On April 11-12, 2014, Georgia’s first trail summit in 15 years will convene in Athens. Trail groups from throughout the state will gather to share knowledge and further projects, with a goal of establishing a first-class trail network in Georgia.
In this guest blog, Tracie Sanchez, organizer of the Georgia Trail Summit, talks about her inspiration for the event and how she turned the idea into a reality.
“I love the outdoors, so I go out in it.” – Tracie Sanchez
All my life, I’ve been riding bikes, hiking mountains, paddling rivers—and seeking those activities every place I visit on the planet. Being on a trail makes for wonderful escapes, new adventures and challenges, new friends, maintained health, fresh air and increased botanical knowledge. And great photo albums.
Earning my Master of Public Administration late in life allowed me to focus on the public policy I wanted to champion. Alternative transportation solutions—which often include recreation—are my passion.
For me, active living is all about the intersection of health and mobility. Trails offer both. So with a background in graphic design (first career), leadership development (second career) and public transportation policy…and with some spare time during a job search…I decided to reach out to all the trail gurus I knew in Georgia.
Public data from TrailLink.com revealed there were 82 trail and greenway projects proposed or under way in Georgia. I was familiar with many of them, simply because I sought them out where I lived and across communities where I served as a mobility manager for a regional commission. Occasionally, I heard about others while attending smart growth conferences, Transportation Camp, the Georgia Bike Summit and transit/mobility workshops.
But something was missing. No one knew about anyone else’s project or seemed to be sharing lessons learned. Why wasn’t there an easy opportunity to convene this important community of trail experts statewide? There was so much to learn from each other.
One snow day last year during the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C., I hoofed it over to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC's) headquarters to see what I could learn. RTC Development Director Kelly Pack inspired me with great advice: “Round everyone up and hold a summit.” So, in April 2013, I pitched the idea and have been recruiting and collaborating with numerous trail, greenway and blueway partners ever since, designing and planning the inaugural Georgia Trail Summit.
We got our start with a generous $5,000 donation from MillionMile Greenway and raised an additional $8,000 in sponsorships in six months, attracting 30+ trail groups to also endorse the idea.
It’s been an amazing team effort. Join us for this timely conversation on April 11 and 12 in Athens!