Keith Laughlin became president of RTC in February of 2001, and since that time, has guided the organization’s efforts to become a national leader in the trails and greenways movement. Keith is responsible for overseeing all aspects of RTC’s trail development, policy advocacy and public education work, and regularly speaks before Congress and in the national media to establish strong support for trail networks and active-transportation infrastructure.
Keith came to RTC with more than 20 years of governmental experience in Washington, D.C. After 14 years as a senior staff person in the U.S. House of Representatives, he joined the executive branch, serving for eight years as Associate Director for Sustainable Development of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
Laughlin's move into the nonprofit sector reflects his strongly held belief that a nationwide network of interconnecting trails can provide countless community benefits, including alternative commuting options and low- and no-cost recreational opportunities for people of all ages and abilities across the country.
A resident of Washington, D.C., Laughlin is married and has two children.
In alphabetical order by department and by region
Finance and Administration Department
Chief Operating Officer
Growing up in a family that spent most weekends and vacations outside—camping, hiking, biking, canoeing, and visiting local, state and national parks—Cindy Dickerson says she got hooked on the outdoors and travel at an early age.
Cindy currently serves as RTC’s chief operating officer and considers it a privilege to work for an organization that preserves green space and creates outdoor recreational opportunities for communities across the country. Prior to landing what she calls her “dream job” at RTC in 2002, she specialized for many years in nonprofit management in the education, travel and hospitality sectors.
Outside of work, you’ll find Cindy taking an evening walk or run on the nearby W & OD Trail, hiking the Billy Goat Trail with her Girl Scout troop or checking off more international destinations on her bucket list; she most recently road the Camel rail-trail with her daughter along the coast of Cornwall, England.
Cindy lives in Arlington, Va., with her son and daughter.
Human Resources Manager
"Riding a bike, or hiking on a trail, is when I am the happiest camper in the world," says Elton Clark, who keeps RTC running smoothly as its human resources manager.
Before joining RTC, Elton worked in human resources for the Smithsonian Institution and The Close Up Foundation in Alexandria, Va. And though he was born in North Carolina and lived in Germany for a period, Elton has spent much of his life little more than a bike ride from the nation's capital. He leapt at the chance to work for RTC, attracted by the opportunity to contribute to bike advocacy efforts.
In this dynamic nonprofit, he gets to step from behind his HR desk and roll up his sleeves for a variety of other tasks. In the past few years, Elton rode and documented many miles of trails as part of RTC's trail-mapping initiative, and he assisted the trail development team with the grand opening of the Met Branch Trail.
Elton has a few strings to his bow, including a degree in Commercial Art and Design, and he enjoys painting and drawing. His other love besides biking?
"Travel," he says. "I have seen some fantastic places."
Senior Director of TrailLink.com & Technology Marketing
Originally from Den Haag, Holland, Frederick Schaedtler has worked for RTC for more than a decade, managing its growing technology platform. Frederick plays an instrumental role in RTC's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) trail-mapping initiatives.
Keeping RTC on the cutting edge, Frederick steers the popular trail-finder site, TrailLink.com, and is constantly creating new ways to promote trail use and active transportation to the general public. He recently launched RTC's new TrailLink.com App.
Out of the office, Frederick loves riding his 50-pound, all-steel Dutch Batavus bicycle around Washington, D.C., and he commutes to the office by bike every day—rain or shine.
Roxana Kiely has been working with RTC since 1997. She maintains that she is proud to see all the achievements and growth in the organization, as well as the great work done by her fellow dedicated staffers.
Working at RTC has given her a passion for the trails, and one day she hopes to ride on trails across the country.
The things she enjoys most? “Cooking nutritious meals for my family and going to the beach!” says Roxana.
Timothy Rosner has been working with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionally since 2005. His experience includes data collection, processing and analysis within the GIS context. He has worked on projects for both government and private-industry clients and has experience managing collaborative project efforts.
Tim has worked on teams that include private developers, civil engineers, professional surveyors, environmental scientists, cultural resource specialists and community representatives.
