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Download complete 2015 Symposium Program with descriptions of educational sessions and more (pdf 6.0 mb)

Download bios and information on presenters for Concurrent Sessions, Core Tracks, and Trail Talks

Concurrent Sessions and Workshops

Presentations at the 2015 International Trails Symposium

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The Symposium included numerous educational sessions and presentations covering a broad range of trail issues, including international speakers.

Many presenters have made their presentations available to be viewed. Sessions with a live link to "View this presentation online..." will take you to an online PDF or slide show of the original PowerPoint as presented at the Symposium in Portland, May 17-20, 2015.

To read about all presentations from the Symposium, including those not available on this page, download the conference program from the link at the top of this page. To contact a presenter, email addresses can be found in the Presenter Bios document, also at the top of this page.



Hiking the Abraham Path: Building a Long-Distance Hiking Trail Across the Middle East

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Presenters: David Landis, Regional Director, Abraham Path Initiative; Shay Rabineau, Trail Research Consultant, Abraham Path Initiative

Since ancient times, religious pilgrims have crisscrossed the Middle East on foot. Today, tourists of all sorts visit the holy sites and ancient ruins of the Eastern Mediterranean, and demand for hiking is growing as Americans and Europeans learn about routes like the Lebanon Mountain Trail and the Israel National Trail. This session uses the Abraham Path, designated the world’s best new trail in 2014 by National Geographic Traveller, as a case study for examining the challenges and potential of long-distance hiking trails in a region affected by political instability. How do trail-building, waymarking, and infrastructure development in the Middle East compare with their American counterparts? What opportunities exist for American trail builders to contribute to the development of hiking tourism in the Middle East? How can lessons learned overseas improve trails in the US?

Trails and The Pilgrimage Culture: The Kumano Kodo and The Way of Saint James

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View joint pilgrimage promotion video...

Presenters: Brad Towle, International Tourism Promotion and Development Director; Masato Takemoto, Office Chief, Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau; Galeo Saintz, Chair, World Trails Network; Robert Searns, American Trails and World Trails Network Boards

For a thousand years trails have been routes of spiritual renewal and pilgrimage. In our time there has been a rebirth of this trail attraction. Spain's Way of St. James and Japan's Kumano Kodo are ancient pilgrimage routes from very different religious and cultural traditions, influencing, challenging, and inspiring pilgrims. Located at opposite ends of the planet, they share the same essence of the human spirit. Tanabe City and Santiago de Compostela are cooperating to connect these two sacred sites by collaborating on mutual promotion and sharing. By respecting their differences, and building on their similarities, they have created a new model of trail partnership.

The Trail to 2017: Ontario’s Contribution

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Presenters: Allen MacPherson, Provincial Chair Board of Directors and Local President, Kawartha Trans Canada Trail, Trans Canada Trail Ontario and Kawartha Trans Canada Trail Association

By Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, the Trans Canada Trail will be fully connected, stretching 24,000 km from coast to coast and connecting nearly 1,000 communities. Trans Canada Trail Ontario, in partnership with 150 provincial trail partners, provides examples of the practical aspects of planning, the challenges and opportunities on a province-wide scale, and how capacity building, trust, funding, and coordination have been and will be the key to completion of 5,000 km of water and land trails by 2017.

Developing Hiking Trails within Economic Recession: The Tools for Success

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Presenter: Fivos Tsaravopoulous, Founder, Paths of Greece

Within an economic crisis, people tend to think that developing hiking trails is a luxurious need, and thus, not a priority. This is the case in Greece at the moment, after 4 years of continuous recession. This presentation will demonstrate that by using the appropriate tools and approach, the economic crisis can be used as an advantage rather than a constraint for the development of hiking trails. These tools are easy to implement and to adjust to any environment.

New Trails from Ancient Roads: How to Breathe Life into Turkish Mountain Villages

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Presenter: Kate Clow, Chair, Culture Routes Society

2,000 years ago, Turkey had one of the best road networks in the world. Just 15 years ago, the Lycian Way, Turkey’s first modern trail was opened. The old road network is being rediscovered and incorporated into new walking, biking, and horseback riding trails. Turkey’s population is deserting villages – how can the provision of trail services for visitors (accommodation, food, etc.) support sustainable village life, local cultures, and traditions? How do we choose where to develop trails and which villages to support? How do we market our trails to the trekking communities of the world?

Trail Detective: Taking the Mystery Out of Successful Trail Marketing

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Presenter: Eoin Hogan, Rural Recreation Officer, Clare Local Development Company, Ireland

You’ve planned, developed, and built your dream trail– now how do you promote it? In this presentation we’ll look at marketing your trail for the future. We’ll cover how to integrate your brochures, signage, merchandise, and online presence under one brand. The outcome will be increased footfall and a more successful trail. This presentation will detail real-world examples of successful trail marketing approaches and how these can be replicated on your trails, whether they are a short local trail or a long multi-day trail.

