After 20 years Roger Bell is stepping down from the American Trails Board

Having been on the American Trails Board, serving in various leadership roles for nearly 20 years, it feels like I’m leaving a part of my family. But with my 80th birthday this year, it was time. And I won’t be going away totally. Bob Searns (who was such an outstanding AT Board President and a great friend) and I will go onto the Advisory Board and Bob has ideas about making that group more relevant.

Also, I’m very interested in the Emerging Leaders project, which has an international and diversity flavor, and I will continue to help in some small way with that. These youthful scholarship recipients, chosen from a sizable group of worthy applicants, provide such a vital new dimension. In fact, in subtle but real ways, I think it’s not an overstatement to suggest that program— along with the influence of other countries— has the potential to very positively and literally change the face of American Trails.

photo of men shaking hands

Roger Bell, right, with American Trails Chair John Favro

My first Symposium was in Washington, DC in 1996. As President of the (then) Western Trailbuilders Association, I came along with Jim Angel mostly to lobby the Forest Service about funding for trail projects, which we felt was lacking, and to help Jim conduct a few sessions about trail contracting. With the help of our local hosts and sponsors, all attendees were helped to take the lobbying agenda one step further, and to walk the halls of Congress to press our Representatives and Senators to support Federal funding for all trails.

We held our next Symposium in Tucson, and not long after that Pam Gluck, then Arizona’s State Trails Coordinator, was hired as Executive Director of American Trails. She has shepherded us through some interesting (and difficult) times. In all we have hung in together and come out stronger and more committed to our mission. I think our current leaders are just the right mix who will find new blood and open new doors so that American Trails continues to shine.

Roger is a Board member of the Redlands Conservancy and one of the founders of the Redlands Sustainability Network

Roger is a Board member of the Redlands Conservancy and one of the founders of the Redlands Sustainability Network

Each of the 11 Symposia I’ve had the privilege to attend brought a different flavor as we sought to shed light on what was happening in the trails world, and what was special about trail efforts in the areas chosen for each gathering. Our just-completed International Trails Symposium in Portland was simply top notch. It was the second to include worldwide participation, the second to feature emerging leaders, and the first to partner with my long-time organization, now called the Professional Trailbuilders Association. Our best attended Symposium, Portland was by all accounts an exceptional gathering in terms of content and venue. For me, what a special way to go out! And I appreciated the genuine warmth and nice memento extended by the staff and Board.

Based on these successes and for so many other reasons, I think American Trails will continue to thrive, both as an organization and with its contributions to the worldwide trails community.

–Roger Bell

Roger Bell is the author of several articles and editorials published by American Trails:

Roger’s book, Trail Tales, which chronicles outrageous and hilarious trailbuilding adventures in verse, is available from AT’s on-line book store.

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