Alabama Recreational Trails Conference Speakers
Plenary Session Speakers
Sonya R. Baker, Alabama Department of Transportation
Presentation: Alabama Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan
Ms. Sonya Baker is the Assistant Bureau Chief, Planning Studies Section within the Bureau of Office Engineer for the Alabama Department of Transportation. Her section is responsible for the Statewide Transportation Planning Activities, including Freight, System Performance, and Bicycle and Pedestrian Statewide Plan. Over the past 27 years, she has held previous roles within ALDOT ranging from Traffic Safety and Operations, Construction and Multimodal Transportation. In 2019, Ms. Baker was appointed by the Transportation Director to the Alabama Trails Commission. A native of Huntsville, Alabama, and a Civil Engineering graduate from Alabama A&M University, Ms. Baker enjoys church activities and exercising. She is the mother of 2 adult sons and currently resides in Montgomery, Alabama.
Tony Hull, Civil Street SolutionsThis presentation will introduce the Tread Lightly!
Presentation: Trails–Highways for Everyone
Robust trail networks can transform communities and change the way we live, work and play. The benefits are innumerable and well-documented, yet we still struggle to move projects forward. Why are we spending so much time and energy trying to justify the need, when we should be asking why our human powered highways are incomplete? Let’s reframe our conversation and get trails moving!
Tony Hull is a freelance Nonmotorized Transportation Consultant with two decades of experience in planning, designing and evaluating active transportation projects. Tony’s nationally recognized work includes leading planning and research studies, facilitating workshops and trainings, and providing technical expertise for wide-ranging active transportation projects. This expertise includes pedestrian and bicycle facility design, accessibility, safety analysis, data collection and evaluation, traffic calming, community engagement, and social equity. Tony is a graduate of the Ohio State University, serves on the TRB Committee on Pedestrians and is a long time member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP).
Dave Logan, Tread Lightly!
Presentation: Enhancing Responsible Trail Recreation
This presentation will introduce the Tread Lightly! organization and its 30 year history. Tread Lightly! is a national non-profit organization that promotes responsible recreation through stewardship, education, and communication. Our programs strive to protect and enhance recreational trail access by promoting outdoor ethics to heighten individuals’ sense of
Dave Logan is a passionate OHV enthusiast with over 25 years of experience in using and maintaining off road trails. He is on the Tread Lightly! Board of Directors and is a lifetime member. He is also a Master Tread trainer. In addition, Dave has been involved in the Southern 4WD Association for over 20 years and has served on their Board. Dave owns the 4WD School and is an International 4WD trainer. And, he has served as an OHV advisor for Georgia’s Recreational Trail Program (RTP). He also co-founded Georgia’s CoTrails organization to partner with the US Forest Service to assess the backlog of
Britney Moore, Florida Division of Recreation and Parks/
Office of Greenways and Trail
Presentation: Connecting Communities Through the Florida Greenways and Trails System
Community partnerships are essential when creating a statewide system of regional trails. These regional trails represent the stories of hard-working individuals who not only advocate for, but also manage and maintain the trails. It takes a coordinated effort of federal, state and local partners to connect local trails to create a long-distance regional system and trail amenities. In this session, speakers will share how to create these partnerships to form cross jurisdictional alliances; how a statewide system of regional trails is created; our Florida Trail Town Program and how these regional trails can transform communities.
Britney grew up in North Florida Area, which helped to cultivate her love for Florida’s many outdoor recreation opportunities. Britney has worked for Florida’s award-winning state park system for several years and is currently the Outdoor Recreation Program Manager with the Office of Greenways & Trails. She attended Florida State University where she studied Geography and Environmental Studies. As a member of the Junior League of Tallahassee, Britney has found a way to nourish her love of volunteering in the community. She frequently explores Florida’s incredible recreational opportunities, whether it be participating in biking and kayaking events or taking her dogs, on hikes. So, If you come to Florida and participate in Outdoor Recreationon the weekends you might run into her there.
Jay Pigford, Architecture Works
Presentation: Gulf State Park Enhancement Project
Through a robust public engagement process and using best practices for ecological restoration, context sensitive design, and environmentally sustainable building practices, the Gulf State Park Enhancement Project has redefined Alabama’s most-visited state park. This presentation will review the planning and development process and will orient the audience tothe park’s new and innovative lodging, educational, and recreational facilities, including the enhanced and expanded bicycle and pedestrian trail network that connects visitors to the park’s beautiful coastal natural areas.