He holds a Master of Science in Geographic and Cartographic Sciences from George Mason University, is a certified Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP) and has published research focusing on combining multiple spatial measures of social and economic characteristics within urban environments.
He joined RTC in 2008.
Andrea Ferster is an attorney in private practice in Washington, D.C. Her law practice focuses on litigation to enforce environmental and historic preservation laws, transportation advocacy, tax exempt organizations, enforcement of local zoning and land use ordinances, and trail and greenway planning.
In addition to serving as general counsel for RTC, her clients include the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Sierra Club and numerous D.C.-based neighborhood and community organizations. She is a leading national expert on federal historic preservation law and on the legal framework governing “rail-trail” conversions, and she has written and lectured extensively on these topics.
Andrea received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in 1979 and her J.D. from the George Washington University National Law Center in 1984.
Trail Development and TrailLink Coordinator
Eli Griffen joined RTC as a student intern for the policy team in January 2012.
Upon graduation from college, he became a short-term assistant doing many of the same tasks he did before—but this time with a paycheck! An unexpected temporary opening at the front desk at RTC headquarters gave Eli the opportunity to try his hand at customer and member services until—low and behold—he was able to settle in comfortably to his current position as trail development and TrailLink coordinator.
His primary responsibilities include managing the Early Warning System, which alerts local communities to upcoming railroad abandonments, and providing technical assistance to those interested in developing new rail-trails. For TrailLink.com, Eli audits and enhances RTC’s vast database of trails.
Although his introduction to RTC was a bit unusual, Eli maintains that it was for the best: “The bouncing around actually gave me great insight into how the organization functions and made me realize just how committed and passionate every single employee here is,” he affirms.
Eli commutes to his job daily by bike from Northwest D.C. to RTC’s downtown office.
Vice President of Trail Development
Elizabeth “Liz” Thorstensen serves as vice president of trail development at RTC where she shapes and oversees the organization’s trail development projects and programs. Liz has a broad background of experience in urban planning, with a focus on the intersection of sustainable communities and economic development—including writing three major publications to educate the economic development profession on this important topic.
Liz is passionate about the transition to a more sustainable economy and the role that trails and active transportation play in that transition.
Prior to joining RTC, Liz served as vice president of knowledge management and economic development practice at the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), where she led IEDC’s knowledge management team. In 2010 she co-led IEDC’s partnership with the White House and the U.S. Economic Development Administration to deliver immediate economic recovery technical assistance to 21 Gulf Coast communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Liz earned her bachelor’s degree in Geography and GIS from the University of Maryland and holds master’s degrees in Urban Planning and Local Economic Development from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the London School of Economics, respectively.
Elissa Fay Southward
Healthy Communities Manager
Prior to joining RTC late last year, Elissa Fay Southward spent four years living and going to school in the United Kingdom. She completed an M.S. in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Public Health and a Ph.D. in Exercise and Health Sciences at the University of Bristol. And before that—she proudly called herself a “Banana Slug” after spending four years at the University of California Santa Cruz, obtaining her BA in psychology.
Elissa is originally from northern California and grew up hiking and biking mostly around the Bay Area or in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. “Lake Tahoe is my all-time favorite place!” she states.
She also loves playing volleyball and has recently become a big fan of rock climbing and bouldering.
Elissa was excited to join the staff at RTC and bring her knowledge and expertise on the health impacts of walking and biking to the advocacy efforts at the national office.
She has never lived on the East Coast before and is so far really enjoying it; although, she is finding the fast-paced lifestyle a bit of an adjustment from the “laid-back Cali approach” she is used to.
Trail Development Manager
Jim Brown has known the value of trails—connecting people to nature and bringing tangible benefits to local communities—since his first job on the Gwynns Falls Trail in Baltimore.
Now, as RTC’s trail development manager, he continues to put his passions to professional use by providing technical assistance to communities pursuing new trails, managing various capacity building programs within RTC’s Metropolitan Grants Program and working with individuals to solve issues related to their favorite trails in regions across the country.
