Harnessing the Power of Trail Networks

At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, we believe in the transformative power of connected trail networks. When trail networks are embraced as vital community assets, they bring powerful solutions for addressing issues as far ranging as chronic disease, resiliency, mobility, social equity and economic growth.

That’s why RTC is convened hand-picked leaders from across the country for a summit to harness the energy and the knowledge that is fueling the national movement to connect communities and regions by trails.

The Summit gathered a team of national experts; public officials; trail and active transportation advocates; and philanthropic, public health and economic development professionals from RTC's TrailNation projects and the TrailNation Collaborative to share best practices and real-world challenges, gathering the best thinking and the best approaches for building regional trail networks in communities across America.

Watch Coverage of the Summit

TrailNation Summit Presents

At the TrailNation Summit, we explored the opportunities inherent in trail networks as we pursue ambitious goals to connect trails, people and places across hundreds of miles. We tackled big ideas about how to plan trail and active transportation networks to spur mode shift, create more equitable places, support local economic development, protect the environment and create a culture of healthy living.

TrailNation Projects

The team at RTC is committed to connecting trails and building comprehensive trail systems that bring people together and get them where they want to go. In eight diverse places across the country, RTC is invested in digging in with hundreds of partners to make trail networks happen. These TrailNation projects are incredibly unique but share a common goal: to prove the potential of trails in delivering significant outcomes. Check out the work that’s underway.

Trail Network Leaders

RTC has gathered leading trail network projects from across the country—representing communities diverse in size, culture and geography—to join RTC’s TrailNation Projects in an effort to educate and engage a broad coalition of stakeholders committed to the rapid replication of these vital assets nationwide. These trail network leaders came together for the first time in June 2018 in Milwaukee.

Billings, Mont.Colorado Springs, Colo.Columbus, OhioHouston
King County, Wash. ● Lincoln, Neb. ● Memphis, Tenn. New England Rail-Trail Network ● New Orleans Portland, Ore.
Sacramento, Calif.San Diego, Calif. ● St. Louis


The Milwaukee County War Memorial Center overlooks Lake Michigan and is opportunely located on the Oak Leaf Trail, the 120-mile centerpiece of Milwaukee’s extensive trail network. The fully paved rail-trail will serve as the backdrop for some Summit events, as participants experience the trail and its role as a critical community connector. RTC also has reserved hotel blocks near the venue.

Why Milwaukee?

Reconnecting Milwaukee—A BikeAble™ Study of Opportunity, Equity and Connectivity.
Reconnecting Milwaukee—A BikeAble™ Study of Opportunity, Equity and Connectivity. Learn more.

Milwaukee is the urban hub of the Route of the Badger, a TrailNation project with a vision to connect 500 miles of trail to form a world-class trail network in Southeast Wisconsin. The city is already home to incredible trails such as the Oak Leaf and the Hank Aaron, which help form the foundation of the planned active transportation extensions and connections proposed that could provide new access to trails, walking and biking for hundreds of thousands of people. During the TrailNation Summit, RTC will showcase the inspiring work that’s underway and explore the ways Milwaukee can serve as a national model for leveraging trails as important tools to advance strategies for equitable access to transportation and recreation.

Reconnecting Milwaukee BikeAble Story Map

Why RTC?

As the premiere national trails organization, RTC has more than 30 years of expertise building trails and a bold vision to connect trail networks in every community in America. We know that it will take changes in public policy, infrastructure and behavior to bring this vision to life—and we know that it will take a diverse coalition of partners to create comprehensive trail and active transportation systems in every type of community. Our TrailNation work and the portfolio of TrailNation projects is redefining what it means to build trail networks and, in turn, what they mean for people and places. The TrailNation Summit is an opportunity to convene the best thinkers, leaders and doers who share our vision—with a goal of catalyzing the rapid replication of trail networks nationwide.

TrailNation Event Supporters

Special thanks to Cindy Winter for her personal financial contribution to the TrailNation Summit.

Learn More

Although the TrailNation Summit will be an intimate gathering, designed to foster deep thinking and ideation, we know the value of broadly sharing the strategies that emerge. Stories from TrailNation as well as select sessions will be broadcast live and archived here. Contact Summit organizer Katie Guerin to learn more.

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