Ryan Chao became president of RTC in January 2019, overseeing the organization’s national leadership in trail development, policy advocacy and movement building. He brings to his role a long history in community and economic development and a passion for connecting people to opportunity and the outdoors.
Ryan came to RTC after serving as vice president of civic sites and community change at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, where he led significant neighborhood-transformation initiatives across the country, linking economic, educational and housing programs to strengthen families and communities. He also served as executive director of the San Francisco Bay Area-based Satellite Housing, where he led the development of affordable housing communities throughout Northern California and created innovative partnership models combining housing with comprehensive supportive services.
Ryan earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and a Master of Business Administration from the New York University Stern School of Business.
When he’s not leading the team at RTC, Ryan enjoys skiing and cycling on the trails with his wife and daughters.
In alphabetical order BY Last name by department
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.
Vice President of Communications
Brandi Horton serves as RTC’s vice president of communications. She has dedicated her career to communications for social change and is passionate about creating communities that promote health and well-being. For more than 14 years, she has partnered with nonprofit organizations and government agencies to leverage communications strategies to organize and engage audiences in support of social good. She brings diverse, comprehensive public relations and integrated marketing experience to the RTC team, with a skill set spanning earned, paid, owned and shared media strategies that advance nonprofit advocacy agendas.
She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her family, where she regularly frequents the Four Mile Run and W&OD trails en route to work, the playground and little league games.
Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief, Rails to Trails
Amy’s love for the outdoors stems from her childhood in western Pennsylvania, where she and her brothers often built tree-branch forts and hiked 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 went on to serve as a communications strategist for a number of outdoor and education-based nonprofits and as a writer for multiple publications, including Parks & Recreation magazine. In 2014, she joined RTC as content strategy manager, as well as editor-in-chief of Rails to Trails magazine and the TrailBlog.
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.
Digital Content & Web Manager, railstotrails.org
Anthony Le grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city that transformed itself from one of the most polluted in America to one of the greenest—and left a lasting impression. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Penn State (We are!), and his specialties include web development, user experience design, graphics, video production and project management, working for nonprofits and in public relations.
Anthony is passionate about using design to fight for the environment and get people outside. In his free time, he enjoys bikesharing around town (during the warmer months), making art and podcasting.
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Suzanne Matyas grew up playing and running barefoot through the trails, parks and playgrounds of Northern Virginia.
Although she eventually started wearing shoes, her love of being outdoors never lessened and was happily directed toward studying Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia. During college, she fell in love with working in communications for nonprofits—and despite some time spent at engineering firms—it's remained her passion.
In 2016, Suzanne joined RTC as the social media and marketing coordinator. When she's not tweeting and watching what's trending in trails, she's spending time with her dog, Lily, and enjoying life in Washington, D.C.
With a passion for writing, Laura’s contributions to RTC are found on the website’s TrailBlog and in each issue of Rails to Trails magazine.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, she fondly remembers riding her first rail-trail with her parents and big sister. The city’s Minnehaha Trail began only blocks from her house and ended with a view of a 53-foot waterfall! A graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, Laura enjoys exploring Colorado's vast system of trails with her husband and daughter.
Trailblazer Society Manager
It was access to the W&OD Trail in Virginia—which Jorge rode frequently while growing up—that led to his lifelong love of cycling and eventual career in active transportation advocacy. “That trail connected me to the towns along its path and was a place of fun and recreation for me from childhood till now,” says Jorge.
Prior career credits—before joining RTC in 2016—include managing community outreach for the launch of Philadelphia’s bike share system, Indego, and serving as a development and event-planning staffer for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
Jorge earned his bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia Commonwealth University and his master’s in Secondary Education from Temple University. He lives in Takoma Park, Maryland, with his wife Naomi.
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 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.
Head of Strategic Initiatives
A defining moment for RTC's Katie Guerin: 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, South Carolina, a town dependent on driving, the experience was an eye-opening one.
Since moving to Washington, D.C., in 2008, she has formed a great appreciation not only for public transportation, but for the impact that trails can have on their communities and the health of their inhabitants. Katie is proud to say that now, "even little old Columbia has jumped on the rail-trail bandwagon."