Europeans Prefer Quality Trails

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Presenter: Lis Nielsen, President, European Ramblers Association

How to do you ensure a trail will be attractive to hikers? What are the important elements in making a trail outstanding? The European Ramblers Association, representing more than 3 million walkers in 35 different European countries, has developed a set of criteria to easily test if a trail will be attractive or not. Based on more than 100 years of experience we have identified the most important elements from the hikers’ point of view and worked on making existing trails outstanding.


Managing Successful Hybrid and Design-Build Projects

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Presenters: Gerry Wilbour, President, Northwest Trails, Inc.; Willie Bittner, Great Lakes Trailbuilders, LLC

Public demand for trails coupled with competitive pressures in the private marketplace for trail services has dramatically increased labor productivity, reduced cost, and improved skills for trails. The use of mechanized, right-sized equipment is an important trend, as is the use of youth crews and volunteers to accomplish trail work. By merging the enthusiasm and community involvement of volunteers and youth corps with the efficiency, expertise, and heavy lift capability of private industry, the non-traditional hybrid contracting concept brings these trends together to deliver some excellent results, but also some challenging situations.

Maximizing Your Trail Budget Through Competitive Bidding

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Presenters: Tony Boone, Owner, Tony Boone Trails, Inc.; Zachi Anderson, Casa Di Terra

As the recreational trail industry continues to evolve, land managers, land owners, and developers are realizing the advantages of protecting cultural and natural resources through proper trail planning and management. This session discusses how, what, where, when, and why to put your trail projects out to bid. It covers the different steps and information you may need for the bidding process as well as reviews opportunities for optimizing your trail funding through a fair and competitive bidding process. This session also discusses the PTBA online bidding system.

Innovations in Mechanized Trailbuilding

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Presenters: Tony Boone, Owner, Tony Boone Trails, Inc.; Zachi Anderson, Casa Di Terra

Innovative, cutting edge machinery for building recreational trails has revolutionized the trail industry over the past 30 years, from specialized trail dozers and miniature excavators to crawler carriers and ATV/AWD moto harrows. The advantages of small earthmovers are unrivaled, allowing significantly faster rates of construction, increasing profit and productivity by requiring less hand work by laborers or volunteers, and sculpting a more consistent tread and compaction.

Transforming Existing Routes into Manageable, Enjoyable Trails for the Off- Highway Vehicle Community

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Presenters: Margie Tatro, CEO, Reineke Construction

Many land managers are looking for creative ways to transform or retrofit existing OHV routes and trails into more sustainable, more manageable, and more enjoyable experiences for motorized recreation. This session will cover the basic principles of sustainable trail design and construction as well as methods, technique strategies, and resources for the restoration, modification, and transformation of OHV routes to make them more manageable while also creating an improved ride.

Applying the Sustainable Trail Design Rules in the Real World

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Presenter: Bruce Weidenhamer, Trail Volunteer – Certified Crew Leader, Volunteers for Outdoor Arizona/Arizona Trail Association

Sustainability is an increasingly important consideration in trail design and layout. Especially critical are the application of the five rules of sustainable trail design (contouring, 10%, 15%, half-rule, grade reversals). While these rules are easy to understand in a classroom setting, difficulties are often encountered when trying to apply the sustainable trail design rules in the field. The rules have to be applied as an integrated system to get the most sustainable trail, including the best compromises to be made when circumstances force the breaking of one or more of the rules.

Sustainable Trail Construction Techniques

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Presenters: Forest Trails Alliance

This presentations covers the the trail design and construction process for experiential trail building. Topics include superelevation, grade reversals, varieties of switchbacks, dealing with erosion, trail seasoning, and compaction.

How to Use the Forest Service Standard Trail Plans and Specifications: Speeding Up the Process

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View Step by Step Guide online...

Presenter: James “Scott” Groenier, Project Leader – National Technology and Development Program, USDA Forest Service

The USDA Forest Service, in cooperation with FHWA Recreational Trails Program, has updated and expanded their Standard Trail Plans and Specifications to assist with the design and assembly of trail construction plan packages. They include standard plans for trails and trail bridges, standard specifications for construction of trails and trail bridges on Forest Service projects, and standard pay items.


Indy’s New Full Circle Master Plan: Changing the Conversation About Greenways in Indianapolis

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Presenters: Ron Taylor, Principal, Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group; Scott Siefker, Principal, Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group; Andre Denman, Senior Planner and Greenways Manager, Indianapolis Department of Public Works/Indy Parks

The Indy Greenways Full Circle Plan is a bold new vision for trails that has changed the conversation about greenways in Indianapolis. A comprehensive public engagement strategy was used to generate excitement and establish demand. An economic impact assessment provided a startling expected return on investment that would be generated from development of the system. Design standards were developed to enable partnerships, and now the city is re-examining how programming on the greenways broadens engagement and potential investment in the system.