Jay Pigford has a career focused on education, adaptive re-use, and commercial work. He graduated from The University of Texas with a Masters in Architecture and after working in Texas for seven years, returned to Birmingham to join ArchitectureWorks in 2004. His projects strive to connect people to their place by weaving the interior and exterior spaces together. Jay has a passion for the “Great Outdoors” both personally and professionally. He has led multiple projects at Alabama’s Gulf State Park including The Trails Expansion Project, The Learning Campus, and the Interpretive center as well as the Alabama Pinhoti Trail Built Environment Master Plan. He enjoys coaching Red Mountain Composite, a middle and high school mountain bikingteam, and serving on both the Cahaba River Society Board and the Red Mountain Park Board.
Dr. Graham Sisson, Governor's Office on Disability
Presentation: ADA Best Practices for Trails
This interactive presentation will explore best practices for accessible trails. Physical and programmatic access will be detailed as well as potential solutions to common barriers for individuals with disabilities. A question and answer session will be held at the end.
As one of Alabama’s leading expertson the requirements of the American’s with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act, Dr. Sisson currently serves as the Executive Director and General Counsel for the Governor’s Office on Disability, the Deputy Attorney General for the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, and as the State ADA Coordinator. He serves on numerous boards, coalitions, and committees throughout the state and is currently the chair of the Alabama Trails Commission. He holds a B.S. from the University of North Alabama, a J.D. from Vanderbilt University, and a Ph.D. from Auburn University.
Shannon Smith and Dr. James Smith, Singing River Trail
Presentation: Singing River Trail: A Grass Roots Greenway Movement
This trail push began with the citizens-not the government. Citizens are not as focused on city lines because they use resources regionally. This trail concept was formed to bring together people from the cities of Athens, Decatur, Huntsville, Madison, Mooresville and Triana. Since then, the local governments have been extremely supportive of this concept and have worked to bridge gaps between these municipalities and work together more collaboratively. Presenters will provide an overview of the beginning concept, the structure of the Launch2035 Committee, and where the SRT is today.
Shannon Smith is a native of Lawrence County, and has a background in teaching, library science, museum curation, and federal contracting. She is currently the Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Decatur, is an Alabama tribal consultant for municipal projects, and serves in a volunteer role as the Trail of Tears Association, Alabama Chapter President functioning as the liaison between the Cherokee Nation, the National Park Service, and municipalities across North Alabama for Trail of Tears historical interpretation and preservation.
Dr. James Smith is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. He holds a bachelor of humanities, a master's in Education and a doctorate in educational leadership. Dr. Smith served in tribal positions as Assistant Superintendent of Cherokee Central Schools, Secretary of Education at Cherokee Central Schools and Secretary of Housing for the EBCI. Dr. Smith served as Project Director to establish an art institute on the Qualla Boundary in Cherokee, NC. Dr. Smith is an award winning Cherokee artist who has a heart for education and Cherokee arts and shared his talent through teaching wood sculpting for many years at Cherokee Central Schools. Currently, Smith is President of Tribal Connections Contracting Company.
Trevor Thomas, Hiker
Presentation: 127 Million Steps
Trevor Thomas lost his sight in his 30s and soon thereafter foundhiking to be an enjoyable recreational activity on agreenway near his home in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hiking quickly became his passion, and less than two years after loosing his sight, he became the first totally blind person to complete a solo through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Trevor turned his passion for hiking into a career inspiring others through his long-distance hiking achievements, serving as an ambassador for numerous outdoor brands, advocating for guide dog awareness, and advising trail designers, builders, and managers on trail designand operation. Through his story, Trevor will reveal how blind hikers experience hiking trails and what they need (and don’t need) on the trail.
For nearly a decade, Trevor Thomas has been redefining society’s definition of what it means to be blind. He first gained notoriety when less than two years after losing his sight, became the first totally blind person to complete a solo thru hike of the 2,175 mile long Appalachian Trail. Since then, he has continued to shock the world by hiking more than 25,000 miles, and completing thru hikes of the most difficult and demanding long trails in North America. Throughout his career, he has continued to set records by hiking more miles, completing more thru hikes, and summiting more mountains than any other blind person in history. He is an ambassador for numerous outdoor brands, an advocate for guide dog awareness, and is awaiting the publication of his first book about his life experiences.