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!" exclaims Katie.
Customer Service Coordinator
Donald Minor came to RTC in 2015 after serving in multiple development and customer service positions at the Worldwatch Institute, an environmental think tank based in Washington, D.C. When searching for new job opportunities, Donald’s wife (then- fiancé) Jessica mentioned that she missed being able to walk her dog on the trail near their old apartment. The impact the trail had on their lives and the local community resonated. A few days later, he saw the RTC job opening and decided to apply!
All of Donald’s professional experiences come from nonprofits—a choice he’s intentionally made over the years in order to “do some good in the world.”
He and Jessica live in Downtown Silver Spring with their dogs, Mushu and Maddy.
Major Gifts Officer
Jimmy’s lifelong pursuits in hiking and biking—from walks with his mom, dad and sister along fire roads through Shenandoah National Park to bike rides down the C&O Canal Towpath with his grandfather—brought him naturally to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.
Aligning his personal interests in trails along with 20 years of experience in promoting conservation, recreation and health—he currently focuses on helping organizations and individuals demonstrate their commitment to RTC’s vision that trails are at the heart of healthy, thriving communities.
Prior to joining RTC, Jimmy served in program development and fundraising roles with American Forests, the National Recreation and Park Association, the National Recycling Coalition and the American Forest Foundation.
Jimmy lives in Sterling, Virginia, with his wife, three kids and a garage full of bikes and boots.
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.
Finance and Administration Department
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 (HR) manager.
In this dynamic nonprofit, he serves on the front-line for a variety of employment-related issues and gets to roll up his sleeves for other tasks, including helping to document many miles of trails as part of RTC's trail-mapping initiative and assisting with trail openings and events.
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. Before joining RTC, he worked in HR for the Smithsonian Institution and the Close Up Foundation in Alexandria, Virginia.
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."
Over the last several years, he has taken a strong interest in America’s national parks, having visited and hiked a wide variety, including Zion, Bryce Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, White Sands, Arches, Joshua Tree, the Rocky Mountains and, of course, the Shenandoah Mountains in Virginia, where he lives.
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.
Senior Staff Accountant
Irma Joseph joined the RTC team in 2005 as an administrative assistant and is now part of the finance team, helping to keep the books in top shape. Previously, she worked for the nonprofit, Identity, Inc., whose mission is to provide opportunities for Latino youth to believe in themselves and reach their highest potential.
A lover of all things artistic, Irma spent a few years in college studying Liberal Arts. She has lived in Maryland (which she calls home!) but originally hails from the Panama Canal Zone— and just so happens to speak Spanish fluently!
A proud mother of three wonderful young men, Irma enjoys reading, walking and the quiet sounds of an empty nest.
Senior Director of Technology Marketing & TrailLink.com
Frederick is originally from Den Haag, Holland and works at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) to implement digital marketing strategy and manage RTC's fast-expanding technology platform. In addition, Frederick plays an instrumental role in managing RTC's GIS initiatives and technology marketing partnerships like RTC's ground-breaking Google Biking Directions partnership.
Frederick also manages RTC's trail-finder website, TrailLink.com, TrailLink's iOS and Android applications, and implements data sharing partnerships, online marketing, SEO traffic and email list-building strategies in order to grow RTC's online audiences and drive engagement.
Derek Strout grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine, where his appreciation for the natural world and conservation developed early, in Acadia National Park. Years of searching for salamanders and biking carriage trails led him to the University of Vermont, where he earned a degree in Geography, specializing in remote sensing, GIS and cartography.
After living in Portland and working as a senior cartographer at DeLorme, Derek moved to Washington, D.C., and joined RTC in June 2016. He currently manages the organization's GIS infrastructure and maintains an ever-growing database of multi-use trails around the country.
Derek and his fiancé live in D.C.'s Lanier Heights neighborhood and enjoy exploring and supporting Rock Creek Park.
Andrew N. Dupuy
Manager of Policy Outreach
Andrew N. Dupuy is RTC’s manager of policy outreach. Drew is responsible for state-based policy, including advocating for funding for active transportation and trails from state legislatures.
Drew’s professional background includes policy analysis for members of the Texas Legislature and managing press and communications for political campaigns and nonprofit advocacy organizations around the country.
