ perspectives in order to create authentic change. To do so, we partnered with Civic Consulting Collaborative (CCC), who had a proven track record and industry familiarity to help us undergo our longest, largest, and most community-led planning process ever.

1. Our Task Force first met in August 2022, and soon after engaged the PCT community to be part of the planning process. A fall 2022 listening tour explored the status quo and ideal future states to understand where we are now and where we want to be in the future, identifying five major themes, or strategic pillars, to organize the work ahead. After building an understanding of these two points in time and the important areas of work, the Task Force worked to identify a long-term outcome within each pillar and the key actions to move toward that ideal future state.

2. Our staff and board affirmed these and then sought the wisdom of the community again through a “planning development tour” in the spring of 2023. This tour identified strategies and goal topics. Based on the second round of input, staff and board continued to refine, develop, and prioritize these ideas in workgroups for each strategic pillar. After the Task Force reviewed this work and approved a draft strategic plan, PCTA brought the draft to our communities for input via a public survey and open office hours.

3. The feedback from that final listening phase helped us to refine and conclude the final version of the strategic plan. It then went before PCTA’s Board of Directors at the Sept 23 meeting where the board voted to adopt the plan. To see how your feedback influenced the final plan, click here to view our Community Feedback Acknowledgement PDF.

While we have concluded several rounds of community listening throughout this process, PCTA always cares about what you have to share. Feel free to email us at [email protected]

PCTA does not have unlimited resources of people or money. We work very hard to raise funding from members, donors, and foundations. In developing our new strategic plan, we heard far more good ideas from our community than we could possibly accomplish. We had to prioritize based on where we can most feasibly make progress towards our goals with the funding and staff we have now, plus what new resources we can raise in the next three years.

The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and California State Parks are all agency partners with whom PCTA works closely with on the management of the PCT through a Memorandum of Understanding.

Representatives from these agency partners participated in both rounds of our community listening sessions to provide feedback from the agency perspective.  With the U.S. Forest Service being the lead agency for the entire PCT, we had their PCT Administrator join as a member of our strategic planning task force and work in close partnership with staff, board, and our strategic planning consultants.

This strategic plan outlines the most important new initiatives PCTA will focus its efforts on over the next three years. These initiatives address the challenges and opportunities discussed in the plan. It’s important to note that these new initiatives will not mean abandoning the important core tasks PCTA has been working on to fulfill our mission (e.g., trail maintenance, land acquisition and conservation, advocacy, fund-raising, hiker information and user support).

A simple way to think about this is that approximately 85% of our effort will still be devoted to these core tasks while the remaining 15% will address the new opportunities and challenges that are addressed in this plan.

The new plan will run for 3 years: 2024 through 2026. We will update or revise the plan towards the end of the 3-year period. While our old plan ran for 6 years, we found that the world around us is changing too fast to wait that long for our next update or revision.

Now the hard work begins—implementing the plan. PCTA staff work groups will be formed for each strategic pillar area. Work groups will plan and execute the detailed steps needed to carry out each strategy in the plan. Work groups will regularly report progress to the leadership team and the board. They will be accountable for making progress towards our goals.

We have been listening to and learning from PCT communities and recognize that these focuses are necessary. The PCTA is powered by people—our incredible volunteers—and we need to adapt to recruit and retain future generations of volunteers. Further, we need partners to engage with people and communities where they already are.

At the community level, we recognize that the communities who help the PCT also need help and that the PCTA can and should be a good neighbor. Finally, climate change affects everything, so we need to do our part to adapt both the trail and the trail experience to rapidly changing environmental conditions.

Author: PCTA Staff

The mission of the Pacific Crest Trail Association is to protect, preserve and promote the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail as a world-class experience for hikers and equestrians, and for all the values provided by wild and scenic lands.