Session Descriptions

TRAILSNext™ Series - High energy, 18-minute presentations on trail innovation. These sessions will be recorded and made available to folks who were unable to attend this year's ITS for a nominal fee. (All ITS attendees will receive a complimentary copy.)

Monday, April 29 TRAILSNext™ Series Presentations


Recordings of the TRAILSNext™ sessions are available for purchase.

All ITS attendees will receive a complimentary copy.

Welcome General Session: Pride of New York - Health, Happiness, and Heritage in the Empire State

Welcome to the 2019 International Trails Symposium and Training Institute. Join representatives from local, state, and federal agencies across NY to discover how trails bring Health, Happiness, and Heritage to the people of this great state in new and unexpected ways.

Opening Speakers: Ben Walsh, Mayor of the City of Syracuse; J Ryan McMahon II, Onondaga County Executive; Andy Beers, Hudson River Valley Greenway; JJ Tighe, Ralph C Wilson, Jr. Foundation; and Jeff Olson, Alta Planning + Design; Emcee by Bob Searns

General Session: Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion in the Trails Industry

Ever wonder how to become a JEDI knight? Well now is your time to join the force and fight for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) on our trails! It likely comes as little surprise that our trails community does not currently include the full spectrum of people it could. This session will give all attendees the understanding and motivation to help make trails a transformative place for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. Charles Thomas, executive director of Outward Bound Adventures, is the Obi Wan of JEDI Trail Knights with 40 years of experience bringing more diversity to our trails. Please plan on joining Charles in an enlightening, Socratic conversation that will provide you with the tools to become a true trail JEDI warrior.

American Trails Awards: Celebrating National and International Trail Excellence

American Trails presents the Advancing Trails Awards Program to recognize the tremendous contributions of volunteers, professionals, and other leaders who are working for the betterment of trails both nationally and internationally in both rural and urban settings. (Please note: The Lifetime Service and State Award winners will be recognized at different times. Please review the schedule to learn more.)

Awards will be given in the following categories:

  • Trails and the Arts
  • Trail Accessibility
  • Trail Partnership
  • International Partnership
  • Trail Planning/Design (Two Levels)
  • Trail Promotion and Education
  • Trails for Health

Closing Keynote Luncheon: Trails, Outdoor Recreation, and the New Trails Industry

Join us for lunch as we wrap up an amazing Symposium by discussing how we all can work together to articulate the value of trails and how they impact the trails industry. We will be joined by Greg Brumitt and Andy Williamson of Active Strategies, as we explore the future of our trails industry, and explore it's connection to the burgeoning outdoor recreation industry. This inspirational look forward will give you the energy and excitement you need to get the job done. This keynote address will be immediately followed by the awarding of the 2019 American Trails State Award winners. Keynote Address: Greg Brumitt and Andy Williamson, Active Strategies; Emcee by Roger Bell

We've Built a Trail, Now What? A Systematic Approach to Maintaining and Upgrading Trails

The City of Seattle has over 40 miles of multi-use trails that play an important role in the transportation network. Some of the trails are over 40 years old. The City of Seattle took a proactive approach to upgrading and maintaining their trails following the recommendations in the Seattle Bike Master Plan (BMP) for multi-use trail upgrades and maintenance. The Seattle Trails Upgrade Plan provides a baseline assessment of the Seattle trail network’s existing conditions and makes recommendations for site-specific upgrades as well as trail connections to nearby schools and parks. The Plan also provides a set of design guidelines for trails within an urban context. The session will cover the planning process including community engagement, design guidelines, how we assessed existing conditions, and the prioritization process.

Learning Objectives:

• Attendees will be able to create their own Trails Upgrade Plan

Lessons Learned from Creative Problem-Solving

Every trail project is different and provides opportunities for success and failures. San Jose has developed a 60-mile Trail Network with 40 more miles planned for development. This presentation will showcase 25 completed San Jose Trail projects with focused and honest discussion about what worked, what didn’t work, and the lessons learned. The projects will be selected to offer a broad range of findings gained from all phases of development, from initial scoping, through studies, planning, design and construction. Tips will be offered on how to manage and message challenges in a straightforward and engaging manner to sustain community support.