Concurrent Session Speakers
Alabama State Parks
Alabama State Parks continues to strive for excellence in the planning, development, and funding of trails. Our presentation team will share recent stories and experiences of our work on hiking, biking, equestrian, and off-highway vehicle trails and trail head structures. Highlights will include our UTAP/HETAP design and development efforts, universal accessibility initiatives, and consistent trail signage plans.
Rob Grant, a life-long resident of Alabama, entered public service in 2002. Before joining AL State Parks in 2014, Rob was the Recreation Programs manager at ADECA. Currently he writes grants, manages grant awards, and develops concession opportunities, and is overseeing the online reservation systemand public Wi-Fiupgrade initiatives. Rob and his wife, Tammy, have two adult daughters and four grandchildren.
Ken Thomas has been serving the public for over 30 years – first as a part-time seasonal worker at a state park –then progressing through the ranks as a Park Naturalist, Park Ranger, and until two years ago –Park Superintendent. Now Ken is spearheading AL State Parks’ Trail Care Program in north Alabama. Through Ken’s efforts, this initiative has evolved into trail planning, repair, maintenance, and development -using powered equipment, tools, and HETAP trail assessment technology which Ken obtained with RTP grants.
American Conservation Experience (ACE)
Presentation: American Conservation Experience –A Nonprofit Conservation Corps’ Efforts in Sustainable Trails in the Southeast.
Established in 2004, American Conservation Experience (ACE), is a nationally-scaled, environmental restoration service, and nonprofit organization that recruits and supports diverse crew members and interns to safely and efficiently perform challenging and rewarding restoration projects on America's public lands including trail maintenance and construction. This presentation will orient the attendee to the organization, its history of successful projects in the Southeast, and how cities, counties, and state and federal agencies can secure their services.
Adam Scherm graduated with a Degree in Zoology and a minor in Spanish at Oklahoma State University. After college, Adam served as a Peace Corps volunteerin Panama focusing on environmental conservation from 2006-2008. That experience led him to a job at American Conservation Experience (ACE) as an Assistant Crew Leader. In 2013, He assumed the role of Trails Trainer and Coordinator for the Arizona office. He managed trails projects as well as trained crew leaders and corps members in technical rock work, rigging, trail maintenance, and layout. Adam is currently the Director of ACE’s Southeastern branch in Asheville, North Carolina,which supports and manages over 60 youth in conservation activities and is working with many different land management agencies representing federal, state, local, and non-governmental entities in the Eastern U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Mark Loseth began his trail career with the Forest Service in 2003. He went on to work in Grand Teton and Saguaro National Parks before joining American Conservation Experience in 2011. His time with ACE has taken him to trail design projects in Utah, managing crews in Nevada, Wyoming and Colorado, and training field crews throughout California and Arizona. Mark has a passion for teaching trail skills to people from all backgrounds and looks forward to providing creative filed solutions for all things trails.
Brad Collett, Tennessee RiverLine Partnership
Presentation: Tennessee RiverLine: a Vision for North America’s Next Great Regional Trail System
The Tennessee RiverLine is a vision for a continuous system of paddle-hike-bike experiences along the river’s 652 mile reach from Knoxville to Paducah. This presentation shares insight to the project’s origins, progress to date and trajectory, including the role Tennessee River communities play in shaping this transformative vision and advancing it
Brad Collett is an Associate Professor in the University of Tennessee Department Plant Sciences with a faculty appointment to the School of Landscape Architecture. His teaching, research and creative activity center on regional water resource stewardship through landscape planning and performance, and was principal investigator on the national award winning publication HydroLIT: Southeast Tennessee Water Quality Playbook. He is a licensed landscape architect, currently serves as director of the Tennessee River Project and the Tennessee RiverLine Partnership, and was a 2016 U.S. Fulbright Scholar to Slovenia.
Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association
Presentation: How to Become a Successful Trail Nonprofit –Tales of the Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association
The Cherokee Ridge Alpine Trail Association (CRATA) was founded in 2004 and focuses on hiking trail development in and around Lake Martin and along the Tallapoosa River. The organization started small (as most trail groups do!), but with a dedicated and talented board, the organization has grown, and to-date has developed and stewards 26 miles of some of the best hiking trails in Alabama. CRATA’s success is due to maintaining an active volunteer corps, partnering with county and state governments to plan and develop trails, and engaging corporate and individual funders to match federal dollars. CRATA has implemented several projects funded through the Recreational Trail Program, developed a comprehensive interpretive and wayfinding sign program, and created a public information website that provides all the information people need when planning a hike on their trails. Presenters will share best practices and lessons learned along their journey to becoming an effective trail organization that serves the needs of the public.