Jim has experience in urban environmental education and international nonprofit issues; previous professional credits include working for the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks and serving as a natural resource management Peace Corps volunteer in rural Tanzania.
Jim holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and a master’s degree in landscape architecture, and his academic research and proposed projects have been presented at international greenway planning conferences.
He is happiest on a bike or holding a cup of coffee, but not at the same time.
Trail Development Director
Kelly Pack still remembers her first-ever rail-trail experience; as a young child, she and her family completed the long bicycle ride along the Cranberry Rail-Trail in her home state of West Virginia.
It was an experience that would inspire her as an adult, as Kelly is now director of trail development for RTC, helping bring to fruition the trail aspirations of community groups across the country.
After earning a Master of Science in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Resources from West Virginia University, Kelly became very active as a community organizer and project coordinator, working with local watershed organizations, trail and greenway planning initiatives, pedestrian and bicycle advocacy groups, and a regional brownfield redevelopment program.
Lately, Kelly has been the driving force behind some of RTC's most innovative and successful work, including fostering a local community of ownership around the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C., promoting urban rail-trails as critical public health amenities and helping the people of New Orleans stay connected to plans to redevelop the Lafitte Corridor.
And she still enjoys riding her bike in the city and the country; Kelly recently completed the 330-plus mile journey from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Washington, D.C., on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal towpath.
Senior Vice President of Policy and Trail Development
Kevin Mills shapes and oversees RTC's policy agenda, including federal and state legislation and rulemaking, grassroots movement building, program initiatives and research. With an expert knowledge of the political relationships and maneuvering that influences the outcomes of Capitol Hill, Kevin is a national leader in the effort to ensure trails, biking and walking remain key elements of America's transportation policy.
RTC is constantly pursuing new initiatives to increase investment in active transportation—biking and walking for everyday travel—and to make trail systems accessible to nearly all Americans by 2020. These initiatives are built at both the grassroots and the grasstops, and it is here that the coalition-building strengths of Kevin and the policy and program team are able to influence the direction of transportation agencies.
Prior to joining RTC in spring 2006, Kevin spent more than 15 years at Environmental Defense Fund, directing programs to reduce the climate and health impact of automobiles, reduce the use and waste of toxic chemicals, and promote sustainable transportation and communities.
He founded or played a key role in launching many innovative collaborative ventures, including the Clean Car Campaign, the Partnership for Mercury Free Vehicles, the Partnership for Regulatory Innovation and Sustainable Manufacturing, the Great Printers Project, the Great Lakes Pollution Prevention Alliance and the Clean Production Network.
Leeann Sinpatanasakul was born and raised in northern New Jersey—a home for shopping malls and sprawling suburbs more than bicycles and hiking trails. Despite this, Leeann has been an avid environmentalist and outdoor lover since her youth. She studied environmental science in college and recently received her Master of Public Administration from Columbia University, specializing in Environmental Science and Policy.
Before joining RTC, she completed a stint with AmeriCorps as a New Jersey Watershed Ambassador, getting her feet wet (sometimes literally) assessing river health and conducting environmental outreach at schools and in local communities.
A recent Washington, D.C., transplant, Leeann is excited to work on bicycle and pedestrian trail advocacy at RTC by supporting the policy team’s grassroots work and coordinating between state and federal affairs.
“I want to make a difference and see change,” she says. “Working at RTC gives me the opportunity to do that.”
Senior Strategist for Policy Advocacy
Marianne Fowler has been with the RTC since 1988, and her pivotal roles in the ISTEA, TEA-21 and SAFETEA-LU reauthorizations have established her reputation as a veritable legend of the rail-trail movement and one of the true game-changers in the history of American bike/ped policy.
In addition to her role at RTC, Marianne co-chairs the Coalition for Recreational Trails and is 2nd Vice Chair of American Trails.
Marianne co-authored Trails and Trailways for the 21st Century and collaborated with faculty at the Harvard School of Public Health in researching and writing Factors Associated with Federal Transportation Funding for Local Pedestrian and Bicycle Programming and Facilities.
