Getting State Legislators Excited About Trails: Caucuses and "Active" Advocacy

Several states, including Ohio, Michigan, and Massachusetts have established legislative trails caucuses in the past year, facilitating active engagement among state legislators and trail constituents.

by Andrew Dupuy, Manager of Policy Outreach, Rails to Trails Conservancy, Brian K. Housh, Midwest Policy Manager, Rails to Trails Conservancy

This session will focus on relationship building and laying the groundwork for policy initiatives that support trail networks. Approaches to effective communications among state and local elected officials and trail advocacy organizations and users will be discussed in the context of the progress that has been made over a relatively short time in Ohio. Tactics designed to raise awareness, promote trail activity and recruit more Caucus members provide interesting lessons learned that can be replicated in other Midwestern states. Creating a coalition of stakeholders that represent diverse interests and have relationships with the legislature is a key strategy to advocate for building & maintaining trail networks to generate health, economic & environmental benefits.

This session will explore best practices for cultivating state legislative trails caucuses and allow for dialogue about how to fully leverage their potential. Presenters will highlight critical legislative initiatives such as establishing state trail action plans, conducting statewide economic impact studies, enhancing agency capacities & collaborations and, ultimately, increasing funding to support connected trail systems.

Learning Objectives:
  • Develop a viable strategy outline, comprised of a diverse toolbox of tactics, which attendees can customize to their particular trail projects and initiatives.
  • Support attendees in thinking through advocacy applications that would successfully further their trail development/policy objectives via an interactive focus that involves brainstorming, best practice sharing and facilitating diverse contributions from other attendees.
  • Gain deeper understanding of how to actively collaborate with elected officials and other key decision makers/influencers through the articulation and analysis of specific examples/case studies.

About the Authors

Andrew N. Dupuy manages state-based policy for Rails to Trails Conservancy, including advocacy to fund active transportation & trails through state legislatures. Drew’s professional background includes policy analysis for members of the Texas Legislature and managing press & communications for political campaigns & nonprofit advocacy organizations around the country. A Southern California native -- by way of Austin -- now living in Washington, D.C., he graduated from Brown University and the L.B.J. School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and did additional graduate-level work in urban planning at Virginia Tech.

Brian K. Housh is an avid cyclist and Council President for the Village of Yellow Springs in Ohio, where his active-transportation lifestyle is supported by living along the Little Miami Scenic Trail—which is part of the nation’s largest paved trail network. He has been actively engaged in regional economic development initiatives that emphasize strategies to enhance quality of life, create jobs and increase commerce via arts, culture and environmental sustainability. A graduate of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a JD/MBA (Environmental Law/Finance and Entrepreneurship), Brian brings a community development perspective to RTC’s policy team.

Contact: [email protected]

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