A Southern California native by way of Austin, Texas, Drew graduated from Brown University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin (“Hook ‘em, Horns!”) and currently is taking graduate courses in Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech.
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 Rail-Trail Champion of the year.
Senior Vice President of Policy
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.”
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!
Before joining the RTC team in 2016 as a trail planner, Kevin Belanger spent many years in the active-transportation world—first for the Student Conservation Association, building trails in Arkansas (which instilled in Kevin a major appreciation for the impact trails can have on personal and community growth), and then as the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for a suburb in Maryland.
His educational background includes earning master’s degrees in both Environmental Studies and Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon, where he wrote his thesis on walking and biking habits in suburban multifamily housing.
In addition to running—too much—his personal hobbies include being in musicals and playing pub trivia!
Director of Research
Torsha’s love for active living developed during her childhood—when she would regularly climb trees and walk long distances to the surprise and chagrin of her family! After moving to Hawaii, she found much enjoyment exploring the state’s many trails (her favorite being the WiliwiliNui Ridge Trail).
Torsha joined the RTC team in 2017 as the director of research after serving for four years as an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa’s School of Travel and Industry Management. Other professional credits include transportation/transportation demand management (TDM) work at North Carolina State University and architecture work in India. She earned her master’s degree and Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from Florida State University.
In her spare time, she loves to teach Indian dance, hike and, of course, explore trails in Alexandria, Virginia, where she lives with her daughter Eshana.
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. He 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 Planner Coordinator
Leah grew up in the Rust Belt, balancing her time between swimming in Lake Michigan and exploring the small city of South Bend, Indiana.
Her love for both urban environments and the natural environment led her to want to integrate the two—to bring nature into cities. She studied Psychology and Science, Technology & Society (STS) at Butler University and went on to earn a master’s in Urban Planning at the University of Michigan.
In 2017, Leah joined RTC as the trail planner coordinator. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, hiking and climbing in the outdoors, and having picnics on the National Mall.
Trail Development Resources Manager
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 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.
Community Outreach Coordinator
Avery Harmon is a Connecticut native that relocated to Baltimore at the age of 17 to attend Loyola University. There, he began to explore Baltimore’s grassroots activism scene, which introduced him to the significance of community-centric public policy and economic development models.
Prior to joining the RTC team in 2017 as the community outreach coordinator for the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network, Avery worked closely with Baltimore residents as a Teaching Fellow at Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys and then as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Community Engagement Center. Through these experiences, Avery became fascinated with the intimate relationship between the built environment and quality of life outcomes for predominantly African-American communities.
In his spare time, Avery enjoys riding his bike, learning about Baltimore and reading.
Trail Development and TrailLink Coordinator
Yvonne joined the RTC team in 2016 after earning her master’s degree in Urban Planning from Harvard University. As RTC’s trail development and TrailLink coordinator, her primary duties include managing the Early Warning System for upcoming railroad abandonments and providing technical assistance to individuals or groups looking to develop new trails. She also helps to build RTC’s ever-expanding database of trails around the country, available via RTC’s trail-finder website, TrailLink.com.
With a passion for creating healthy, equitable and livable communities—Yvonne says she’ll “happily choose walking over driving any day—as long as the weather allows!”
In her spare time, she loves to relax with a good book and is “still trying to get tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway.” Yvonne lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.
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.
Senior Director of Trail Development
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.
Phil Shutler joined the RTC Trail Development team in 2017 as a GIS analyst. In this role, he manages geospatial data and analytics for the BikeAble™ connectivity analysis program, and creates mapping products for RTC’s TrailNation™ portfolio.
Before joining RTC, Phil worked as a contract utility forester in Washington D.C., gathering spatial data for utility corridors and mapping out work plans for tree crews. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Science with an emphasis in GIS (with capstone work on urban parks and rails-with-trails) from the University of Kentucky, and a graduate certificate in GIS from George Washington University.
When he isn’t mapping, Phil’s interests include being outdoors—hiking and backpacking trails around the country.
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
Brian K. Housh
Brian K. Housh is an avid cyclist and a council member in the Village of Yellow Springs, 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.