In 2014, Marianne was recognized as RTC’s Trail Champion of the year.
Director of Government Relations
Patrick Wojahn is a long-time cyclist and advocate for the environment. He started cycling on the wooded trails of northeastern Wisconsin and then continued as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He discovered RTC while exploring these trails.
Patrick serves as a city councilmember in College Park, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he serves as College Park’s representative to the Transportation Planning Board, the regional metropolitan planning organization for the National Capital Region. Before coming to RTC, Patrick provided legal services for people with disabilities in the D.C. metro area and advocated in Congress for accessible transportation services for people with disabilities.
Patrick is an Eagle Scout who loves nature and enjoys long walks with his husband Dave. He occasionally makes the long commute in from College Park to the RTC offices, even when he has to wear a suit!
Tracy Hadden Loh, Ph.D.
Research Director and Director of the Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE)
Tracy Hadden Loh knows firsthand the challenges faced by people who use wheels or feet as their primary mode of transportation. On her very first day of work here at RTC, she was struck by a minivan while riding home. Fortunately, she made a complete recovery. But her experience pressed home the importance of encouraging development that safely accounts for non-motorized travelers and commuters.
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Tracy has long been interested in urban infrastructure and federal policy. Her background in computational math and urban studies gives her a unique set of skills as research manager for RTC, where she helps keep the organization’s studies and reports cutting edge in a complex transportation landscape. Her dual role is as director of the Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE), a vital resource cataloguing federal investment in pedestrian and bicycle facilities, as well as other key improvements to America's transportation system.
Tracy says what she finds most rewarding is collaborating with transportation planners, engineers and local project sponsors to realize meaningful community improvements. In both of her roles, those opportunities abound at RTC.
Florida Field Office
Ken Bryan is a native Floridian who enjoys the warm outdoor lifestyle the state’s trails, beaches, lakes and springs offer. He built his first trails in the woods near his home, but times have changed.
Where he once was sworn to secrecy regarding the location of the trails that he and his neighborhood friends built, he is now committed to advancing public trails for all to use.
Midwest Regional Office
Rhonda L. Romano
Rhonda Romano, M.Ed., joined RTC in 2001. The ad she stumbled upon for director of the Midwest Regional Office seemed too good to be true: the perfect marriage of her background in healthcare public relations, marketing and fundraising, and her love of all things trail. Several interviews later, she left a position with a Fortune 40 Columbus-based company and never looked back.
“One of the best perks of my job? My two sons think what I do for a living is very cool. They really get it,” says Rhonda. “As they have grown, so has the trail system in the Midwest. The whole family takes pride in that.”
Prior to joining RTC, Rhonda was the director of public relations and marketing for a hospital in northern Ohio, while also serving as an adjunct professor for Bowling Green State University and The University of Toledo. She returned to the Columbus, Ohio, area when she accepted a position as public relations liaison for Lucent Technology’s Bell Labs, a position she happily left behind to join RTC.
When not working, Rhonda and her family spend as much time as possible on Lake Erie’s Kelleys Island, hiking and hanging out on the beach. Closer to home, the family volunteers for various hunger initiatives.
Trail Development Manager
Eric Oberg gained his appreciation and love for the outdoors being born and raised in Alaska. His trail interest was piqued when he and his then girlfriend, now wife, trained long-distance sled dogs near Denali National Park for three years. Eric turned the love of trails into an exciting and rewarding career. He led trail-building crews in Denali for six years. This work included everything from survey work across trail-less wilderness to full-scale mechanized construction in the front country of the park.
With a young family in tow, he looked to broaden his career, and the opportunity to join RTC presented itself in 2007. In the years since, he has worked extensively throughout the Midwest and entire country with trail groups, decision makers and business leaders on trail projects of all shapes and sizes. He has particularly enjoyed working in some of the Midwest’s finest urban areas, a stark difference from the native village on Kodiak Island where he spent his childhood.