The Louisville Loop: Public and Non-Profit Strategies for Long-Term Vision Implementation

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Presenters: Ron Taylor, Principal, Taylor Siefker Williams Design Group; Charles Neer, Landscape Architect, Wallace Roberts and Todd, LLC

The City of Louisville has undertaken an ambitious trail development program for their 100-mile Louisville Loop. Building upon the rich Olmsted-planned legacy imprinted upon the city in the late 1800s, the city is working to create the Loop to provide connectivity throughout the city, provide health and recreational opportunities, and to promote economic development. Given the size and complexity of the project includes several different partnerships and funding options, including public-private partnerships.

Southwest Ohio Has The Largest Bikeway Network in the Country! What?

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View Five Rivers MetroParks Bicycling video...

Presenters: Amy Dingle, Director, Five Rivers MetroParks, Ohio; Carrie Scarff, Deputy Director, Five Rivers MetroParks, Ohio; Janet Bly, General Manager, Miami Conservancy District, Ohio

Natural disaster, visionary leadership, and community partnerships laid the groundwork to put Dayton, Ohio at the epicenter of a trail renaissance that began over 100 years ago with the 1913 flood. This disaster lead to the protection of thousands of acres of green space that linked the region creating the backbone for a variety of recreation assets including some of the earliest paved off-street trails in the country. Learn how strong partnerships developed and continue to expand the 300-mile network of multi-use trails in this Bicycle Friendly Community and throughout the region, that have hugely popular political, citizen, and corporate support, and are seen as a key quality of life amenity.

Infinity Loop: From Mount Hood to the Pacific Coast: A Signature Trail Experience

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Presenters: Mark Davison, Design Manager, Oregon State Parks; Kristin Dahl, Director – Destination Development, Travel Oregon; Ken Pirie, Senior Associate, Walker Macy

Imagine heading west from Portland, by foot or bike along the Columbia River, all the way to the Oregon Coast. Then, from Tillamook, return to town along the wild Salmonberry River. Now, head east through the Columbia Gorge, to Hood River, up to Mount Hood and back through Estacada– still by trail– all the way to Portland. This ambitious vision of 300 miles of big loop trails, heading out from the metro region in a figure eight, is being called the Infinity Loop. What is new about this vision, however, is the idea of connecting many of northwest Oregon’s iconic attractions and creating a potentially international tourist magnet.

Pathway to the Pacific: The Salmonberry Corridor Rail Trail Concept

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Presenters: Ken Pirie, Senior Associate, Walker Macy; Rocky Houston, State Trails Coordinator, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department

An 84-mile railroad once connected the Willamette Valley to the Oregon Coast through the canyon of the Salmonberry River. A catastrophic storm in 2007 severely damaged the rail facilities, particularly in a 16-mile stretch of tunnels and trestles deep within the Coast Range. This corridor has a rich history, outstanding scenery, and the potential to connect urban and rural Oregon with a long trail, while tapping into a wide network of existing recreation trails and parks, educational opportunities, and heritage sites. A Concept Plan was commissioned to explore options for trail types, surfaces, and alignments, along with trailheads and facilities, for a wide variety of activities.

Oregon Trails 2015: A Vision for the Future

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Presenters: Terry Bergerson, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department; Kreg Lindberg, Associate Professor, Oregon State University – Cascades Campus

The state of Oregon is currently developing a statewide trails plan entitled “Oregon Trails 2015: A Vision for the Future.” A statewide trail-user survey examined trail recreation patterns of Oregon residents in four categories: non-motorized trail, non-motorized boating, motorized (OHV), and snowmobile. Topics include participation rates, user preferences, trail information sources, expenditures, and priorities for future trail development and management.

Bringing the Portland-Vancouver Metro Area Together: 400 Miles of Trails Built, 600 Miles to Go. How We Did It and How Your Community Can Also Do It

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View Intertwine presentation online...

Presenters: Mel Huie, Regional Trails Coordinator, Oregon Metro; Mike Houck, Director, Urban Greenspaces Institute; David Cohen, Program Coordinator, The Intertwine Alliance

Metro and more than 30 local, regional, state, federal, and private partners have worked together over the past 25 years in planning and building a four-county and bi-state trails system. It now covers nearly 400 miles of regional trails, which connect to hundreds of miles of local and community trails. This alliance to plan, design, fund, build, and maintain a network of trails is under a coordinated regional plan which addresses local needs and concerns while maintaining regional trail standards.

Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail: Remembering, Restoring, and Reconnecting the King of Roads

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Presenters: Sharon Daleo, Project Engineer, CH2M Hill; Christopher Miller, Landscape Architect, Walker/Macy

The history of the Columbia River Highway is a tale of visionaries, civic leaders, skilled engineers, and talented artisans. Started in 1913, the road soon was touted as the “King of Roads“ because of its graceful design and amazing engineering. Starting in the 1940s, the freeway construction through the Gorge severed the original route in numerous locations. Interested groups have joined together to advocate for the reconnection of the Historic Columbia River Highway as a trail through the Gorge. Learn the history the old road, the restoration efforts underway, the engineering challenges, and stories of how advocates have built a coalition of support.

Re-Connecting Communities Through Trails: 300 Years Is Never Too Late! The Story of “The Pearl” of Puerto Rico

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Presenter: Liz Smith-Incer, Director of Mississippi Field Office, National Park Service – Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program

The Community of La Perla, Puerto Rico has long suffered from being located “just outside the old city walls” and community members have felt isolated and ignored, in addition to being identified as a link in the world drug trade. Community members are now working hand in hand with the City of Old San Juan to revitalize their neighborhood, change their reputation, and highlight the Pearl of Puerto Rico, with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea and intriguing historical highlights by connecting to El Paseo del Morro.

Regional Trails – Connecting Rural and Urban Communities

View San Jose Regional Trails presentation online...
View Redmond (WA) Central Connector presentation online...
View Rio Grande Multimodal Trail Corridor (CO) presentation online...

Presenters: Yves Zsutty, Trail Network Manager, City of San Jose, CA; Tom Newland, Principal, Newland Project Resources, Inc.; Guy Michaelsen, Principal Landscape Architect, Berger Partnership; Carolyn Hope, Park Planner, Arts and Culture Manager, City of Redmond, WA; Tim Swope, Capital Projects Coordinator, Boulder County Transportation Department, CO

Planning and implementation of three complex regional trail systems in three western states. Speakers will provide insights to the challenges, strategies, and lessons learned in the planning and development of regional trails through rail and urban spaces. Each project has its own complexities, obstacles, and opportunities. Good planning supports the high use, positive impression, and placemaking nature of these trails within their communities.

Collective Impact: Creating Trail Networks on a Grand Scale

View San Jose (CA) presentation online...

Presenters: Eric Oberg, Midwest Regional Office, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Carl Knoch, Northeast Regional Office, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Laura Cohen, Western Region, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Yves Zsutty, Trail Network Manager, City of San Jose, CA; Patrick Starr, PA Environment Council; Amanda McEldowney, Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission

Want your trail to connect to the next town? The next county? How about the next state? This session focuses on strategies to build coalitions, develop advocacy efforts, create communication strategies, and brand these emerging networks. Projects range from metro regions to multi-state trail systems, with experience from non-profits, metropolitan planning organizations, and local jurisdictions whose trails projects have evolved into regional systems.

Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail: A Triple Bottom Line Success

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Presenters: Kevin W. Burke, Senior Landscape Architect, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.; Valdis Zusmanis, Senior Landscape Architect, Perkins+Will, Inc.

Repurposing historic, abandoned, and urban railroad corridors provides a triple bottom-line success story. Cleaning up contamination from decades of railroad use in order to construct a multi-use trail as part of the $4.8 billion Atlanta BeltLine is the first step of a fundamental change to the city’s urban core. The use of this inaugural section of the trail has created increased social interaction among users, provided the epitome of a Safe Route to School, enhanced healthy outcomes, and increased business for adjacent businesses.

Meeting at the Refuge: Linking People Through Land and Water Trails

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Presenters: Jean Akers, Senior Associate, Conservation Technix; Christopher Lapp, Refuge Manager, Ridgefield National Wildlife

Refuges close to highly-populated areas provide the greatest opportunity to engage new and diverse audiences. Learn how Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge Complex is working with partners to improve access facilities to a diverse public while preserving its essential habitat values. The trail systems also provides connections between land and water trails to accommodate a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities while balancing the appropriate degree of access to a wildlife habitat area.

Progressing Trails: The Power of Higher Education

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Presenter: Andrea Hassler, Trails and Outdoors Coordinator, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

In 2012, a group of students, faculty, and staff at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs hiked the bluffs ridgeline behind campus. After discussing the unique location, potential, existing use, and subsequent degradation, a plan was created to develop, designate, and maintain a trail system that crosses boundaries between City and University open spaces. Trails promote community service, sustainability, wellness, active transportation, recreation, environmental restoration, and research. Learn how to collaborate with colleges and universities to support trail projects in local communities.

Trails and Agriculture: Bridging Productive and Recreational Landscape

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Presenters: Berry Bergman, Manager of Trail Development – Western Region, Rails-to- Trails Conservancy; James Powell, Senior Designer, Alta Planning + Design

Trails built through areas of active crop production pose a specific series of anticipated and actual challenges, which when addressed with tested management and design strategies, can lead to a popular and well-used trail system. A national survey of built trails in agricultural settings highlights methods used to encourage harmony between trail users, trail managers, and adjacent farmers. Learn strategies to build support for trails in agricultural settings, and design techniques to mitigate potential conflict between adjacent land uses.

