22nd American Trails International Trails Symposium

Everyone who attended the International Trails Symposium was invited to share their thoughts and dreams about the future of trails. We included many of these visions and big ideas as the "Voices" in our closing session. The program was opened by Stuart Macdonald and closed by Galeo Saintz.




Just as the Symposium is about meeting new people and discovering new ideas, we want to further explore trails as part of a changing world. How will trails intertwine our lives and communities in the world of tomorrow? Who will be the trail leaders of the future and what dreams will they pursue? How can our work bring us closer and bridge the gaps of cultures, mindsets, and suspicions that divide us?

We’d like this to be a time to reflect on the importance of the work we are all doing. As we look at the future we need to focus on the positive accomplishments of the trails movement, and to learn from our successes and mistakes of the present time.

Join us as we listen for the voices that will take us beyond borders and barricades into a world bright with pathways of every kind...




photo of children on a trail


Let’s think back to the experiences that shaped our lives and our values, that were so often on a trail, or in the natural world. Perhaps the most important thing we can do for future generations is to preserve their chance to have those experiences. To hold that candle that lights our memories and to pass it on as a precious gift.

We want to say “Yes” to the generations to come—
Yes, you are invited to join us on the pathway,
Yes, the trail leads to a richer, healthier life,
And yes, it is up to you to discover and care for the next generation of trails.

— Stuart Macdonald


photo of young women with map


Out the door— to the edge of the lot
To get around and about— no car, I kid you not
Freely under your own power
In city, in forest, in back country and front
Can you find YOUR way?

A thousand year legacy, the old ways.
Places to learn, heal, and walk in-joy— for days
Routes of pilgrims and people who have Strayed, like Cheryl
Find yourself, find solace, finding a way
Can you find YOUR way?

Trails reshape the land, reshape the city
They can heal the land, heal the people with places that are pretty
Green threads in a crowding fabric
Lessons of stewardship, caring for one another
Can you find YOUR way?

—Robert Searns


photo of young woman with beam


My story with trails is one of feminity. Trails— whether etched by the tools of people or woven by the rhythms of wildlife— have cradled my journeys into the realms of athleticism, human survival, native spirit, and connection to place.

Trails lead me to the base of mountains I scale, the vertical world where I am a strong, decisive and cunning woman. Trails push me into wilderness where my gifts of female intuition and perception are fuelled, tested, and rewarded.

Trails allow me a space in time where my experiences, traits and abilities are challenged by nature, not by any constructed list delineated by a man. My vision for trails is a portal for women, no matter their origins, to seek, define and embrace their own unique feminity.

— Bree Kullman (Emerging Leader)


photo of trail by ocean cliffs


It doesn’t matter where trails start from, it doesn’t matter where they go.
What matters is the journey on the trail.
The journey that connects us with nature, with culture.
The journey that connects us with our past and our future.
The journey that connect “us.”
The journey that we share!

— Fivos Tsaravopoulos


photo of young Asians with wheelbarrow


Bestow the vision of our forefathers of trails and conservation desired, and project it as present day reality, for ourselves, our children, and future generations. Create sustainability, a destination, a reason and desire to discover nature in our cities and in our world.

The gate to our future will be found in our trails. Build. Conserve. Discover.

— Christina Underhill


photo of hiker in foggy forest


I came back to walk along these trails, the adventures of my youth.
I came back to walk along these trails to find, my lost truth.
I came back to walk along these trails, a refuge from the cannon’s killing roar.
I came back to walk to walk along these trails to, my soul, heal from so long a war.
I came back to walk along these trails to find, again, my healing place.
I came back to walk along these trails to, again, join the human race.
I came back to walk along these trails to, from my heart, end this pain.
I came back to walk along these trails to calm my fears and ease my mind, again.
I came back to walk along these trails to find my healing place.
I came back to walk along these trails….. to heal.

— Leon LaVigne


photo of canoe on narrow river


Trails move people.

