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Join our nationwide peer learning community

The TrailNation™ Collaborative is a new peer learning community from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) where advocates, public leaders and professionals can come together to share their experiences, their challenges and their strategies for accelerating the pace of equitable and connected trail and active transportation infrastructure.

Related: Harnessing the Power of Trail Networks: The TrailNation Collaborative Kick-Off

In every type of community—urban, suburban and rural—the opportunity to create connected trail and active transportation systems is at the forefront thanks to unprecedented demand from the public, a growing emphasis on the walkability and bikeability of places and record levels of public investment in trails and active transportation infrastructure. Similarly, the challenges and lessons we face in this work are comparable across the places and communities where these visions are taking root.

The TrailNation Collaborative is a space for us to come together, bringing our expertise, our lessons and best practices to capture this moment and quickly advance equitable trail and active transportation networks in as many places as possible. This community is a place where we learn from each other and harness our collective experiences to unlock the power of trail networks for more people and places.

Together, we will:

  • Elevate and celebrate the work to create equitable trail networks on a national stage.
  • Build connective tissue across sectors—from trail and active transportation planning to public health, housing, mobility justice, community development, economic development, philanthropy and tourism—in ways that are critical to breaking down the barriers that exist in proliferating trail and active transportation networks.
  • Get curious about the tools, methods and resources that are essential to our success. We’ll examine what’s proven and uncover new approaches to building trail and active transportation networks in ways that are equitable, inclusive and on a faster track to completion.

This opportunity is for everyone, across sectors, interested exploring the potential of trail networks and the funding opportunities to unlock this essential community infrastructure. Participation is free.

Related: Creating a Paradigm Shift to Accelerate the Development of Trail and Active Transportation Networks | Next City

Related: National Collaborative Effort Launched For Trail Development | AASHTO

Creating space for meaningful peer interaction and learning is fundamental to the Collaborative. RTC is designing several opportunities for regular interaction that will be available to everyone in the Collaborative and beyond—we encourage you to invite people in your community to any of these opportunities!

Some of the ways we’ll connect:

During these highly interactive, 60–90-minute virtual gatherings, we’ll come together to tackle critical and emerging topics. Dialogues will feature brief presentations and case studies on the subject matter at hand followed by guided discussions to brainstorm ideas, best practices and solutions. View upcoming events.

Together, we’ll unpack the TrailNation Playbook, digging into the proven methods, tools and resources at the foundation of building equitable trail and active transportation systems. We’ll work through themes and other critical topics to share best practices from the field and inspire connections across our communities. View upcoming webinars.

As powerful as virtual gatherings can be to allow for frequent interaction, nothing replaces in-person connections. Through the TrailNation Collaborative, RTC will convene advocates, leaders and professionals across sectors in many ways, including at stand-alone events, curated field trips and at gatherings at related conferences around the country. View upcoming events.

The TrailNation Collaborative Facebook group is a space for asking questions directly of your peers, crowdsourcing innovative solutions and sharing successes that others can be inspired by and learn from. The group is already more than 850 active members—and growing!    

The team at RTC is currently shaping the best ways to address the many technical assistance needs that are emerging in response to new public funding opportunities for trail and active transportation networks. We’ll be sharing more information soon, but in the meantime, stay plugged into the funding resources page where we’re sharing real-time information about new federal funding opportunities as it is released.

We have many opportunities to connect through the TrailNation Collaborative, including responsive online discussions on emerging topics, interactive webinars, in-person events and more. These opportunities, alongside RTC’s standing webinar series that address trail development and policy issues, are intended to support your work in the development of trail networks. We hope you will share your feedback to improve and evolve these free offerings as we grow. Check out the upcoming events to join in the discussion.

The toolbox for building trail networks is constantly evolving—for example, new strategies for making the case, new and innovative funding models and proven approaches to create meaningful engagement within and between the communities this infrastructure serves. Bookmark these resources that RTC regularly updates as useful guides to support your efforts.

The TrailNation Playbook is a compendium of proven methods, tools and resources built from decades at the forefront of trail network development. This toolkit leverages RTC’s experience, alongside that of hundreds of on-the-ground partners, to provide insight and lessons learned the trail planners, municipalities, states and regions that are seeking to advance their own regional trail network projects.

RTC is regularly updating information about new federal funding opportunities and evolving guidance for long-standing programs, but we know that the firehose of information can be overwhelming. This new federal funding tool helps match projects to a potential federal funding source. This tool provides guidance on which federal funding program may best suit a project’s goals and needs. Take the quiz to receive a recommendation for potential funding sources and links for more information.

Related: New Federal Cash Headed to Trail Projects Nationwide | Route Fifty

Join the TrailNation Collaborative to receive regular newsletters on funding announcements and what’s happening with trail network development across the country. Find more resources in the Trail Building Toolbox.


Please send us your thoughts for discussion topics, areas where education is needed, and new ideas for engaging. If you see something missing, let us know! We want your feedback as we grow the tools we have available.

RTC is currently developing a nationwide database of trail counter data to create a more comprehensive resource for trail data that will help make the case for trails and increased trail funding. Please fill out this short survey if you are willing to share your organization’s trail counter data with RTC and be a part of the national database. Trail organizations and municipalities interested in sharing their data with RTC’s national trail count program can contact us at

Contact Mary Ellen Koontz, RTC’s TrailNation Collaborative lead at network news, information, resources and funding opportunities that you would like to share with the Collaborative. Your feedback will help inform the resources and programs that we will be building with the Collaborative. Please take our short survey to help shape the TrailNation Collaborative.

The TrailNation Collaborative builds off the roots of our former Trail Expert Network community—thousands of people building trails and tackling issues of trail development, maintenance, advocacy and use. The evolution of this community marks a turning point for the trails, walking and biking sector and a new emphasis on the opportunity to leverage tens of thousands of miles of trail into networks that encourage active recreation and active transportation.

At the foundation of the TrailNation Collaborative is an established and inclusive nationwide network of thousands of advocates, public leaders and professionals who want to work together to meet a growing demand for trail networks and access unprecedented public funding opportunities at the federal, state and local levels.

TrailNationTM | Projects | Playbook

At Rails to Trails Conservancy, we believe that communities are healthier and happier when trail networks are central to their design. Our visionary TrailNation initiative is redefining how we build trail networks nationwide and the impact these equitable trail systems can have on people and places. Learn more about this initiative, model trail network projects, and the playbook to make it happen.