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RTC’s Staff

2023 RTC staff photo | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Our achievements are made possible by a group of nationally renowned leaders in their fields, experienced professionals and passionate visionaries committed to a more connected America. Staff are listed in alphabetical order by last name by department.


Ryan Chao | Photo by Anthony Le

Ryan Chao


Alisa Borland | Photo by Anthony Le

Alisa Borland

Vice President of Development

Cindy Dickerson | Photo courtesy Cindy Dickerson

Cindy Dickerson

Chief Operating Officer

Brandi Horton | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Brandi Horton

Vice President of Communications

Kevin Mills | Photo by Anthony Le

Kevin Mills

Vice President of Policy

Elizabeth Thorstensen | Photo by Anthony Le

Elizabeth Thorstensen

Vice President of Trail Development

RTC board members at Celebrate Trails Day event in Exton, PA | Photo by Mark Yanigasawa

RTC’s board members are leaders and visionaries in their various fields who help guide RTC.

Photo by Mark Yanigasawa

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Ryan Chao | Photo by Anthony Le

Ryan Chao


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.


Brandi Horton | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Brandi Horton

Vice President of Communications

Brandi Horton serves as Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’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. She partners with nonprofit organizations and government agencies to engage audiences in support of ambitious goals around community development, equity and inclusion, and quality of life. She is a communications strategist with comprehensive public relations and integrated marketing experience that she leverages to advance nonprofit advocacy agendas. Brandi lives in Arlington, Virginia with her family, where she regularly frequents the Four Mile Run and Washington & Old Dominion trails en route to work, the playground and little league games.

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Amy Kapp | Photo courtesy Amy Kapp

Amy Kapp

Editorial Director and Editor-in-Chief, Rails to Trails

Amy Kapp focuses on telling the story of America’s trails and their impact as the editorial director of RTC and editor-in-chief of Rails to Trails magazine and the TrailBlog.

Here love for the outdoors stems from her childhood in Pennsylvania, where she and her brothers built tree-branch forts in the 24 acres of woods that made up their parents’ backyard. Over the past two decades, she has served as a writer, editor, communications strategist, and print and digital content creator for various nonprofits, including the National Recreation and Park Association and YouthBuild. Past publications include Parks & Recreation and American City & County magazines.

Kapp currently serves as vice president and Conference Committee chair for the Outdoor Writers Association of America. She holds a bachelor’s in economics/theater from Baldwin-Wallace University, a master’s in economic and social dev./env. management from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master’s in communication from American University. 

Amy enjoys the performing arts, traveling—and eating great food and then trying to run it off. She is a card-carrying member of the Sons of Ben.

Joe LaCroix | Photo by Anthony Le

Joe LaCroix

Senior Graphic Designer/Brand Manager

Joe LaCroix is a graphic designer with an interest in political activism, the outdoors and all things 90s grunge music.

Prior to joining the RTC team in 2015, he served as the creative coordinator for The Clarice Smith Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Maryland in College Park, and as the communications and marketing coordinator at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing arts, where his love of the National Park System and his obsession with live music collided brilliantly.

A Northern Virginia native, Joe graduated with a BA in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University. He lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife and their mischievous cat, Darla.

Anthony Le | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Anthony Le

Digital Content and Web Manager

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 and has a nonprofit and public relations background. 

Anthony joined RTC in 2017. He manages and and leads video production and analytics.

Anthony is passionate about using design to fight for the environment and get people outside. In his free time, he enjoys biking and painting.

Suzanne Matyas | Photo courtesy Suzanne Matyas

Suzanne Matyas

Social Media and Engagement Strategist

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.

Laura Stark | Photo courtesy Laura Stark

Laura Stark

Senior Editor

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.

Eduardo de Jesus Coyotzi Zarate | Photo courtesy Eduardo de Jesus Coyotzi Zarate

Eduardo Coyotzi Zarate

Communications Associate

Eduardo Coyotzi Zarate grew up in Oxnard, California, exploring the beaches and visiting Channel Islands National Park.

Eduardo graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. His career in communications began in 2019, and he has since worked with multiple environmental and arts organizations.

In 2022, he moved to Maryland. He enjoys walking near Rock Creek, visiting libraries and museums, and reading a book while enjoying ice cream.