Learning Objectives:

• Understand that setting goals is worthwhile when tactically and intentionally aligned to projects

• Manage in a creative manner to address project challenges for positive outcomes

• Structure work flow for large scale projects in a clear and phases manner to sustain multi-year stakeholder support

Trail-specific Insurance Needs in the Trails Industry

Land Line: A 1,400 Mile Trail and Greenway Plan for Metro Boston

The Boston region has an extensive collection of rail trails, river paths, and separated bike lanes, and more in planning and design. However we are far from a connected network. MAPC, the regional planning agency for Boston, has come up with a plan for a connected trail and greenway network. Branded LandLine, the network vision helps build partnerships at all levels of government to ensure coordination of greenway development and build support for completion. This presentation will describe the elements of the plan, accomplishments to date, and the future steps. The Plan is transportation focused with the goal of incorporating more active transportation trips throughout the region between work, home and leisure.

Learning Objectives:

• Evaluate an existing trail network to identify projects and opportunities to create a connected trail and greenway network in an urban area

Akron Civic Commons: A Story of Robust Collaboration and Reconnected Communities

You see it in the news every day. Nearly every trend line shows that the U.S. is in the grips of increased polarization, segregation, social isolation and economic inequality. Health, happiness and trust in free fall. There is an urgent need to reverse these trends. Akron is starting by reconnecting people, not online, but in place through our trails, parks and community centers. A cross-sector collaboration of more than a dozen organizations and hundreds of community members, Akron Civic Commons is recommitting to our civic assets with the intention to deliver outcomes that matter. Through investments in three neighborhoods and the Towpath Trail that connects them, it is knitting together isolated communities through collaborative reimagining of public places. Temporary and permanent design features and programming is reestablishing a 100-acre lake as a place of civic pride and play, bridging diverse neighborhoods and fostering economic development and public life in Akron’s downtown.

Learning Objectives:

• Learners will reconsider the greater social value of their trails

• Learners will discover a new approach to collaboration

• Learners will gain a new outcomes-oriented metrics system

Building a Trail Nation, Together

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we believe in the transformative power of connected trail networks. When trail networks are embraced as vital community assets, they bring powerful solutions for addressing issues as far ranging as chronic disease, resiliency, mobility, social equity and economic growth. We are committed to connecting trails and building comprehensive trail systems that bring people together and get them where they want to go. In eight diverse places across the country, RTC is invested in digging in with hundreds of partners to make trail networks happen. These TrailNation projects are incredibly unique but share a common goal: to prove the potential of trails in delivering significant outcomes.

Learning Objectives:

• Attendees to be inspired to apply key lessons learned from RTC’s eight Trail Nation projects and to create their own trail network projects in their respective regions

Tuesday, April 30 TRAILSNext™ Series Presentations

Programming Trail Experiences for All: Our One Shot at Building a Trail Culture

Trail communities around North America have come to appreciate (and clamor for) the economic benefits of trails. In fact, a model for community development—“trail towns”—has emerged to aid struggling communities in leveraging their trails. But we’ve got it mostly wrong. While economic gain contributes to community vitality, too heavy of a focus on any one trail benefit lacks balance…and heart. Those places that value trails simply for the dollars brought into town miss out on the “trail magic” that can touch communities. If we flip our focus from visitor transactions to truly engaging both visitors and locals, culture shift is possible. One concrete way of doing so is through programming immersive, memorable, joyful trail experiences. This talk will share programming examples and make a case for how these connections can transform communities from a culture of indifference to a culture of “yes,” of hospitality, of inclusion, and stewardship.

Learning Objectives:

• Participants will be able to recognize the value of programming trail experiences for all segments of the community and recall examples that have helped to transform communities.

Great American Rail-Trail

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is embarking on a mission to connect the United States with a coast-to-coast trail system - the Great American Rail-Trail. We will work with states, counties, and cities to fill in gaps between existing trails to create one continuous trail from Washington, DC to Washington. This presentation will highlight how this project originated and outline how we are identifying and planning to fill the trail gaps, as well as build excitement around the recreation, health, transportation, and economic opportunities the trail will offer!

Learning Objectives:

• Attendees will learn how they can get involved in the excitement behind the Great American Rail-Trail, including planning to fill trail gaps if they are involved in a project along the route, lobbying for the trail’s completion, or preparing to use the trail for a great adventure.