Eric enjoys time with his wife and two young children, as well as gardening and bluegrass music.
Northeast Regional Office
If Pennsylvania had its own Environmental Hall of Fame, Tom Sexton would surely be in it. His résumé of conservation and alternative-transportation initiatives reads like an awards introduction, and RTC is very pleased to have Tom heading up our Northeast Regional Office in Camp Hill, Pa.
Having studied the environment, planning and geography in college, Tom's early career included working as a recreation planner for the National Park Service, and as a naturalist in New York City. His passion for preservation soon led him toward the political arena, in which he served as a congressional staffer for the 1st District of Maryland. He then established the Pennsylvania office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and served as executive director.
Tom joined RTC in 1991, the same year he founded the Environmental Fund for Pennsylvania. In the early 90s, he was the lead advocate for Transportation Enhancements (TE) to be allocated to local projects, and he led the effort to protect unused rail bridges and tunnels, which resulted in an 18-month demolition moratorium by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.
Since then, Tom has been instrumental in leading RTC's policy, promotion and trail-assistance efforts across 10 states in the Northeast.
Tom is the author of several regional guidebooks, and he served as co-chair of the 1997 Pennsylvania Governor's Conference on Greenways and Trails. He was also co-chair of the 1999 International Trails and Greenways Conference in Pittsburgh.
Tom founded, and now directs, RTC's Greenway Sojourn, a trail-building program and multi-day bicycle tour that since 2002 has led more than 3,000 bicyclists on rail-trail excursions in the northeast part of the country.
Trail Development Manager
After nearly 30 years in marketing research in such diverse industries as advertising, financial services and computer games, Carl found his passion when he joined the York County Rail Trail Authority as a volunteer director in 1998.
Carl has served as chairman of that all-volunteer board since 2000, and he has conducted numerous trail user surveys and economic impact analyses—and presented those findings at national, state and local conferences.
In April 2006, he joined the staff of RTC's Northeast Regional Office in Pennsylvania as manager of trail development. His responsibilities include handling all the "we-have-a-former-rail-line-in-our-town-we-want-to-turn-into-a-trail" questions across eight states, from Pennsylvania to Maine.
Carl's fantastic work for RTC and rail-trail promotion in general has not gone unnoticed. In 2004, American Trails presented Carl with a State Trail Worker Award, and in 2007 he was honored by the Pennsylvania Planning Association with a Distinguished Leadership Award for a Citizen Planner.
In 2009, Carl was inducted into the Keystone Society for Tourism in recognition of his efforts to promote trails and tourism destinations.
Camden Region Manager
Akram Abed never drew himself as a cyclist and advocate for active transportation while he was younger, choosing to draw a lab coat and the moon instead.
Even while attending college in Providence, R.I., where he cycled most weekends on the East Bay Bike Path, Akram had still not understood the brilliance of rail-trails and related infrastructure. “It was just a place to ride and watch the landscape I came across, without ever having to worry about cars, making a wrong turn or getting lost,” he says about those early experiences.
After joining RTC in 2012, Akram has funneled his enthusiasm for cycling to focus on two tasks: advocating for the building of more trails and increasing the use of trails in urban environments. Through the expansion of CYCLE and the launch of WEB, Akram has helped to bring youth, educators and non-cycling groups to their trails.
All this work is quite selfish, however, as one of Akram’s other passions is bike touring and reading travel accounts. His hopes are that the best tour account he will read will have been written by someone that experienced their first ride on a rail-trail.
Western Regional Office
“I’ve always been interested in politics and the environment,” Laura Cohen recalls. “In fact, I ran for office in high school and became our school’s first Commissioner of the Environment.” She followed these passions through her studies, completing a political science degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.
After several years as an entertainment attorney for MGM/UA (which, like public policy, is a highly collaborative environment with lots of passion and egos), she shifted her focus to public interest work, becoming deputy chief of staff to a California State Senator. Laura joined RTC as California policy director, drawing on her legislative experience, and established RTC as a prominent player in statewide transportation and recreation policy.