Alisa Borland | Photo by Anthony Le

Alisa Borland

Vice President of Development

Alisa Borland serves as RTC’s Vice President of Development and has been using trails since before she could walk. As a baby, her mom strolled her along every day on trails in their neighborhood while walking her sister to kindergarten. In fact, they used the trails to go everywhere—to school, the library and the grocery store. It’s her love of the outdoors that led her to a career in raising funds for nature.   

In her role at RTC, Alisa is responsible for setting the strategic direction of RTC’s fundraising efforts, with a focus on connecting our passionate members and supporters to trail projects across the country. Prior to joining RTC in 2019, Alisa served in a variety of fundraising roles for several leading land and water conservation nonprofits, as well as a senior staffer for The Conservation Fund’s National Forum on Children and Nature, an effort to bring together public and corporate leadership around the effort to reconnect children with nature. 

When Alisa is not in her office, you’ll find her outside with her two kids.

Jorge Brito | Photo courtesy Jorge Brito

Jorge Brito

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 the Germantown section of Philadelphia with his partner Naomi and their two kids.

Danielle Casavant | Photo courtesy Danielle Casavant

Danielle Casavant

Senior Major Gifts Officer

Danielle Casavant joined RTC in July of 2019 as a senior major gifts officer. Danielle will focus her attention on fundraising for projects in the central United States, including the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Ohio), Route of the Badger (Wisconsin) and Caracara Trails (Texas), as well as working with individual donors throughout the region.

Prior to joining RTC, Danielle fundraised at The Conservation Fund, Michigan State University and The Nature Conservancy. Danielle works from her home in Lansing, Michigan.

Ryan Cree | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Ryan Cree

Director of Membership Marketing and Communications

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.

Peter Dean | Photo by Joe Lacroix

Peter Dean

Development Operations and Data Systems Manager

Peter Dean joined the RTC team in 2018 after earning his bachelor’s degree in economics and public policy from St. Mary’s College—where he played soccer and held internships at the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the American College of Cardiology. As the development data coordinator, Peter specializes in database management, development reporting and product fulfillment.

Having started out as a temp for RTC’s Development Department, Peter says it was this experience that made him really appreciate the effect that trails have on people and communities. He is passionate about RTC’s mission and hopes that, “like RTC,” he can “make a difference for future generations.”

Peter is a lifelong user of trails—specifically the Washington, Baltimore & Annapolis Trail (WB&A Trail) in Maryland, which is located near his home—and you’ll often find him on a local trail to walk his dog, go for a run, or just “clear his head and relax.”

Jimmy O’Connor | Photo courtesy Jimmy O’Connor

Jimmy O’Connor

Director of Strategic Giving

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.

Eric Rohr

Eric Rohr

As a child growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Eric enjoyed regularly exploring the woodland trails that connected his neighborhood with the city park. Nowadays, when he’s not engaging with the national trail community as RTC’s Customer Service Coordinator, you can find him walking near his home in Takoma Park on the Long Branch or Sligo Creek trails—his go-to spots for relaxing after work, connecting with nature, and accessing neighborhoods restaurants and his local grocery store. He also enjoys traveling, live music and small stained glass projects.

Lauren Swan

Lauren Swan

Online Campaign Associate

Growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, Lauren uncovered her passion for marketing during her high school years—a love that has propelled her professional journey over the past five years. Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Lauren recently joined RTC’s development team as online campaign associate. Eager to leverage the wealth of knowledge and best practices accumulated throughout her career, Lauren is committed to enhancing communication with supporters and partners. She aims to contribute to the growth of fundraising and advocacy initiatives through the email channel.

During her leisure hours, Lauren directs her creative energy toward crafting short stories, delving into the nuances of screenwriting and exploring new destinations. She finds joy in extended walks (accompanied by intense games of tug-of-war) with her dog, Ms. Bunny.

Kayla Walker | Photo by Anthony Le

Kayla Walker

Major Gifts Officer

Kayla Walker has over 10 years of experience fundraising for environmental nonprofits. Prior to joining RTC in 2019, she worked on land conservation, climate change, renewable energy and freshwater restoration. Except for her time spent at Hofstra University—where she received a bachelor’s degree in Print Journalism—Kayla has lived and worked in beautiful Portland, Oregon. She loves beautiful open spaces and sustainable urban centers and is happiest when both are home.