Be moved.


—Stu Gregory

photo of hiker along Roman ruins


My country has been networked with trails since the first men walked out of Africa. The first trade networks, the first trail staging posts, the first postal system originated here. The trails we are reviving were walked by Greek generals, Roman geographers, Spanish nuns, Arab adventurers and Ottoman pilgrims— and they wrote their own records— what they saw and who they encountered.

So my dream is of the past— the people who walked these stories before me, as well as what we can leave for future generations.

— Kate Clow


photo of men measuring trail grade


I would like to see an international trail building fund to generate income for small, developing countries to hire professional trail builders to volunteer in other countries. This funding would be used for travel and lodging and food since the program is based on professional trail builders volunteering their services.

— Tony Boone


photo of ribbon cutting with umbrella


Trails are routes of self-discovery, ways into nature, offering adventure and challenge beyond measure. I wandered outdoors from academia hesitantly at first, but then trail work grabbed me and never let go. It has provided incredible friendships and so many awe-inspiring places and experiences— some scary, some truly hilarious.

I see great things ahead— international trail connections, emerging leaders from diverse backgrounds, more connections among trail builders. And I’m emphatically convinced that trails are indeed a “green way for America”— and beyond our borders.

— Roger Bell


photo of young family on trail


My vision for trails is that they become the spaces where who we are as humans is shaped. The places where we first learn to walk, where we first go exploring, where we first get lost, where we first get inspired, where we first fall in love.

I dream of a world where trails are the thread that weaves the fabric for the cloak of connection, acceptance, and peace.

— Ivan Groenhof

photo of father and son


When I was young I lived and played in the wild. At the time I did not always like it. I wanted color TV and video games like many other kids I knew. But I gained knowledge and respect for the wild landscape that surrounded me.

That seed planted so long ago has grown into a passion. since then my life has turned. I now spend my weekends escaping the city I live in, and I spend my weekdays working on trails.

My dream is that children today might find their way into the wild of my childhood.

— Deverton Cochrane


photo of tent by river


My dream is that American hikers, bikers, and skiers will be able to walk for days on end, supported by carefully managed huts, yurts, homes and farm-stays, and other creative shelter options.

Imagine families, young people, and seniors all exulting in immersive trail experiences. Imagine not getting into a car or seeing a screen for days. Imagine rural communities rallying to support these environmental pilgrims, and enjoying an economic bump.

Transformed by such increasingly common ways to immerse themselves in nature— a new form of spiritual and ethical rite of passage— we will increasingly make decisions based on a deeper understanding and respect for our natural world.

— Sam Demas


photo of people with map


Last summer I returned to my homeland on the South Umpqua River in Southern Oregon. I went there to be with the native side of my family the Cow Creek Tribe. The tribe has many problems and I was not sure as to the best way to address the issues my tribe was facing. After observing the people and the economy of the area, I realized that it was not just my tribe that was facing problems, but the whole area was dealing with health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and economic hardships.

One day I went to go hiking. Surrounded by mountains that looked as if there would be some great trails on them and great views from the tops, I proceeded to look for trails. Weeks passed and I only found “No Trespassing” signs and barb wire, but no trails within 30 miles of Canyonville, Oregon. Months earlier I had moved from Bend, Oregon; “The land of lean people, trails, and an economy that is thriving.” I had an Ah-ha moment.. “No Trails, people in poor health, closed down buildings, and people living in shacks. I thought to myself, “These people need trails!”

I started sharing my thoughts. I asked “what if the area had trails” and found people who were excited about the idea of having trails for walking, hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. I may have had the idea, but ideas are no good unless put into action. Now there is a growing alliance to build trails in the South Umpqua area, and I have come to the Symposium to learn what is needed to make these trails become a reality.

— Garry Zimmerman


photo of mountains


My dream as a Forest Service land manager is to develop a great trail system in collaboration with our trail supporters— motorized, equestrian, hikers, and bikers. My goal is to work more effectively with our volunteers, and to let them know how much they are appreciated.