Roads to Trails: Less is More

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Presenters: Suzanne Wilson, Trails Coordinator; Sean Dougan, Senior Planner; Jim Townsend, Trails Development Manager; Julie Bondurant, Senior Park Planner; East Bay Regional Park District, California

Many trail-user groups want more narrow, natural surface, multi-use trails. Road-to-trail conversions are one of many tools land managers and trail designers can use to meet this objective, simultaneously with watershed restoration, habitat enhancement, and mitigation of environmental impacts. Learn the step-by-step process for a full mechanical road-to-trail conversion from planning and outreach to design, construction, and working with volunteers.

So You Want to Build a Bike Park? A How-to on Successfully Planning and Developing These Exciting Park Amenities

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Presenters: Dan Miller, Community Planner, National Park Service – Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program; Jeff McNamee, Executive Director, Salem Area Trail Alliance; Mike Westra, Trails Project Manager, Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance

Learn how to plan and develop a bike park in your community. Featuring examples in the Pacific Northwest, experts explain how to work with landowners to select a suitable site, engage stakeholders and the public in helping to develop a design, fundraise for construction, work with volunteers and consultants to construct the park, and touch on some of the management issues related to bike parks.

Creating the Next Generation of Trail Planning Tools

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Presenters: Tracy Hadden Loh, Research Director; Carl Knoch, Manager of Trail Development, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

The Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform is an initiative to improve communication, forecasting, and assessment tools to help communities make the real case for increased investment in trails, biking, and walking infrastructure. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has conducted community trail audits, trail user surveys, economic impact analyses and trail user counts on over 20 trails. Case studies illustrate how this information is used to build community support for not only the development of trail networks, but to increase usage of existing trails.

What Went Wrong? Planning for Unexpected Trail Challenges

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Presenters: Ann Rexine, Planner; Danny McCullough, Regional Trail Manager, Three Rivers Park District, Minnesota

With over 120 miles of existing regional trails and over 400 planned, Three Rivers Park District prides itself as a recreation-based facilitator of quality trails throughout the western Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area. But what happens when things don’t go as planned? This presentation will explore strategies that trail planners and implementers can retain so that when the unexpected happens, they are prepared to respond.

Understanding (and Overcoming) Opposition to Rail Trails

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Presenter: Silas Chamberlin, PhD, Regional Advisor, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Despite the proliferation of rail trail projects throughout the country, many trail developers face criticism from from small but vocal groups who believed trails violate private property rights and attract crime, vandalism, and other nuisances. Only by understanding the origins of this opposition can trail developers anticipate, and when possible, accommodate the critical reactions to railroad abandonment, and public ownership. Learn the historical and contemporary sources of grassroots opposition to rail trails and several principles for accommodating critics.

The Best of Both Worlds: Enhancing Habitat and Building Compatible Trails

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Presenters: Robert Spurlock, Regional Trails Planner, Natural Resources Scientist, Oregon Metro; Elaine Stewart, Natural Resources Scientist, Oregon Metro; Emily Roth, Senior Environmental Planner, Portland Parks and Recreation, Oregon; Lisa Tyler, Construction Project Manager, Portland Parks and Recreation, Oregon

The Powell Butte Nature Park, one of Portland’s premier natural areas, is well used by Portland citizens whose continual activity eroded the soft surface trail system. Portland Parks completed a successful rebuild of the Nature Park’s trails, which accommodate a variety of users: pedestrians, mountain bikers, and equestrians. By working together at every step, from concept planning and design to construction and maintenance, planners and biologists can can improve trails for both wildlife habitat and trail users’ experiences.


The Hills Have Eyes: Interpreting Camera and Trail Counter Data for Better Trail Management

View Trail Monitoring Camera presentation online...
View Impacts of Weather on Trail Use presentation online...

Presenters: Kate Fanher, Wildlife Monitoring Technician, Irvine Ranch Conservancy; Jill Sprance, Field Operations Manager, Irvine Ranch Conservancy; Jean-Francois Rheault, Director – North America, Eco-Counter

In this session we will look at how to gather and interpret data on trespassing, vandalism, poaching, unauthorized vehicles, and the affect of weather patterns on trail use. We will also cover how this data can be applied for more efficient trail management in terms of enforcement, design, and programming.

Using Technology to Promote Recreation: There's an App for That!

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Presenters: Bill Bryan, Director, Missouri State Parks; Tim Robyn, Chief Information Officer, Missouri Information Technology Services Division; Hannah Inman, Director of Communications, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation

This session will showcase how you can utilize technology to promote your latest trail or trail project. Case studies of the Iowa By Trail app and the 100 Missouri Miles Challenge will be examined to provide guidelines on how to increase awareness and public exposure in your community using social media and websites to your advantage.

