Engaging, Enabling, and Motivating Families and Diverse Trails Users

This webinar will look at ways to expand the universe of trail visitors, considering planning, design, and messaging and discuss how welcoming more groups can build a stronger base of support by engaging a more diverse constituency of trails enthusiasts.

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Event Details

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September 28, 2023

10:00 AM to 11:15 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:00 AM to 12:15 PM (Mountain Time)
12:00 PM to 01:15 PM (Central Time)
01:00 PM to 02:15 PM (Eastern Time)


FREE for members
FREE for nonmembers

Learning Credit Cost: FREE


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This webinar is free to the public, thanks to a generous sponsorship from Island Press.


Webinar Outline

If you build it, who will come? Picture a typical trail user. Picture the person you’d see coming out the doors of the “hiking gear" store or modeling in their catalogue. No need to spell it out, while evolving, it is likely a white, affluent adult with an "active-lifestyle" body-type.

Now it’s time to broaden that trail demographic. We need to find more effective ways to cast a broader net. Some of the target groups include: families with young children; people with more limited economic means and mobility, different ethnic groups and different levels of fitness and abilities that may not currently fit the current image of a trail user. Going forward, this will be a key to planning better trails, promoting more support of trails and building a broader constituency of people who regularly visit and enjoy trails. We want to find ways to promote a more rewarding experience for ALL groups, facilitate more diverse, equitable access, make more people feel welcomed, safe and motivated—to feel that trails are for them too. This should be key to the ways we plan and design trails and trails create better access mechanisms that encourage and enable more diverse visitation. Branding and messaging to make trails more appealing and accessible is also part of the picture.

This webinar will look at ways to expand the universe of trail visitors, considering planning, design, and messaging and discuss how welcoming more groups can build a stronger base of support by engaging a more diverse constituency of trails enthusiasts. The webinar presents four experts representing a diverse range of backgrounds and perspectives.

Bob Searns will serve as the moderator for this webinar.

Learning Objectives:

  • Planning trails with a broader constituency in mind
  • Promoting a more rewarding experience on the trail to the broader constituency
  • Branding and messaging to make trails more appealing and accessible


This webinar qualifies as a Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) course (via LA CES).

Webinar Resources

  • Presenter PowerPoint – Bob Searns (pdf)
  • All Body Shapes and Sizes Should be Welcome Outdoors (The Wilderness Society June 2023)
  • Unlikely Hikers on Instagram (inclusiveness in the outdoors)
  • BOOK REVIEW: Beyond Greenways: The Next Step for City Trails and Walking Routes (by Robert Searns)
  • BOOK REVIEW: Mythbusting the Great Outdoors: What’s True and What’s Not? (by Jamie Siebrase)
  • Jamie Siebrase Author Website
  • Creating Built Environments That Expand Active Transportation and Active Living Across the United States (Circulation, Sep 15, 2020)
  • Active Transportation and Parks & Recreation (National Recreation and Parks Association)
  • Safe Routes to Parks: Improving Access to Parks Through Walkability (National Recreation and Parks Association)
  • AARP Walk Audit Toolkit
  • Small Town & Rural Multimodal Networks (Federal Highway Administration, 2016)
  • Incorporating On-Road Bicycle Networks into Resurfacing Projects (Federal Highway Administration, 2016)
  • AARP Pop-up Placemaking Toolkit
  • Quick Build Guide: How to Build Safer Streets Quickly and Affordably (Alta Planning and Design)
  • Measuring the Benefits of Trails to Communities (Headwaters Economics)
  • NCCOR Thriving Communities Website (to support the economic case for trails & greenways)
  • The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial & Ethnic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America (Center for American Progress)
  • Mark Fenton Website
  • Grow Cycling Foundation Pumptrack Officially Opens September 2023 (Los Angeles, CA)
  • City of Malden, MA Encouraging Enjoyment of the Great Malden Outdoors
  • Access to Pennsylvania’s Outdoor Recreation Areas: Methods and Key Findings by The Trust for Public Land (pdf)
  • Booker, Gomez Reintroduce Bicameral Legislation to Promote Equitable Access to Public Lands
  • Minority Mountain Bikers Bentonville Bike Week
  • The Trust for Public Land ParkScore®
  • Walk Friendly Communities
  • Access Trails: Access Recreation’s Exploration of 36 Regional Trails and Parks
  • Attendee Ideas For Engagement on Trails

    • One of my ideas is to incorporate "hopscotch" into the trails or scavenger hunts on the trails to encourage activity on the trails.
    • You can work with local Scout Packs/Troops on trail education. Leave No Trace is paramount in their message. You can also use them to build items for trails/parks for Eagle Scout Projects
    • We have had great success with online surveys as well as public on site engagements. We also offer block parties in the neighborhoods with project information and involvement. Folks can access them from any place and time.