Huts in the USA: Where, Why, and How to Responsibly Expand Access to Nature

A concise presentation of the roles hut systems can play in the educational and recreational opportunity spectrum of America. These include huts as educational infrastructure for educational and therapeutic programs, as agents of economic development in rural areas, as portals for nature immersion experiences for under-served minorities, as supports for emerging spiritual development of a new generation of environmental pilgrims, as programs for developing outdoor and stewardship skills, and as agents in community-building around responsible land stewardship.

Learning Objectives:

• The audience will get a clear and simple picture of how huts, a comparatively small presence in USA, can contribute to the civilizational imperative of cultivating a sense of bio philia in American citizens. The data supporting this role for huts and examples from the field will be supplemented with an overview of trends in the development of new hut systems in USA, New Zealand and Europe.

Can I Sell You a Trail?

While a majority of people favor the development of trails in their community, there are others who hold a contrary view - that trails may bring unwanted presence, crime, and other negative factors to their backyards. A critical component of the planning and early development of a mixed-use trail is understanding these concerns, and addressing them in an interactive and respectful manner. In my experience in Central Florida, at times it seemed like local stakeholders thought I was "selling them a trail". Through numerous projects/cases, I have refined my approach in developing a trail concept plan, addressing specific local concerns, and engaging local and regional stakeholders toward making a better product. Entertaining cases will highlight the approaches and strategies that may be used.

Learning Objectives:

• Recognize the various perspectives of various trail users, adjacent property owners, and other stakeholders - perspectives that are often at odds with one another.

• Identify specific strategies to address the varying perspectives and issues of concern.

• Develop tools and techniques for truly hearing and properly responding to opposition.

Africatown Connections Blueway: Healing Begins by Reclaiming Our Heritage and Happiness

Africatown, located in Mobile, Alabama, represents what is left of the community settled by Tarkbar captives brought to the United States from Africa by slave ship (The Clotilda), known as the last Slave Ship to arrive in the USA. Africatown is unique in that it represents a group of Africans who were forcefully removed from their homeland, sold into slavery, and then formed their own, largely self-governing community, all the while maintaining a strong sense of African cultural heritage.By establishing the Africatown Connections Blueway, descendants of the original founders of Africatown, seek to re-connect their neighbors to the surrounding waterways from which they have been separated. Of primary importance is to preserve and make available the international historical significance of Africatown to communities across Alabama, the United States and the entire world in hopes of contributing to the healing process from the sadness that stems from long lost ties to Africa.

Learning Objectives:

• Describe leveraging resources (techniques & organizations) to change public opinions related to paddling trails

• List important players/agencies to involve in the project planning process

• Utilize communication techniques that assist in the process of challenging conversations

Traversing the Great Ledge: How Climbers Gained Access to One of New Netherlands’ Most Iconic Landscapes

In 2015, NY State Parks partnered with the Thacher Climbing Coalition (TCC), a local rock climbing group, to develop trails to access rock climbing at Thacher State Park. The unique challenge was that Thacher Park sits atop the Helderberg Escarpment, a 50' to 200' high cliff that runs the length of the park. This required building access for climbers down through the cliff and along the 45o talus slope at the base. NYS Parks partnered with the TCC to develop a trail system through this uniquely challenging area, passing through the Squeeze Box, down Fat Man's Misery, and across the talus slope to Hailes Cave and the tip of the Horseshoe. Still a work in progress, this partnership has brought in hundreds of new visitors, thanks to a trail system built by volunteers that gives climbers access while preserving safety, cultural resources, and protected rare plants, animals, and habitat.

Learning Objectives:

• How we utilized non-profit partners to achieve shared goals

• How we were able to balance various constraints, including ecological, recreational, and technical, to construct a new recreational resource

• How we convinced our own agency, other state and federal agencies, and the public that this effort would be a benefit to the park, was reasonable, and could be done with the environmental and safety in mind

Green Flag Trails: Trails Auditing

Green Flag Trails is an international trail monitoring and assessment system that encourages and rewards trails that are under responsible management. Developed over 15 years in South Africa and implemented in various countries including Nepal. An objective system of monitoring trail safety, trail infrastructure and the trail experience benefiting trail owners and trail users. The system helps trails define their trail offering more effectively and gives trail users important information in helping them decide if the assessed trail is the trail that best suits their trail needs. Presentation explores the challenges and the opportunities this simple system unlocks for trail maintenance and assurance for trail users that the trail is sustainably managed.