Since being promoted to Western Regional Director, with responsibility for RTC’s program work in six western states, Laura has been instrumental in increasing funding for bicycling, walking and trails by more than $200 million over the past decade. She played a key role in shaping the legislation that created California’s new Active Transportation Program and in preserving the state’s Recreational Trails Program. Laura is also a frequent speaker on active transportation policy and funding issues and has co-authored numerous RTC reports, including the 2009 California Rails-with-Trails Survey.
In her spare time, Laura and her family enjoy hiking in the San Francisco Bay Area, whitewater rafting and adventure traveling. Past excursions include safaris in Africa and leading volunteer teams for Habitat for Humanity International in Romania, New Zealand and Botswana, to name a few.
Trail Development Manager
Growing up, the vacations of choice in Barry Bergman’s family always seemed to revolve around travel, camping and hiking, so it’s hardly a surprise he ended up working at RTC. But Barry has a special place in his heart for rail-trails.
“While in graduate school in western Massachusetts, biking was a great way to get to class, except for the harrowing roadway crossing over the Connecticut River,” he says. “Once the abandoned railroad bridge was rehabbed for the Norwottuck Rail Trail, it was something I appreciated every day.”
Prior to joining RTC, Barry spent 17 years as a public sector transportation planner, focusing on helping to create more balanced, less auto-centric transportation systems. His work included leading the Baltimore region’s first-ever bicycle, pedestrian and greenways plan as well as some more on-the-ground experience in Alameda, Calif., where he updated the city’s bike plan and partnered closely with the local transit provider.
As manager of trail development in RTC’s Western Regional Office, he has tried to visit as many trails across the region as possible, and on weekends, Barry can often be found taking in the natural wonders of the San Francisco Bay Area hiking trails.
He adds, “What can I say? I guess my name means ‘mountain man’ for a reason.”
Content Strategy Manager and Editor-in-Chief, Rails to Trails
Amy’s love for the outdoors stems from her childhood in western Pennsylvania, where it was not uncommon to see her and her brothers building tree-branch forts and hiking in the 24 acres of woods that made up her parents’ backyard.
She initially set her sights on the performing arts for a career, but realized in her early 20s that she and the industry were better off as friends. Eventually, she found her way to a small technology nonprofit in Pittsburgh, where she helped create and promote an online green map for southwest Pennsylvania. She has also served as a communications strategist for various outdoor and education-based nonprofits, as well as a regular contributor to Parks & Recreation magazine. In 2014, she joined RTC as content strategy manager and editor of Rails to Trails.
Amy enjoys traveling, taking a dance class here or there—and eating great food and then running it off. She is a card-carrying member of the Philadelphia Union supporters’ club, Sons of Ben.
Senior Director of Development
Ben Carter is RTC’s senior director of development. Ben is responsible for the organization’s membership program and is involved in other fundraising and communications initiatives. He began with RTC in 2004 in the national office in Washington, D.C., and moved to Portsmouth, N.H., in 2009, where he now works remotely.
Ben is originally from Steamboat Springs, Colo., and is a graduate of the University of Vermont.
He loves spending time outdoors and is a soccer coach at a local high school. He is married and has two children.
Online Media Manager
Brian Gerhardstein found RTC by way of a sticker given to him as a 16 year-old. Nearly two decades later in fall 2013, he joined the staff as RTC’s online media manager.
Previously, Brian managed web communications for Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton, Ohio, where he also served on the board of Bike Miami Valley, championed a local active transportation volunteer group and regularly pedaled the 330-mile Miami Valley Bikeways trail system.
An avid cyclist and Washington, D.C., bike commuter, Brian also enjoys running the Rock Creek Park trails, kayaking local rivers and hiking in Virginia with his dodo bird.
Development Coordinator (Part Time)
Growing up in Kensington, Md., Debbie remembers when the now well-known bike path was first built along Rock Creek. She fondly recalls the excitement of her community and her many hours spent exploring the park. She feels lucky to be able to raise her two children in the same neighborhood and see them enjoy the path and all it has to offer.
