two men biking through a forest-covered trail
Biking in Nature Connecting to and exploring in nature is as important as protecting nature. © Wileydoc via Shutterstock


Connecting and Commemorating: The 9/11 Trail

On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we turn to nature to heal, to reflect and to remember.

As the world continues to grapple with the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we look to nature to promote healing, to commemorate lives lost and to reflect on lives impacted on this 20th anniversary. 

The Nature Conservancy is working with the September 11th ​​National Memorial Trail Alliance to connect a section of the 9/11 Trail,  a 1,300-mile multi-use trail that connects the New York City National September 11 Memorial and Museum, the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County, PA, and the National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, VA.

In New Jersey, a portion of the 9/11 Trail runs along the Paulinskill Valley Trail, which currently includes the shoulder of a major highway. The Nature Conservancy, which has been active in northwestern New Jersey for decades and has placed special focus on restoring the Paulins Kill watershed since 2017, has committed to providing a safer, more accessible and pedestrian-friendly alternative that will route through nature instead of over asphalt.


Map of the 9/11 Trail
Map of the 9/11 Trail At present, more than half of the 9/11 Trail is off-road, with 30+ trails creating the loop on which people can remember, reflect and honor national heroes. ©
trail surrounded by green trees with light streaming down
Paulinskill Valley Trail The new route will connect the 9/11 Trail path in from the east to the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail in the west. © TNC

The new route will connect the 9/11 Trail path in from the east to the Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail in the west. The Paulinskill Valley Rail Trail follows an old railroad bed into Warren County’s Columbia Wildlife Management Area, site of a recent large dam removal project by TNC and partners. The dam removal plan included enhancing recreational opportunities in the area, and the natural 9/11 Trail segment is one element towards fulfilling that promise. Once complete, the trail will give hikers and bicyclists a greener route to the Delaware River and into Pennsylvania.

“We are honored to play a small part in connecting the 9/11 Trail, and especially to add nature into a section of the route where it was lacking," said Jennifer Morris, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "The devastation of that day still resonates and will for a long time. This trail will be a safe, accessible place for people to benefit from the healing power of nature.”

At present, more than half of the 9/11 Trail is off-road, with 30+ trails creating a loop where people can remember, reflect and honor the fallen and our national heroes. The trail will be a catalyst for economic development, encouraging recreational and educational tourism in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C. 


9/11 memorial wall with a quote from Virgil
9/11 Memorial Wall We turn to nature to heal, reflect and honor as we continue to navigate consequences of 9/11 on its 20th anniversary. © Shutterstock

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.