For myself I dream of paddling with my husband and children, and some day with grand kids, and going to the top of the hills and mountains with the views that last forever.

— Theresa Savery


photo of bikes with wide river


From west to east, from north to south, the United States will truly be united by trails like the American Discovery Trail and the Mississippi River Trail.

— Joe Taylor


photo of kids with houses


Trails I see as part of the solution to the challenges our world faces, from confronting climatic change to reconnecting our young people to the natural world. Trails catalyze that connection and provide a mechanism to reduce our carbon footprint. Trails are fibers that connect our nation and tie together the environmental movement.

—Brian Andersen

photo of urban greenway


The fear of change a trail often brings is overcome by the benefits the trail will bring as trails are embraced as a vital part of our urban infrastructure.



photo of woman with snowy mountains


My dream is to connect people of all ages and backgrounds to the ribbon of trail that brings comfort and cleansing from the day to day grind that we call life.

— Kathie Brennan


photo of man


Providing trail users with a well-planned, beautiful, fun, and memorable trail experience.

Solitude, beauty, nature and fun recreation.

A system of linked trails extending from every neighborhood in the country.

— Mark Gronewald




As a member of the Trails Committee for the Wisconsin State Horse Council, I coordinate the “Ride Wisconsin” program. Equestrians are awarded at certain benchmarks for the number of hours they spend riding on Wisconsin horse trails. The intention of the program is to encourage usage of the statewide equestrian trail system.

— Patty Wisneski



My dream is to see people enjoy the trail and see what’s around them.

It’s not a race to the end or the top. It’s about the nature.

— James Nash




Beyond these walls, when we step out of those doors, let us remember we carry with us a voice which others may hear as a promise of freedom, the invigoration of good health, the sheer joy of connection. They hear our voice proclaiming recreation in nature that feeds the soul, of pilgrimage and the solace of moving the only way a trail knows how, as it invites us to directly experience the world.

I have heard voices here over the last days that support a dream for trails, that is for them to remain open, cared for, that they continue to link us to communities, to nature, to the past, the present and the future and that they become more accessible to all. Voices that going forward more loudly affirm the value of trails, not only to local trail communities but to the world at large.

Trails are a tool for reigniting a conversation between ourselves and the great world out there, between cultures and diverse communities, and between us and nature.

This is a globally important conversation, as it builds in my view on something all trails offer, they contribute to peace-building and connection-building in a world where the great challenge of our modern times is disconnection.

The voices of this room, the voice of trails, is our voice, and standing here I heard voices of hope ready to tackle the challenges we face, knowing the solution of always placing one foot in front of the other leads to success and leads us to the trailhead.

When we leave here now may our trails lead us to further appreciate and continue to value the work we are doing in the world.

And my final challenge to all of us is to take just one spark of insight, or an idea that came to us in these few days, into practical action. That, is the best thing we can do to take trails forward.

— Galeo Saintz



Print Friendly
Print Friendly and PDF




Join American Trails



Facebook Twitter

Stay up to date on legislative issues for trails, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.




Need trail skills and education? Do you provide training? Join the National Trails Training Partnership!

The NTTP Online Calendar connects you with courses, conferences, and trail-related training

arrowEnjoy and share the new online, digital version of the American Trails Magazine!

arrowHelp us provide you more useful resources to keep you on the cutting-edge -- please join today!

arrowWe are advocating for your interests! Visit the Supporting Trails page to view the latest in legislative news, current issues, and opportunities, and to learn how to access funding.

arrow Sign me up for American Trails Action Alerts and e-Newsletters">Sign up for American Trails Action Alerts and Trail Tracks e-Newsletters.


PDF  Some of our documents are in PDF format and require free Adobe Acrobat Reader software.
  Download Acrobat Reader

section 508 logo American Trails and NTTP support accessibility with Section 508: read more.