Skip to content
America’s Trails

A Tribute to Rail-Trail Visionary Charlie Marshall

By: Ryan Chao
February 13, 2020

Courtesy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Courtesy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Behind any successful nonprofit are dedicated visionaries, advocates and champions who help drive the mission. Here at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), we are blessed not only with a hardworking staff, and incredible partners and supporters, but also an amazing Board of Directors who, though not as visible day to day, are no less important to the success of the movement. Currently comprising 19 volunteers with a diverse range of expertise in government, technology, health, environment, finance and railroads, our board commits its time, knowledge and resources to leading RTC forward in service to our communities.

Charles Marshall on right | Courtesy RTC
Charles Marshall on right | Courtesy RTC

Charles “Charlie” Marshall exemplifies this spirit of service and stewardship, and we had the great privilege of honoring his contributions at our February meeting in D.C.—where he retired from the board after 22 years. Charlie spent most of his life working in the railroad industry and served in multiple leadership roles, including as president and chief operating officer of Genesee & Wyoming, and as a senior officer at Conrail. Charlie joined RTC’s board in 1998, and his deep knowledge and strategic vision has been instrumental to the growth of rail-trails, which now span 24,000+ miles throughout the country.

Charlie served as chair of RTC’s board from 2010–2013, and his background in the railroad industry was pivotal to expanding trail development to encompass “rail-with-trail,” an increasingly common practice of developing trails adjacent to active rail lines. Throughout his tenure, Charlie brought to RTC’s proceedings a unique blend of sharp inquiry and infectious wit.

Charlie Marshall receiving a plan of the Marshall Trailhead | Courtesy RTC
Charlie Marshall receiving a plan of the Marshall Trailhead | Courtesy RTC

In Charlie’s honor, RTC is pleased to announce plans for the Charles Marshall Trailhead—which will be built out on a partially developed trailhead plot along the Schuylkill River Trail, near Charlie’s home in Pennsylvania. Funded entirely by donations from RTC’s board and staff, this new amenity will be a place where trail users can gather, access the trail and take respite for generations to come. We thank our invaluable partners at Schuylkill River Greenways for making this possible.

Below is a surprise video we aired at our board meeting to reveal the big news to Charlie and show what a wonderful amenity the Marshall Trailhead will be. Thank you, Charlie!

Special thanks to RTC President Ryan Chao for this—the latest post in his new monthly series on the role of trails in connecting the nation, and creating healthy, thriving communities across America.

Ryan Chao | Photo by Anthony Le
Ryan Chao

Ryan Chao is the president of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, responsible for 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.

Donate today!


Everyone deserves access to safe ways to walk, bike, and be active outdoors.