Harold Banks is a locally famous river trail canoe explorer. He was the first man to paddle the entire length of the Tallapoosa River and on downstream to Fort Morgan and is a local and state historian and explorer. He researched and wrote interpretive sign content for the Smith Mountain exhibit/signage project.
Walt Hutcheson is an avid hiker and volunteer of CRATA, serving as a technology and communications leader for the organization. He has worked on CRATA’s wayfinding project, is its website engineer, and is a retired state
Jimmy K. Lanier is an avid hiker locally, AT, worldwide and lover of history, exploration of outdoors. He is the founder of CRATA and has led the restoration of Smith Mountain Tower and coordinated trail design.
John Prophitt is an avid hiker and volunteer of CRATA, serving as its technology and communications leader and spearheading its planning and funding efforts.
Will McGarity, Architecture Works
Presentation: Design and Construction Along Alabama’s Pinhoti
Completed in June 2019, the Alabama Pinhoti Trail Built Environment Masterplan laid the groundwork for future development along the Alabama Section of the Pinhoti Trail. “Design and Construction Along Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail” will discuss the process of moving from initial stewardship collaboration through the implementation of a design, construction, and maintenance plan for a 170-mile long trail system.
Will is an Associate Architect at Architecture Works in Birmingham, Alabama. His background in design-build architecture has informed solutions for clients such as the City of Birmingham, US Forest Service, and Alabama State Parks. Will works predominately on projects associated with urban agriculture, education, and trails based infrastructure.
Brian Rushing, University of Alabama Center for Economic Development
Presentation: The Cahaba Blueway: Establishing a Distinctive Regional Water Trail
With more miles of navigable streams and the highest aquatic biodiversity of any state, Alabama has many rivers and creeks that offer unique opportunities for nature-based tourism that can benefit quality of life and economic development for the communities they connect. The Cahaba Blueway is a case study in bringing design thinking to bear in creating the public awareness, public information, and infrastructure necessary to make the Cahaba River a locally and nationally recognized outdoor recreation destination. This presentation will detail the thoughtful planning and implementation process undertaken to establish Alabama’s newest watertrail.
Brian Rushing is the Director of Economic Development Initiatives at The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development. With a background in the natural sciences, environmental planning and management, conservation lands restoration and management, recreational development, business management, and real estate acquisitions, he focuses much of his work on facilitating outdoor recreation planning and development initiatives with local governments, state and federal agencies, and private partners, providing both project leadership and technical assistance. Through these efforts, Brian is helping Alabama communities take better advantage of the growing recreation and nature-based tourism markets while improving quality of life for our citizens.
Liz Smith-Incer, Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA)
and Africatown Project
Presentation: Africatown Connections Blueway: How a trail could play apart in healing a community
Africatown, located in Mobile, Alabama, represents what is left ofthe community settled by Tarkbar captives brought to the United States from Africa by slave ship (The Clotilda), known as the last Slave Ship to arrive in the USA. Africatown is unique in that it represents a group of Africans who were forcefully removed from their homeland, sold into slavery, and then formed their own, largely self-governing community, all the while maintaining a strongsense of African cultural heritage. By establishing the Africatown Connections Blueway, descendants of the original founders of Africatown, seek to re-connect their neighbors to the surrounding waterways from which they have been separated. Of primary importance is to preserve and make available the international historical significance of Africatown to communities across Alabama, the United States and the entire world in hopes of contributing to the healing process from the sadness that stems from long lost ties to Africa. Community members throughout Mobile County needed to identify important historical and cultural points of interest as a step towards sharing their hidden story with the world. Working with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program, community members learned to leverage resources and teamed up with university students, Public Lab, Smithsonian Institution, The Slave Wrecks Project, Africa Benin Trade Forum and others to develop conceptual plans for points of interest along the Africatown Connections Blueway.