Kayla is passionate about helping donors achieve the change they wish to see in the world. When not working or volunteering as a CASA for a youth in foster care, she’s outside exploring or inside with her two cats. 

Deborah Zwick | Photo courtesy Deborah Zwick

Deborah Zwick

Development Manager

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.


Cindy Dickerson | Photo courtesy Cindy Dickerson

Cindy Dickerson

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.

Karima Abdul-Salaam | Photo by Anthony Le

Karima Abdul-Salaam

Human Resources Director

With over 10 years of experience as a leader and business partner in human resources, Karima has used her background in the field and a combination of experience in various positions within the nonprofit and for-profit sectors to influence positive change. Karima puts her passion for people at the center of her work, helping organizations simplify complex processes. Her duties as HR director of RTC include developing a culture that encourages high performance, innovation, passion and engagement in order to cultivate teams that are capable of performing at their very best.

A native of Pennsylvania and a graduate of Harrisburg Area Community College, Karima fell in love with the outdoors when introduced to hiking, which she does regularly in the D.C. area. Other hobbies include reading, traveling and attending plant-based food festivals.

Leslie Bethke | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Leslie Bethke


Leslie Bethke grew up in the Washington, D.C., area and spent her childhood bicycling local trails such as the C&O Canal Towpath with her family and friends. Years later, she enjoys walking and biking along these same trails with her husband, and exploring new trails around the country.

Leslie has dedicated her career to working for nonprofits, with a focus on the environment, and says it was always her goal to work for RTC. Prior to joining the team as the controller in 2017, she served as the finance manager at EarthShare.

In addition to her studies in finance, Leslie holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s degree in social work. When not in the office, Leslie enjoys traveling overseas with her husband and exploring America’s national parks. 

Maddie Krentz 2024

Maddie Krentz

TrailLink Content Coordinator

It was the Perkiomen Trail, a.k.a the Perky,that first formed Maddie’s love for the outdoors. She spent most of her childhood outside, exploring the Pennsylvania woods and camping or hiking with her family.

She graduated from American University (AU) in 2023 with a B.A. in International Studies. During her time at AU, she interned for the Office of Sustainability and minored in Spanish.

Maddie came to RTC in February 2023 as an intern and joined the team full time as the TrailLink Content Coordinator after graduation. When she is not hard at work on TrailLink, she can often be found exploring Washington, D.C.’s public pools or enjoying the outdoors in and around the city.

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Jake Laughlin

Staff Accountant

Frederick Schaedtler | Photo courtesy Frederick Schaedtler

Frederick Schaedtler

Chief Technology Officer

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’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.

Eileen Symons | Photo courtesy Eileen Symons

Eileen Symons

TrailLink Content Manager

As a D.C. native, Eileen Symons grew up hiking and biking through Rock Creek Park.

Eileen studied Art History, Fine Art and French as an undergraduate and holds a master’s degree in Art History and Museum Studies. Guided by her love of the outdoors, she first joined RTC as an intern before becoming a permanent part of the team in 2022.

Eileen is responsible for developing, implementing and managing TrailLink content strategies to increase engagement and promote trail use. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cooking and exploring new trails.

Derek Strout | Photo courtesy Derek Strout

Derek Strout

GIS Specialist

Derek Strout grew up in Bar Harbor, Maine, where his appreciation for the natural world and conservation developed early. Countless hours of searching for salamanders and exploring the carriage trails of Acadia National Park eventually led him to the University of Vermont, where he earned a degree in geography, specializing in remote sensing, cartography and geographic information stems (GIS).

Prior to joining RTC, Derek served in GIS analyst and senior cartographer roles at DeLorme. After seeing first-hand how rail-trails like Portland’s Bayside Trail can connect and revitalize neighborhoods, Derek joined the RTC team in 2016. Passionate about telling stories with maps to inform active transportation policy and build projects in communities around the country, he currently manages the organization’s GIS infrastructure and maintains a growing database of multiuse trails for RTC’s trail-finder website


Andrea Ferster | Photo courtesy Andrea Ferster

Andrea Ferster

General Counsel

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.