Learning Objectives:

• Design according to a trail planning process that feeds back into trail monitoring

• Explain why trail auditing is an integral part of the trail development and sustainable management processes

• Identify types of trails based on trail experience

PTSD: Trails and Nature - The Better Medication

Examining the benefit of trails and nature therapy as an alternative treatment to pharmaceutical drugs in helping with PTSD / Suicide Ideation / Mild & Moderate Depression.

Learning Objectives:

• Identify additional natural and holistic PTSD treatment protocols

Access to the Great Outdoors for All

The Trust for Public Land seeks to create ready and equitable access to trails, parks, and open space for everyone across the country. The ParkServe platform and Access Impact Mapping (AIM) tools provide data to address issues around equitable access to these assets in cities and towns nationwide. The ParkServe platform provides users with nearly 130,000 park locations in roughly 14,000 municipalities around the country, with the ability to analyze current 10-minute walk access to those parks. Users can determine where future parks will provide the service to neighborhoods most in need. AIM prioritizes the protection of new public lands and encourages recreational access improvements around the country by addressing broad recreation access needs and public lands access opportunities outside city limits. Using the power of Geographic Information System mapping, AIM helps to strategically target development of recreation access and new land protection opportunities to address gap areas. Together these tools provide baseline information on demand for recreation access and the locations, type and use of nearby trails, parks and open space allowing users to gain insight into these community resources and enabling professionals to better understand and plan park systems.

Learning Objectives:

• Participants will know how to access ParkServe and AIM tools.

• Participants will learn how other communities have applied this information to inform decision making and advocacy for trails.

• Participants will understand the connection between trail and park amenities, usage, and quality.

All Trails Lead to Beer!

All trails lead to beer! With the growing popularity of multi-purpose trails and craft breweries across the country we are seeing more intersections of the two. Let's look at tangible examples of economic development, trail programming and partnership opportunities when ales meet trails!

Learning Objectives:

• Learn the current trends of trails and breweries

• Identify at least 5 examples where the two intersect

• Demonstrate ideas for realizing benefits in partnership, programming and economic development that can apply to many trailside businesses

Managing High-Use Trails: Why Trail Stewards are a Necessity in Creating Safe, Sustainable Trails

Overuse and misuse of the most popular outdoor destinations are threatening the ecological integrity of these special places. In the greater New York metropolitan region, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is taking a leadership role in coordinating stewardship efforts to keep up with growing threats. There is no one answer to solving this issue; it is our belief that we can create better outdoor experiences through user education, public participation, and sustainable, on-the-ground solutions. The Trail Conference has joined with land managers and local partners to begin a multi-phased stewardship approach on the Appalachian Trail, at Breakneck Ridge, and in the Catskills. Learn how trail steward and trail-building programs have worked to make the public better informed, more responsible trails users while protecting the resource. Because when trails are used responsibly, they protect both the people who use them and the environment that surrounds them.

Learning Objectives:

• Participants of this TRAILx Talk will enjoy an increased awareness of the effectiveness of Trail Stewards to increase public safety and protect the environmental resource through on-the-ground education of outdoor ethics, and how this program complements efforts to build and maintain sustainable trails.

Getting Real with Preservative-Treated Wood for Trail Structures

In the 21st century should we still be using wood for our trails? Sustainable forestry, at its simplest, is about growing trees. The full story, though, is much more complex. An important chapter of that story is the role that preserved wood plays in ensuring sustainability. We as a trail industry have the ability to increase the life of wood products beyond the time it takes to grow a new tree that can be used to replace that product. By responsibly adding preservatives into wood, we can expand the life of wood significantly and further extend the cycle of renewability for our forests. When comparing steel, concrete, plastics and wood, it is important to remember wood is the only renewable resource, which is often overlooked by focusing on recycled content. Considering that health, heritage and happiness all improve when wood is used properly, the story for wood gets even better.