Elizabeth (Liz) Smith-Incer coordinates the Mississippi Field Office of the Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA) of the National Park Service. In her work with RTCA, Ms. Smith-Incer contributes expertise in facilitation, public outreach and resource assessment to help achieve community-identified goals with local partners throughout the US and Puerto Rico. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida, she relocated to Washington, DC to work at the United States Department of State, serving in the Office of International Environmental, Oceans & Scientific Affairs and the Office of Inter-American Affairs. From 1994 to 1998, Ms. Smith-Incer served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer working on environmental education and forestry issues in Nicaragua. After returning from Central America, Ms. Smith-Incer attended the University of Arizona where she earned a master’s degree of Public Administration with a concentration in Renewable Natural Resources.
Jack Terrell, National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NDHVCC)
Presentation: Training the Next Generation of OHV Trail Managers, Designers, Maintainers and Volunteers
If your goal is sustainable recreational trails that provide quality recreational experiences for OHV enthusiasts, you must have trail managers, designers, maintainers and volunteers who have been educated in the principles and practices of OHV trail design and operation. This session will introduce you to NOHVCC Great Trails Training Workshops that provide this essential training for agency personnel and volunteers. Learn what the training includes and how you can bring this training to your location.
Jack Terrell is the Senior Project Manager for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). He has been a NOHVCC staff member since 2005, and is responsible for planning and executing OHV recreation management workshops and association development workshops, in addition to developing other training resources such as OHV safety videos and public service announcements. He is past Chairman and member of the Florida OHV Recreation Advisory Committee, a member of the Florida RTP Advisory Committee, past Chairman of the Polk County (Florida) OHV Advisory Committee, and is Land Use Chairman and past President of the Florida Trail Riders, a statewide OHV enthusiast organization. He has been involved with land use and recreational trail issues in Florida since 1992. His background includes work across the United States with federal, state, county and local legislative bodies, regulatory agencies, land managers, recreation planners and OHV enthusiasts to develop and improve trail recreation opportunities for the public. Jack is an
off-highway motorcycle trail rider. Jack holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in management science from the University
of South Florida.
David Tosch, Southeastern Trail Runs
Presentation: Benefits of Races on Your Local Trails
Having trails is a wonderful health and economic benefit to your community, but a great way to leverage economic impact and to attract more people to your trails is to organize race events. Races are a great way of heightening awareness of your trails, engaging new trail users, and creating a strong core community of trail enthusiasts that can help sustainably manage your trails. In addition to the benefits of trail race events, this presentation will offer important considerations on how to organize a successful race.
David Tosch is Race Director for Southeast Trail Runs. After a 35 year career owning and operating a dental laboratory, David Tosch founded Southeastern Trail Runs in 2013, which currently organizes about 10 trail running races each year, including 3 charity races. These races range from 1 mile fun-runs to ultra-marathons of 50 and 100 miles.
Bobby Whaley, Alabama Back Country Horsemen
Presentation: Horseback Trail Riding Facilities in Alabama: Where We Are and Where We Need to Be!
Alabama has a number of public horseback trail riding facilities across the state, offering unique and memorable horseback riding experiences. This presentation will review Alabama’s current inventory of facilities, the effort to create a formal tourism trail for horseback riders, and opportunities for equestrian camping that can enhance the economies of large
and small communities.
Bobby Whaley is a 27-year resident of Shelby County and is retired from Jim Walter Resources Mining Division. He is an active horseback rider and has been a leader in coordinating the development and management of public horseback riding trails in Alabama for many years. He is the current president of the Outback Trail Riders and the Alabama Horse Tag Association, and is also a member of the Backcountry Horseman of Central Alabama Chapter.
Greg Wingo, Track Leaders
Presentation: Trails Unplugged
Getting outside on the trails doesn't mean you have to completely disconnect. Technology now plays a huge part in how we explore trails around the world. This talk will cover ways in which technology is being used to keep trail users safe and connected in The Great Outdoors.
Greg Wingo is a trail enthusiast and the founder of ROAM Projects, an outdoor recreation consultancy. Wingo works with tourism boards, government entities, and community groups to consult, create content, and promote trail systems nationally and internationally. Currently, ROAM Projects is consulting with several entities, promoting a six-day stage trail race in Costa Rica, and is the producer of the Great Alabama 650, the longest annual paddle race in the world. Wingo also co-founded the Birmingham Ultra Trail Society (BUTS), whose nearly 400 paid members focus on sustaining the local trail system in the Birmingham area and creating a safe, fun, and supportive community for all levels of trail enthusiasts.