Kevin Mills | Photo by Anthony Le

Kevin Mills

Vice President of Policy

Since 2006, Kevin Mills has shaped and overseen RTC’s policy agenda, including federal and state legislation and administration, grassroots movement building, program initiatives and research. With an expert knowledge of the political relationships and policy solutions that shape outcomes in Washington, D.C., and state capitals, Kevin is a national leader in the effort to ensure trails, walking and biking are elevated as essential to America’s mobility, public health, environmental and economic development goals.

RTC is in the forefront of efforts to increase investment in active transportation, and to focus resources on connecting trails, sidewalks and bike paths into networks that make walking and biking safe and convenient for everyday travel. Kevin has built a broad and potent movement to achieve these ends as head of the Campaign for Active Transportation, founder of the Partnership for Active Transportation and a leader within America Walks.

Kevin previously spent more than 15 years at the Environmental Defense Fund, directing programs to reduce the climate and health impact of automobiles and to promote sustainable transportation, manufacturing 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 and the Pollution Prevention Alliance.

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Kim Chesser | Photo courtesy Kim Chesser

Kim Chesser

State Agency Advocacy Specialist

Kim has more than 28 years of service with the State of Delaware. Her professional career includes a vast array of experience with policy, legislation, program development, and the management of federal transportation funds and oversight. She is excited to bring her experience and passion to her position at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Most recently, Kim served as the director of the Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS), where she was responsible for planning, organizing and directing operations and programs in accordance with federal and state rules, regulations and guidelines. During her time at the OHS, she also served as the deputy director and as a management analyst. She is a former recent council member of the Dover/Kent Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Prior to joining the Delaware OHS, Kim spent 16 years with the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, specializing in compliance, permitting and public outreach. She also participated in many committees and taskforces, and served as the department’s registrar of regulations, managing the regulatory development process.

Kim lives with her family in Dover, Delaware, where they spend their free time enjoying the outdoors—including walking, biking, boating and volunteering with the Friends of Auburn Heights within the Auburn Valley State Park.

Andrew Dupuy | Photo by Joe LaCroix

Andrew N. Dupuy

Director of State-Level Policy

Andrew N. Dupuy is RTC’s Director of State-Level Policy. 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 Los Angeles-area native by way of Austin, Drew graduated from Brown University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and has a graduate certificate from Virginia Tech’s Urban Affairs and Planning program. He lives in Mexico City and Baltimore.

Marianne Fowler | Photo courtesy Marianne Fowler

Marianne Fowler

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.

Isabelle Lord | Photo by Joe Lacroix

Isabelle Lord

Advocacy Coordinator

Isabelle Lord grew up in Columbia, South Carolina, the city known for being “famously hot.” To stay cool, she frequents the South Carolina coastline, specifically the beautiful, historic Charleston. 

Isabelle recently graduated from Wake Forest University, where she studied psychology and environmental studies. During her time at Wake Forest, she interned with a local food-justice nonprofit as well as American Rivers, where she served as the corporate relations intern. In her free time, she enjoys taking long walks, listening to podcasts and catching up with friends and family. As a member of the policy team, she serves as the advocacy coordinator, responsible for outreach, research and data analysis surrounding funding.

Joseph Reed | Photo courtesy Joseph Reed

Joseph Reed

Director of Government Relations

Joseph brings extensive experience in government relations, social science and data analysis to the RTC team. He previously served as the senior policy advocate at NCRC, focusing on issues like fair housing and credit access, and worked as a policy analyst at the NAACP’s Washington Bureau. Joseph also holds the position of vice chair at the Prince George’s County Human Rights Commission.

In addition to his professional achievements, he has been married for 15 years and has a passion for music, which he developed during his college years when he played the saxophone in the marching band. He is also an avid gamer, active cyclist and community activist, and a dedicated father of two. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Mass Media with an emphasis in Public Relations from Hampton University, a graduate certificate in Legal Studies from Georgetown University, and a master’s degree in Govt. Relations with an emphasis on Political Comms./Govt. Analytics from Johns Hopkins University.

Elle Segal | Photo by Anthony Le

Elle Segal

Advocacy Outreach Director

Elle Segal comes to Rails-to-Trails after working for more than eight years in community outreach, relationship management and advocacy. Previous employers for Elle include J Street, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Bay Area (JCRC) and the University of California. At J Street and the JCRC, Elle managed and developed relationships with nonprofits, donors and candidates, as well as federal, state and local elected officials. At the University of California, Elle oversaw and executed the inaugural UC National Public Service Law Conference, which took place at UCLA and focused on modern civil rights challenges.