Trail Investments and Trail Management Made Easier with GIS

View Delaware presentation online...
View Oregon presentation online...

Presenters: Susan Moerschel, Planning Chief, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control; Rocky Houston, State Trails Coordinator, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

GIS tools are being used to make investment decisions on developing new trail systems and managing existing trail systems. Delaware has developed a modeling tool that uses ArcGIS to estimate population growth within an applied distance from an existing trail or proposed trail. This can be used to prioritize trail projects that fulfill outdoor recreation needs, and provide a criteria to prioritize trail funding. Oregon has developed a GIS tool and data collection framework to address an aging trail system infrastructure and a rising inventory of deferred trail maintenance.

Metrics, Data, and Counting, Oh My! Why it Doesn't Take a Wizard to Harness the Power of Advanced Data Collection and Analysis to Build the Trail Network of Your Dreams!

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Presenters: Eric Oberg, Midwest Regional Office, Rails-to- Trails Conservancy; Liz Thorstensen, Vice President of Trail Development, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Greg Lindsey, Professor, University of Minnesota; Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director, Wisconsin Bike Federation;

Looking to connect your trails to your neighbor’s trail system? Struggling to make the case and demonstrate how walking, biking, and trail use will truly benefit your community? Wondering just how those large trail networks across the country got their start? This session will explore data collection and metrics from a regional trail perspective. Experts representing three regional trail projects will show how these tools helped identify opportunity, mapped a course of action, quantified benefits of walking, biking, and trail development, and made the case

Paperless Trail: Case Studies in Harnessing, Using, and Sharing Digital Trail Data

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Presenters: Andrew Schwartz, Managing Principal, Environmental Planning and Design; Ryan Branciforte, CEO, Trailhead Labs; Mike Wetter, Executive Director, The Intertwine Alliance

Trail data is useful to many people, organizations, and government agencies, but sharing the data in a compatible format is an ongoing challenge. OpenTrails is an open data format for park and recreation information that helps government agencies create high-quality interactive maps, combine their data with other agencies, and publish well-documented open data to web and application developers. A new regional interactive application in the Portland region that is taking advantage of OpenTrails, called GoToTrails.com, will be highlighted.

Creating Trails Databases Using GIS Technologies: A Tale of Two Perspectives

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Presenters: Robert Spurlock, Regional Trails Planner, Oregon Metro; Max Woodbury, GIS Specialist, Oregon Metro Research Center; Jenny Konwinski, GIS Technical Lead, Washington State Trails; Reid Ammann, Washington State Trails Database Project

GIS is a powerful tool for planning and managing trails. Many efforts to build comprehensive trail databases are currently underway around the country. Two Pacific Northwest organizations discuss how they approached the task of developing their GIS databases. Metro, the Portland-area regional government, designed and built a database for over 3,000 miles of trails, while the State of Washington is currently building a standardized database for approximately 11,000 miles of trails.

You Can Get There: Trail Wayfinding Within and Beyond the Standards

View this presentation online (pdf 7.2 mb)...

Presenters: Karen Vitkay, Associate Landscape Architect, Alta Planning + Design; Alex Oreschak, Transportation Planner II, Maricopa Association of Governments, Arizona

Wayfinding systems are essential tools of complete and effective regional trails and trail networks. Wayfinding information clarifies routes and helps users comfortably reach their destinations. Guide signage for shared use paths requires that federal standards within the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) are adhered to. Numerous municipalities are however pushing the boundaries of the technical requirements in order to achieve effective wayfinding systems that include local community character.

Bicycle Tourism: Trends, Trails, and Techniques

View Oregon State Parks presentation online...
View Adventure Cycling Association presentation online...

Presenters: Laura Crawford, Bike Tourism Specialist, The Path Less Pedaled; Russ Roca, Bike Tourism Specialist, The Path Less Pedaled; Saara Snow, Travel Initiatives Coordinator, Adventure Cycling Assoc.; Alexandra Philips, Bicycle Recreation Specialist, Oregon Parks and Recreation Dept.

Traveling by bicycle is growing in popularity across the US and the demand for bicycling destinations is creating unique opportunities for communities and parks. Learn how to be successful in your Bicycle Tourism initiatives. Adventure Cycling Association provides a national overview of bicycle travel trends, The Path Less Pedaled shares case studies of successful bicycling destinations, and Oregon State Parks presents improvements to their hiker/biker campsites and examples of bicycle-friendly park enhancements that encourage bicycle tourism.

CYA – Cover Your Assets: Protecting Your Trail, Your Agency, and Yourself From Liability

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Presenters: Jim Schneider, President, Trail-Works

Government agencies and non-profits are concerned about ways to limit liability in the design, maintenance, and operation of trails for the public. There are design elements that can improve safety. There are policies and procedures that can be developed and implemented that can reduce the likelihood of lawsuits. There is paperwork that should be in place to help limit liability when a lawsuit does occur.

