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American Trails

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This 17th National Trails Symposium promises to be the best yet! In an era when greenways and trails face both unprecedented challenges and opportunities, the conference sessions promise a full range of topics presented by the nation's leading trail experts and advocates. The Program Committee strives to be on the leading edge of emerging trends and ideas and has crafted the roster of topics to address current issues, questions, solutions, and success stories (see Symposium Highlights). Several events are open to the public.


This Symposium offers over 80 educational sessions that run concurrently from Friday, October 22 and ends at 3:45 p.m. on Sunday, October 24 (see Schedule at a glance). All sessions will be 75 minutes in length, and offer a variety of formats from individual presenters to a panel of speakers. The Symposium is a premier opportunity for greenways and trails advocates, managers, planners, builders, and users, as well as environmental, tourism, and business interests, to come together and experience an inspirational, educational, and fun-filled conference. See speaker bios.


Due to the large number of proposals submitted and quality, the poster program will be expanded this year to allow for even more information exchange. Individuals displaying posters will have the opportunity to share their "story" and to meet with interested attendees at designated times during the Symposium.

CREATIVE CROSSINGS PHOTO GALLERY... read how to submit photos

During the Symposium, you will have an opportunity to share the beauty of your trail bridge in the Creative Crossings Photo Gallery. Recent years have seen the construction of some strikingly beautiful and innovative trail bridge designs. American Trails would like to showcase those bridges through a photo gallery to be displayed in the Exhibit Hall during the Symposium. These same bridges will also be on display during the Creative Crossings breakout session which will highlight three major bridge projects from across America.


For the very first time in the seventeen-year history of the National Trails Symposium, we are delighted to be offering interested attendees the opportunity to earn continuing educational credits (CEUs) through the Texas Recreation and Park Society in conjunction with the National Recreation and Park Association. For every 75-minute session attended, 0.10 CEUs will be awarded the attendee. Please check with your professional organization if you have any questions regarding the transferability of earned CEUs.

We'll also be presenting the National Trails Awards for 2004, celebrating the volunteers and dedicated staff who are helping build a system of "Trails for All Americans."


When the current sessions schedule and descriptions, including presenters, are finalized, they will be made available on the American Trails website at Sessions are subject to change.


Theme of the National Trails Symposium

The Emerging Role of Trails in American Lifestyles is the theme for the 2004 Symposium. Trails are no longer the exclusive domain of the solitude-loving wilderness seeker or the dedicated fitness enthusiast. Whether providing recreational and educational opportunities, facilitating transportation alternatives, encouraging well being, or bringing together people of all ages and connecting communities, trails have become a prominent factor in how and where we choose to live our lives. The prominent role of trails in the American lifestyle contributes significantly to their phenomenal popularity and growth. Today, communities are already "walking the walk" and leading the way in demonstrating the correlation between trails and healthy minds, bodies, and spirits. This is the essence of the theme and the intended focus of sessions at this year's Symposium. Register now to ensure your seat at these cutting-edge sessions:

Benefits (health, mental, physical, social, spiritual, environmental, heritage awareness, economic, and tourism)

Trails are woven into the fabric of modern life. These sessions explore the many ways that trails influence where and how people live today. Trail-related benefits such as physical and mental health, spiritual well being, preservation of cultural, historical, and natural heritage, tourism and other economic benefits contribute significantly to American lifestyles. Presenters will discuss the health benefits of trails and parks, including the scientific evidence that increasing access to places for physical activity increases physical activity levels in a community. Learn more about the many ways that trails can enhance the quality of life in your community.

Connectivity (local, regional, intra-state, interstate, multi-jurisdictional, multi-cultural, transportation alternatives, trail systems)

As our urban centers continue to expand and traffic congestion (and associated environmental concerns) becomes more problematic, increasing numbers of communities are looking for healthier, more economic, and environmentally friendlier transportation alternatives. These sessions will demonstrate how various jurisdictional entities are cooperating to integrate trails into urban plans to create walkable residential and business districts, accommodate bicycle and pedestrian commuters, and connect communities.

Partnerships (developers, urban designers, private landowners, utility companies, volunteers, youth and youth corps, and diversity issues)

Because trail resources (including funding, space, and manpower) are getting harder to come by, partnerships have become an efficient means of planning, designing, building, and maintaining trails. Discover how trail development sometimes brings together disparate partners in a common cause. Learn how to establish and nurture successful partnerships for trail projects in your community.

Funding, Promotion, and Marketing (media, press releases, news bulletins, grant sources, fundraising, and Internet websites)

One of the most challenging aspects of any trail project is finding the money and community support to convert the trail vision into a reality. Although a variety of funding sources exist to implement trail projects, the best ways for securing dollars often require thinking "out of the box." These sessions will focus on creative approaches for funding trails. Presenters will cover contemporary funding ideas and initiatives, including the various opportunities for funding trail projects through health sources. Successfully getting your message out and connecting with the right market segments is essential. Learn how to develop and utilize all the various communication/media tools at your disposal to fund, promote, market, and sustain trail projects.

Policy, Legislation, and Advocacy (liability, compliance, organizing, lobbying, and outreach)

So much of the funding and resources that trails depend on comes directly or indirectly from federal, state, county, and municipal governments. Well-informed and well-connected activists are an essential part of the effort to keep trail-related issues in the forefront of the minds of policy makers and their constituents. Discover what you can do (and how) to make sure that trails aren't the last item on the political agenda when funds are allocated æ and the first item to be scratched when money is tight. Ultimately, we must all be trail advocates to one degree or another. These sessions will also identify policies that support activity-friendly communities and examine how trails advocates can work with public health professionals to increase trail use and physical activity in their communities.

Special Considerations (cultural, historical, archeological, universal accessibility, liability, safety, educational interpretation, environmental attributes, risk management, and organization management)

Many critically important elements are often overlooked or included as an afterthought when trails are designed and built. Failure to consider cultural, historical, or archaeological resources, sensitive environmental components, safety and liability issues, accessibility, interpretive opportunities and other special considerations can be serious and costly and potentially harm an otherwise terrific trail project. Learn what the essential special considerations are and how to address them effectively in your planning and designing processes.

Planning and Design (master planning, urban/rural interface, shared use, conflicts, land acquisition, accessibility, signage, design techniques, and mapping)

Evidence suggests that parks, trails, and green space play an important role in promoting public health. There are, however, design features in communities that discourage decisions to use these health-promoting facilities. Learn what is being done to increase awareness of the relationships between health and the built and natural environments.

The most basic elements in the process of creating trails, proper planning and design can produce useable, enjoyable, and sustainable trails. Poor planning and design result in costly mistakes, liability hazards, maintenance headaches, and under-utilized trails. Examine what the experts are doing and how you can translate their accomplishments into success stories with your own trail projects.

Construction and Maintenance (equipment, funding, and volunteers)

Construction and maintenance programs are the meat and potatoes of every National Trails Symposium-- and rightfully so. This is where the vision, planning, designing, funding, and promoting all come together on the ground. You'll learn about state of the art tools and techniques for building and maintaining trails in these sessions.