Elle’s love of hiking grew immensely during her nearly 10 years living and working in the Bay Area, where she frequented trails from across the region for recreational use as well as transportation. She and her fiancé also love traveling to National Parks to hike and have been to nearly 20 parks. When she isn’t working, Elle can be found discovering new restaurants, watching movies, volunteering or traveling. She earned her Bachelor of the Arts from UC Davis and her Master of Public Affairs from the University of San Francisco. She lives in Washington, D.C.


Elizabeth Thorstensen | Photo by Anthony Le

Elizabeth Thorstensen

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.

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Kevin Belle | Photo by Anthony Le

Kevin Belle

Project Manager, Great American Rail-Trail

Before joining the RTC team in 2016 as a trail planner, Kevin Belle spent many years in the active-transportation world. He received 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. After completing his formal education, Kevin spent time in the consulting world and then as the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for a suburb in Maryland.

Lately, Kevin is focused on his work with the Great American Rail-Trail, a signature project of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy to connect the country via a 3,700-mile-long multiuse trail between Washington, D.C., and Washington state. His favorite part of the job is seeing the lightbulb go off in people’s heads when they see what this trail can do for them and their communities.

In his spare time, Kevin loves to perform in a variety of ways and do home improvement projects on his home in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he lives with his partner Darren.

Kate Foster | Photo courtesy Kate Foster

Kate Foster

Mid-Atlantic Director of Trail Development

As Mid-Atlantic director for trail development, Kate’s focus is on advancing TrailNation projects in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Kate is an ordained Presbyterian minister. Prior to joining RTC, she founded and ran a mission and service-learning program that offers community engagement training for church leaders and places volunteers from all over the country with Baltimore-based community groups. She is particularly interested in equitable development and ensuring that historically excluded voices are centered in the process of designing and developing public spaces.

A native of North Carolina, Kate grew up riding bikes around her neighborhood and hiking and playing in the woods behind her house. Now a resident of Baltimore, Kate still enjoys being active, and in her spare time, you’ll probably find her on a trail somewhere!

Mary Ellen Koontz | Photo courtesy Mary Ellen Koontz

Mary Ellen Koontz

TrailNation Collaborative Lead

Mary Ellen Koontz grew up riding the Heritage Rail Trail in her hometown of York, Pennsylvania, a city that sparked her passion for creating healthy, sustainable communities with easy access to the outdoors.

Prior to joining RTC, Mary Ellen worked to help create community as a professional staff member at Georgetown University and as an AmeriCorps volunteer. She has a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from Georgetown University and studied Political Science at Loyola University Maryland, and happily applies her knowledge and expertise in these areas to her work on RTC’s Policy and Trail Development teams.

When she’s not biking, cheering on the Orioles or exploring D.C.’s many farmers markets, Mary Ellen is slowly but surely section hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Yvonne Mwangi | Photo courtesy Yvonne Mwangi

Yvonne Mwangi

Trail Resources and Planning Manager

Yvonne joined the RTC team in 2016 after earning her master’s degree in Urban Planning from Harvard University. 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,

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. Yvonne lives in Washington, DC.


Quinton Batts | Photo courtesy Quinton Batts

Quinton Batts

Project Manager, Baltimore Greenway Trails Network

Quinton Batts is a Virginia native who moved to Baltimore in 2018 to pursue a master’s from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Social Design. He also has a bachelor’s degree in Small Business Management from Virginia Commonwealth University. 

Quinton has a transportation background, having worked closely with the Baltimore Department of Transportation to create Baltimore City’s Art in the Right of Way Toolkit under the “Made You Look” Initiative. The project got him motivated to be outside and more interested in trail riding and biking. 

Over the years he has built a natural love for outdoors and nature from being a passionate urban gardener and being around such an active biking community in Baltimore.


Ken Bryan | Photo courtesy Ken Bryan

Ken Bryan

Senior Strategist for External Relations

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 including the Miami LOOP.


Erica Briggs

Erica Briggs

Midwest Policy Manager

Erica brings to RTC almost two decades of nonprofit management and public policy experience—primarily working to advance active transportation and thoughtful land use policy in Michigan. Before coming to RTC, she served as executive director of Scenic Michigan. She lives in Ann Arbor, where she serves on the Ann Arbor City Council.