Leave No Trace: From Science to Application

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Presenter: Ben Lawhon, Education Director, Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics

Leave No Trace has become a prominent educational technique used to curb inappropriate or depreciative behaviors amongst park and protected area visitors. Over the past 15 years, much of the research on Leave No Trace has focused on recreation ecology and the ecological importance of Leave No Trace principles: What are the best ways to convey Leave No Trace principles to visitors? What are the most effective messages used to alter visitor behavior? How effective do visitors think Leave No Trace Principles are in curbing impacts?

A Successful Solution to Get Kids in Parks

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Presenter: Jason Urroz, Director, Kids in Parks

From increased physical activity and brainwave functionality to reduced ADHD and depression, there is clear evidence that children benefit from spending time in nature. Over the past 6 years, the Kids in Parks program has formed a national network of trail locations that link public lands together in an effort to promote the health of our kids and our parks. The program’s self-guided TRACK Trails are designed to make hiking (and outdoor recreational activities) more attractive to kids and families in order to increase physical activity and connection to nature. Learn how the Kids in Parks program’s approach creates a successful solution to get our kids in parks, and how to use similar tactics on trails.

Writing a Better Story: How to Create Panel Copy that Entices and Intrigues

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Presenter: Jennifer Rigby, Director, The Acorn Group and American Trails Board Member

Too many facts. Too many words. We’ve all encountered signs along trails that are cumbersome in appearance and challenging to read. “Writing a Better Story” focuses on proven strategies for captivating your trail audience with well-written copy that entices readers to pay attention and intrigues them with a story. Learn about the three Bs: brevity, boldness, and big ideas, and get practical advice for creating an active voice, a powerful title, and provocative questions.

Stewarding and Training Volunteer Stewardship Groups

View Kitsap County Stewardship Program presentation online...
View American Conservation Experience presentation online...

Presenters: Lori Raymaker, Park Stewardship Coordinator, Kitsap County, Washington Parks; Patrick Parsel, National Trails Trainer, American Conservation Experience

With reduced funding sources, volunteers are a key component to being able to manage and maintain park and trail systems. Learn to successfully develop a stewardship group, and the pros and cons of working with this type of group. We will also discuss the roles of the agency verses the volunteers, and how to empower volunteers while addressing potential liability through volunteer training and education. Because a well-developed volunteer stewardship group is so diverse, this discussion will explore different leadership styles and ways to communicate with people from different backgrounds.

Partnerships for Success: The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps

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Presenter: Jeff Parker, Executive Director, Northwest Youth Corps

The 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) is a bold national effort to put thousands of America’s young people and veterans to work protecting, restoring, and enhancing America’s great outdoors. In this presentation, we will briefly explore the background of the 21CSC initiative, while focusing the majority of the session on the future of 21CSC and the unique opportunity it presents to leverage partnerships to benefit America’s trail infrastructure and develop the future workforce. Participants will discuss the technical capacity of 21CSC organizations, tips for partnering, examples of successful projects, and the role non-profit conservation corps as a solution to successfully improving our trail infrastructure and engaging the next generation of citizen stewards play.

Engaging the Next Generation of Trail Leaders Today

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Presenters: Jeff Parker, Executive Director, Northwest Youth Corps; Gabriel Perkins, Executive Director, Mahoosuc Pathways; Steve Buchtel, Executive Director, Trails for Illinois

The Millennial Generation is hungry for work that makes a difference in their communities. Corps programs represent a way to engage these passionate future leaders in trail work and advocacy. This presentation will include analysis of the value of working with youth corps (financial, social, and educational) and techniques for partnering with corps programs in every part of the country. The presentation will include case studies of an established corps program (Northwest Youth Corps) and two emerging corps programs (Illinois Trail Corps and The Oxford County Conservation Corps in Maine).

Mega Events: How to Get 150 or More Perfect Strangers to Build Some Awesome Trail

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Presenters: Matt Atnip, Executive Director; Jeffery Goetter, Board Secretary; Roger Allison, Board President; Kristen Schulte, Ozark Trail Association

How can you put a charge into that 15-person weekend trail-build and pump it up to 150 or more smiling and eager volunteers? Make it a “Mega.” The Ozark Trail Association, the USFS 2013 Trails Group Volunteer of the Year, will share how to structure a large trail-build, attract and keep new volunteers, have them tell their friends about you, impress your land stewards, and generate thousands of matching dollars for grants. Volunteer sweat equity can finance the trail project, tools and equipment, and even some overhead costs. Mega events can quickly increase trail mileage, but more importantly, the goodwill they create will help to grow and strengthen your organization.