Debbie recently joined RTC as part-time development coordinator. She has spent the last 10 years raising her family and working as a substitute teacher, volunteer and Girl Scout leader. Other professional experiences include working as a human resources manager and second grade teacher. She is happy to have the opportunity to contribute to the promotion of trail building, advocacy and trail use.
Out of the office, Debbie and her family enjoy taking long walks in Rock Creek Park and along the C&O Canal with their two beagles.
Marketing and Media Relations Specialist
With his worldly possessions in the back of an old Subaru, Jake Lynch drove from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to join RTC in the spring of 2011.
A newspaper editor by trade, Jake had spent a decade living in and writing about small towns and young cities across his native Australia and, later, in western Washington.
Though the bushland, rivers, bays and national parks were always an important part of his life growing up, it wasn't until Jake moved to Seattle in 2009 that he began to appreciate the vital work being done by land-conservation and sustainable-planning nonprofits in America. It was work he felt immediately drawn to, and during the past few years, volunteering as a communications consultant for nonprofits began to take over the newspaper work.
Jake first heard about RTC while working with trails and land conservation organizations in western Washington, and was immediately interested in the breadth of its work and its relevance to a wide range of people.
“It’s a massive moment to be involved with advocating for better biking and walking infrastructure,” he says. “There is so much at stake—our health, our environment and the very livability of America. I’m excited to be helping give voice to the booming demand for trails, and to feel that we can really make a difference.”
Active transportation has always been part of Katie Harris’s life—although not always part of her vernacular. Growing up in Jackson, Wyo., her childhood was filled with self-propelled adventures, and a love and appreciation for the outdoors.
Katie’s passion for transportation issues was fostered early on during her time as Pathways Ambassador in her hometown. It was her first introduction to the multitude of partnerships that are integral to a successful trail system. Katie was motivated to work with local government officials, public works departments, nonprofit groups and citizens to maintain trail infrastructure, and advocate for smart design and planning that encourages biking and walking.
Katie recently graduated from Humboldt State University with a degree in Environmental Science and jumped on her bike moments after she changed out of her cap and gown. She is an experienced bike tourist, a mid-level whitewater kayaker and a novice fly-fisherwoman, although she attacks all three with equal passion.
Major Gifts Officer
A defining moment for RTC's Katie McKinney: being assigned to ride the bus for a journalism class project while studying at the University of South Carolina (USC).
It was a mode of transportation, she says, that was "so foreign to me, I might as well have been told to jump in a clown car and head for the circus."
A native of Columbia, S.C., a town dependent on driving, the experience was an eye-opening one.
Since moving to Washington, D.C., back in 2008, she has grown a great appreciation not only for public transportation, but for the impact that a trail and bike system can have on a community and the health of its inhabitants.
Since graduating from USC, Katie is proud to say that now, "even little old Columbia has jumped on the rail-trail bandwagon." In July 2012, the city opened its Vista Greenway, a converted railbed that connects several parts of downtown for walkers and bicyclists.
An avid Gamecock fan and runner, Katie got her feet wet and D.C.-ready as a press secretary on Capitol Hill. She comes to RTC from a consulting firm where she fundraised for a variety of organizations ranging from a land conservation trust to a sailing hall of fame.
"It’s exciting that I can help communities like Columbia have the opportunity to ditch those car keys and hit the trail!"
TrailLink.com Coordinator and Contributing Writer
Laura Stark is what you would call an RTC all-rounder. Much of her time at RTC is spent keeping the growing TrailLink.com database up-to-date and fresh with the newest trail openings, extensions and projects on the horizon, and helping new users.
The other role she fills here is rail-trail reporter, writing stories for Rails to Trails Magazine and Railstotrails.org, highlighting the wonderful rail-trails, and the people working hard in support of them, across America.
It's a little different from her last gig as a communications specialist for the American Society of Hematology, a professional association of blood specialists. But the native Minnesotan had a chance to switch careers after a lovely interruption of motherhood and finds trail writing and research a welcome change of pace.