Erica has strong Midwest roots. Like both her parents, Erica received her bachelor’s from Indiana University (Political Science). She holds an MPA from Eastern Michigan University and a Ph.D. in Political Science (Public Policy) from Michigan State University. Her dissertation focused on the funding allocations of metropolitan planning organizations.

In her spare time, Erica loves traveling, biking and spending time with family and friends—ideally outdoors.

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Melody Geraci

Technical Assistance Manager

Born and raised on nine acres of woods in Cincinnati, Ohio, Melody Geraci grew up enveloped by nature and loved swimming in her pond and camping in her backyard. She moved to her heart’s home of Chicago to attend college and dance, and ended up staying for over 30 years. Melody and her wife relocated back to Cincy in 2023.

Melody describes herself as a “career non-profiteer,” having worked in the not-for-profit sector for over 25 years in areas including affordable housing, disability rights and good government. She joined Chicagoland’s Active Transportation Alliance in 2005 and quickly became a professional evangelist for walking, bicycling and public transit. Melody came on board at RTC in 2024 and is excited to leverage her prior experience to advance RTC’s ambitious agenda. She holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Outside of work, Melody loves hanging out with her wife and their four (yes, four) adult children, fixing up her childhood home and nurturing a ridiculous number of houseplants.

Willie Karidis | Photo courtesy Willie Karidis

Willie Karidis

Project Manager, Route of the Badger

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.

Eric Oberg | Photo courtesy Eric Oberg

Eric Oberg

Midwest Regional Director

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.


Anya Saretzky | Photo courtesy Anya Saretzky

Anya Saretzky

Project Manager, Circuit Trails

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.

Tom Sexton | Photo by Anthony Le

Tom Sexton

Northeast Regional Director

Tom has been with RTC since 1991 and presently leads policy, promotion and trail assistance efforts in the 10-state Northeast Office.

His responsibilities include maintaining relationships with tail partners at all levels—including volunteers, local governments, and state and federal agencies—to provide technical assistance related to trail development and active transportation; and leading trail maintenance and trail count programs for the Northeast, in which he’s directed the implementation and publication of dozens of impact studies. He currently serves on the New Jersey Trails Council.

Previously, Tom served as a lead advocate for the federal Transportation Enhancements (TE) program and as a member of the Pennsylvania Greenway Commission. He also founded and directed RTC’s multiday Sojourn Series, a trail-building program active from 2002 to 2018 that served more than 5,000 bicyclists on trails in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey, and demonstrated the economic impact of the region’s trails.

He has authored rail-trail guidebooks for several states and was co-chair of the 1999 International Trails and Greenways Conference.  

Prior to joining RTC, Tom worked as a congressional staffer for the 1st District of Maryland and spent six years with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Other professional credits include serving as a recreation planner for the National Park Service and as a naturalist in New York City. He is a former co-hosted of the cable TV show “Green Works.”

Tom has a Masters of Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts and is a former officer of the U.S. Navy Reserve.


Laura Cohen | Photo courtesy Laura Cohen

Laura Cohen

Western Regional Director

“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 including the Bay Area Trails Collaborative, 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.

Jesse Voremberg

Jesse Voremberg

Trail Development Manager, Western Region

Jesse joined RTC in 2024 as the Trail Development Manager for the Western Region. He’s motivated by the need to support and develop bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the wider six-state Western Region. In this role, he has a specific focus on guiding partners in the Bay Area Trails Collaborative and seeing their greater 2,600-mile network come to fruition.

Jesse’s main mode of transport has been a bicycle for most of his life. He commutes and runs errands with a fixed-gear bike, converted into a single-speed (big believer in brakes!), and recreates on a gravel bike wherever there’s dirt. Jesse spends most of his free time in the climbing gym, curing meats, cooking, at the movies and planning his next trip.

Prior to joining RTC, Jesse honed his planning skills as an environmental planner, focused on the intersection of housing and transportation as climate solutions. He received his Master of Science in Environmental Policy & Management from the University of California, Davis. Before embarking on his advanced education, he was enmeshed in New York City’s food and agriculture world as a farmer, butcher, local meat monger and farmland investment manager.

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