Brian 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. Prior to joining RTC, he spent 12 years in Thailand managing his corporate communications training consultancy and leading the charitable efforts of the American Chamber of Commerce.
A graduate of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and a JD/MBA (Environmental Law/Finance and Entrepreneurship), he brings a community development perspective to RTC’s policy team.
Route of the Badger, Project Manager
Willie’s extensive nonprofit career includes 16 years as executive director of the Denali Education Center in Denali National Park, and two years as chief operating officer of the Iditarod Trail Committee—which organizes the famous 1,000-mile sled dog race across Alaska.
His love for Wisconsin brought him back to his childhood home and created the opportunity to work with RTC in 2017 as manager of the 500-mile-plus Route of the Badger trail network project. "Helping to build a legacy for the future of Wisconsin was an opportunity that I could not pass up,” says Willie. “The Route of the Badger will live on long after all of us, and it is a true privilege to work on a project that will eventually impact millions of people.”
Willie loves to spend his time traveling with his wife Christine.
Director of Trail Development
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
Project Manager, Trail Development
Anya Saretzky joined RTC in 2015 as a project manager for the Greater Philadelphia area, focusing on the Circuit regional trail network. Before coming to RTC, she worked with a variety of nonprofits whose missions reflect her passion for promoting sustainable communities, including the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Isles Inc., Power Up Gambia and NJPIRG’s Energy Service Corps. She also serves on the board of Urbanstead, an organization that trains underserved youth to become urban agriculture professionals.
She holds a Masters in Environmental Studies and a Certificate in Nonprofit Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as bachelor’s degree in sociology from the College of New Jersey.
Her favorite trail is Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River Trail.
Trail Development Manager
Liz Sewell is the trail development manager for the RTC’s Northeast Regional Offices. Managing trail projects through all stages of development, Liz enjoys working directly with communities surrounding trails through surveys, healthcare partnerships, participation in community events and technical trail assistance.
Raised in Michigan, Liz has enjoyed running and cycling along rail-trails from a young age. After graduating from the University of Michigan, she worked in the marketing department of a consulting firm in Chicago and programmed volunteer events for employees in her spare time. Thrilled with the difference she was making through her volunteer work, Liz joined the Peace Corps and never looked back! Her work with health clinics (and teaching aerobics!) in Thailand taught Liz about the relationship between the built environment and public health.
Enthused after two years of field work in Thailand, Liz attended the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University with a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, where she researched the health impact of transportation proposals at the Voorhees Transportation Center. Catch her on the Ben Franklin Bridge during her commute to RTC’s office in Camden, New Jersey.
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 directed RTC's annual Rail-Trail Sojourn series, a trail-building program that, since 2002, has led thousands of bicyclists on rides throughout the eastern U.S.
Texas Field Office
Eva Lizette Garcia
Project Manager, Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Plan
Eva joined RTC in 2019 to serve as the on-the-ground project manager for the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Plan, which leverages active tourism and active transportation strategies to improve the health of the region while advancing regional economic development. Prior to RTC, Eva served as a planner for the City of Brownsville, working mainly on bicycle and pedestrian facilities, park improvements, and related programs.
As a lifelong resident of the Valley, Eva is passionate about improving the quality of life in her predominately Latin and low-income community, which is challenged by high rates of obesity and diabetes. An avid volunteer, Eva also founded an earn-a-bike program called the Brownsville Bike Barn and serves with environmental and cultural organizations.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Texas at Brownsville.
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, Western Region
Ben Kaufman’s passion for active transportation emerged with the purchase of his first pair of Rollerblades in the late 1980s, and he has been walking, jogging, skating and pedaling ever since. Prior to joining RTC in 2018, Ben worked as a transportation planner at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and helped to co-found the San Francisco Transit Riders, a local transportation advocacy organization.
Ben specializes in community engagement, and has worked with diverse populations across the region to organize and implement a collective vision for safe, sustainable and equitable transportation options in their communities. He brings strong skills in graphic design, mapping, community outreach, marketing and communications, and quantitative and qualitative analysis to his work.
In his free time, Ben can be found backpacking, bike camping, gardening and exploring the whimsical streets of Oakland, California.