"Even when it's cloudy and gloomy outside, I have the opportunity to get away mentally by writing about trails along the California coast, in the rugged foothills of Denver and in sunny Florida," says the wonderfully effervescent Laura. "How cool is that?"
Laura enjoys biking around her Alexandria neighborhood and is looking forward to sharing her love of two-wheeled transportation with her new daughter. (A side note: Laura's seemingly endless energy for baking delicious cakes and pies has endeared her enormously to all her co-workers. The chocolate cheesecake is something else. Seriously.)
Vice President of Development and Communications
As a city dweller her whole life, Mary O’Connor has always valued living in communities that are not dependent on cars. Living in Kensington, Md., she is lucky to have a trail at the end of her block. Not everyone is fortunate enough to take a trail to the train and arrive at the office without getting in a car!
Mary brings almost two decades of conservation fundraising and marketing experience to RTC. She loves the opportunity to apply her skills to promoting trail building, advocacy and trail use.
In her spare time, Mary and her husband troll estate sales in search of midcentury modern furniture and decorative arts.
Michael Jones II
Customer Service Coordinator
Michael Jones came to RTC in 2014 with five years of customer service experience and a passion for trails.
Having worked previously for Capital One in Richmond, Va., Michael was able to spent a lot of his free time there on the Northbank Trail; it was there that he discovered his appreciation for trails and the outdoors, realizing the personal impact that they can have on individual health and wellbeing.
Michael enjoys keeping busy and productive—and he proved that in 2012 when he joined the Air National Guard. Since then, Michael has focused on healthy eating and frequenting the local gym. He particularly likes visiting trails close to the water.
Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in communication from North Carolina A&T State University.
Membership Operations Manager
From his days a child growing up on a horse farm in Northern Virginia, Milo Bateman remembers his mother telling him that if he ever wanted to go somewhere, he could always bike there—so that’s what he did.
Now, as an adult, Milo has been able to claim “carless” status for three years and bikes every season of the year.
As RTC’s membership operations manager, Milo is in charge of member relations and creating the organization’s “awesome gear,” among other things. He has been with the RTC for seven years—since he was 22. “I guess you could say I grew up a little with RTC,” Milo says.
Milo has made it a yearly goal to complete at least one century ride and enjoys longboarding when the weather permits. But his true passion is with trees and air quality; as a skilled bonsai enthusiast, Milo keeps and maintains more than 100 different plants, including tillandsia (air plants).
He also loves to travel. “If I could be in a specific place at any given moment, it would be the Caribbean,” states Milo.
Orhan Belding first dreamed of cross-country trail networks as a kid in New Jersey, so there was no looking back when opportunity knocked with RTC. After eight years of bicycle-based life in Boston and New York City, he knows that all it takes to encourage more walkers and riders is access to safe trails and pathways. “From Cambridge I could ride the Minuteman Bikeway out toward Walden Pond for a summer swim. I’m inspired by how this simple path connects people to resources. It’s hugely popular.”
“I love finding balance,” says Orhan. Whether on a unicycle or bicycle, trekking through mountains or snowboarding, he feels the challenge of keeping balance can build awareness of how to mindfully thrive as a person and a community. He continues, “Walking and bicycling create positive, peaceful respite from the frenetic pace of modern life. Getting around becomes a pleasure in itself.”
Orhan comes to RTC after six years supporting major-gift fundraising as assistant director of prospect management at Tufts University, where he also studied nonprofit management and urban planning as a graduate student. He is excited to combine his work in philanthropy with his passion for exploring trails and healthy living.
He is an active volunteer working on trail maintenance, social service and youth enrichment programs, avid traveler and aspiring camp chef.
Online Campaigns Manager
Ryan Cree manages electronic communication with RTC’s vast collection of 160,000 members and supporters. Ryan is an invaluable member of the communications team, helping to engage trail fans across the U.S. and ensuring that RTC staff get the right messages out to the right audiences.
He came to RTC in 2012 after working with several conservation-focused nonprofits.