    Webinar Partners


    Robert (Bob) Searns, Owner, Robert Searns and Associates, Inc.
    Denver, Colorado

    Robert Searns has a four-decade history of visualizing, planning, and getting trails and greenway projects built. He was Project Director of Denver’s Platte River and Mary Carter Greenways—both national-award-wining projects. He helped plan the Grand Canyon National Park Greenway, played a key role on the Memphis Wolf River Greenway, and authored the Commerce City, CO Walk, Bike, Fit plan. He has written for Planning, Landscape Architecture, LA China, and American Trails Magazines and has served as Editor-in-Chief of Trails and Beyond Magazine. He chaired American Trails and was a founder of The World Trails Network as well as being a delegate to the America’s Great Outdoors White House conclave. His current book is Beyond Greenways: The Next Step For City Trails and Walking Routes, published in 2023 by Island Press. He resides, writes, hikes, and bikes near Denver, Colorado.


    Charles T. Brown, Founder/CEO, Equitable Cities
    New York, New York

    Charles T. Brown is the founder and CEO of Equitable Cities, a minority- and veteran-owned urban planning, public policy, and research firm focused on the intersection of transportation, health and equity. He is also a senior advisor to the New Urban Mobility alliance (NUMO) and an adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. Charles also has a podcast called Arrested Mobility.

    Mr. Brown previously served as a senior researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) at Rutgers University. He was also a 2020 Fellow within the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in Partnership with The OpEd Project.

    With more than 15 years of public and private sector, military, and academic experience, he has gained international attention for helping to create safe, healthy and livable communities. His recent and notable contributions through research and practice include understanding the barriers to biking and walking for women and minorities, analyzing the impact of crime on walking frequency and propensity, centering and prioritizing equity in transportation planning and decision-making, analyzing barriers to accessing parks and open spaces, and serving as an instructor for Smart Growth America (SGA), National Transit Institute (NTI), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), and CDC’s Walkability Action Institute.

    He has delivered over a dozen keynote addresses and workshops on the importance of health in all policies, health equity, and transportation equity to local, national and international audiences. He serves as a member of the Global Safety Advisory Board at Lime (micromobility), member of the Board of Directors with America Walks, and member of the Franklin Township Planning Board (NJ). He is also a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Pedestrian Safety Committee, Bicycle Transportation Committee, and the Region II Healthy Equity Council. His work has been published in several international journals as well as featured by or quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, the Guardian, and various other national outlets. He is a military veteran and a recipient of the Mississippi Commendation Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.


    Mark Fenton, Public Health, Planning, & Transportation Consultant, Tufts University
    Scituate, Massachusetts

    Mark Fenton is a nationally recognized public health, planning, and transportation consultant, adjunct associate professor at Tufts University, former host of “America’s Walking” on PBS television, and author of The Complete Guide to Walking for Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness. He has led training and planning processes for pedestrian-, bicycle-, and transit-friendly designs in communities across the US, Canada, and Australia. He studied engineering at the Massachusetts Institute Technology and biomechanics at the US Olympic Training Center, was manager of the Human Performance Laboratory at Reebok, and has published articles and books related to exercise science, physical activity promotion, and community interventions. In 2022 Mark served on the Science Board of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition for an update to the National Physical Activity Guidelines. He also tries to practice what he preaches, serving on his community’s planning board and walking or cycling for as many routine trips as possible. Mark is also the author of The Complete Guide to Walking.


    Jamie Siebrase, Author, Hiking with Kids and Mythbusting the Great Outdoors
    Littleton, Colorado

    Jamie Siebrase is a longtime Colorado journalist and the author of Hiking with Kids Colorado: 52 Great Hikes for Families and Mythbusting the Great Outdoors: What’s True and What’s Not? Her first children's book, Tonight!: A Bedtime Book, comes out in September. When she’s not on an adventure with her family, she’s usually writing about the outdoors and parenting for a variety of publications. Jamie Siebrase Author Website.


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    Learning Credits and CEUs

    American Trails is proud to be a certified provider of the following learning credits and continuing education opportunities:

    • American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)
    • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES) (most HSW approved)
    • National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) CEU equivalency petition
    • CEU/PDH equivalency petition for other accepting organizations

    Learning credits are free for attendees for American Trails webinars and the International Trails Summit, as well as for other trail and outdoor recreation-related conferences, webinars, and workshops we offer credits for. Learn more here.



    While we may individually agree (or disagree) in whole or in part with any or all of the participants, the views expressed in these webinars are not necessarily representative of the views of American Trails as an organization or its board and staff. Unless specific situations are noted by presenters, nothing in American Trails webinars should be considered to be interpreted as a standard.

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    9,755 views • posted 02/16/2023