Anatomy of a Successful Statewide Foundation

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Presenters: Mitch Barloga, Transportation Planner, Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission; Shaunna Graf; Project Director, Ohio River Greenway Commission

Both public and private entities are seeking creative avenues to fund trail development, promotion, and maintenance. In Indiana, the Greenways Foundation has taken the lead in becoming a source for both trail funding and advocacy. This presentation examines how the Foundation has effectively worked with both private and public partners to expand trail access throughout all of Indiana, and how similar strategies can be applied in other states.

Building Partnerships One Step at a Time: Great Smoky Mountains National Park and “Friends of the Smokies” Unite to Rehabilitate Trails

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Presenters: Tobias Miller, Supervisory Facility Operations, National Park Service; Eric Wood, Assistant Trail Crew Leader, Great Smokey Mountains National Park; John Shapiro, Trail Crew Leader, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has partnered with their friends group, “Friends of the Smokies,” to create an endowment that helps fund much-needed rehabilitation on the high use trails in the park. The presentation will discuss the technical nature of the work and how it was accomplished. The program “Trails Forever” just finished its second large-scale project of a full rehabilitation of the Chimney Tops Trail. The work has been accomplished through the efforts of a professional National Park Service trail crew, leading both youth corps (Student Conservation Association and American Conservation Experience), as well as many group and individual volunteers.

Federal Transportation Funds for Trails

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Presenter: Christopher Douwes, Community Planner, Federal Highway Administration

The Federal Highway Administration’s transportation programs can help create safe, accessible, attractive, and environmentally-sensitive communities where people want to live, work, and recreate. These programs can integrate transportation and recreation into networks. This session will explain Federal surface transportation legislation. Attendees will learn how to apply for Federal-aid funds and learn what works and what doesn’t.

Ways and Means of Expanding Trail Funding

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Presenters: Ken Bryan, Director, Florida Office; Carl Knoch, Manager of Trail Development, Northeast Regional Office; Laura Cohen, Director, Western Region, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy; Leeann Sinpatanasakul, Advocacy Coordinator, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Public demand for trails of all types is outstripping current levels of funding. From Pennsylvania to Florida to California, trail advocates are developing innovative and successful strategies for expanding state-level trails funding. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has been a lead partner in three such efforts since the International Trails Symposium of 2013. Join three RTC field directors for the inside scoop on how three very different campaigns were conceived, organized, tactically driven, and executed.

An NGO Response to Funding Shortfalls: Shaping of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act

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Presenters: Randy Rasmussen, Advisor for Public Lands and Recreation, Back Country Horsemen of America; Paul Sandford, National Director, The Wilderness Society

Volunteers and partners are increasingly being called upon to assist the Forest Service in an era of budget constraints and trail maintenance backlog. According to a 2013 GAO report, the Forest Service faces a maintenance and facility shortfall of over $500 million. The 2014 National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act is a key feature of proposed legislative and administrative solutions being promoted.

Beyond the Trail: Exploring National Trail Corridors and Plan Implementation

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Presenters: Bill Gibson, Travel Management and National Trails Lead, Bureau of Land Management Arizona; Terry Heslin, Travel Management and National Trails Lead, Bureau of Land Management Idaho

The Bureau of Land Management has recently approved policies for the establishment of National Trail Management Corridors on public lands. This National Trails Policy is the first of its kind for any federal agency within the National Trails System. This presentation describes how the new BLM policies guide the agency in fulfilling its responsibilities under the National Trails System Act and other laws for National Scenic and National Historic Trails, including inventory, planning, management, and monitoring.


PTBA Sustainable Trails Workshops

The Professional Trailbuilders Association in partnership with American Trails sponsored the PTBA Sustainable Trails Workshop Series to focus on the important skills and techniques involved in sustainable design, planning, construction, and maintenance of trails for all types of users in all types of environments. Read more...

American Trails Featured Workshops

The American Trails Featured Workshops provided sessions for in-depth discussions and activities on different trail topics. Read more...

American Trails Mobile Workshops

The American Trails Featured Workshops provided sessions for in-depth discussions and activities on different trail topics. Read more...

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Core Tracks

Core Tracks are designed to allow presenters to explore subjects in greater depth by allowing three to six hours these sessions, including discussions, examples, practice, and fieldwork (where applicable).

Poster Presentations

Posters were displayed in a common area in the Exhibit Hall throughout the Symposium. Individuals displaying posters were available to share their stories and to meet with interested attendees during the Symposium.

Trail Talks

(a.k.a. Coffee and Pastries with an Expert)
Presenters with a special interest in a trail-related topic will lead “Trail Talk” sessions and facilitate an informal discussion and exchange of ideas. Attendees can also enjoy coffee and pastries during these informal early morning networking sessions.


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Download complete 2015 Symposium Program (pdf 6.0 mb)

Download bios and information on presenters for Concurrent Sessions, Core Tracks, and Trail Talks



Symposium Sponsors





American Trails

P.O. Box 491797
Redding, CA 96049-1797
(530) 605-4395

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