A chance to share new ideas, progress reports, and challenges facing the world of trails throughout the Commonwealth, the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society brings together trail builders, planners, advocates, and managers for the Greenways and Trails Summit every other year.
For PEC, it is a chance for staff from throughout the state to interact directly with our partners within the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and our peers at other non-profits, as well as network with the numerous trail advocates we may only know via conference call. The sheer variety of attendees at the conference means that a lot free ranging conversations will inspire advances in trails for years to come.
This year’s Summit, held in Warren, Pa. from Sept. 20-22, was no exception.
The Summit always begins with mobile workshops, allowing attendees to not just talk about trails but to actively engage in the activity while the local manager discusses the challenges and successes of the trail. This year, we were able to paddle the 2015 River of the Year, the Conewango Creek.
DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn joined about 25 others to enjoy what turned out to be a great day on the water. Participants had the chance to better understand how such a small waterway plays a vital part in the local community. It was a great insight into how water trails truly connect people to resources.
The indoor portion of the Summit started the next day, with a keynote presentation from Tom Murphy, former Mayor of Pittsburgh, challenging the audience to make government spending reflect the kind of communities we want to live in and not be afraid to have big ideas. Afterwards, a panel of leaders from four different state agencies discussed the vision of cooperation from the new administration. This led to some great questions from the audience with many leaving hopeful for the future of partnerships.
The breakout sessions saw PEC staffers involved in many different presentations, collaborating with many of our partners to provide updates and guidance to the full breadth of our programs. The Water Trails program had its own session, while Gototrails.com was in a showcase on technology and trails.
The Circuit in the greater Philadelphia area was covered in several different sessions, with its various initiatives filling all the space allowed. Additionally, the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition was a part of several different discussions, including a great dialogue on rails with trails led by fellow coalition members, The Oil Region Heritage Area. The River Towns program also had a great panel session discussing how the concept is adaptable but is really a way for communities to partner and improve their image and attract visitors.
All this activity made for a very packed schedule, but smart attendees made time to get outdoors and explore the host town, Warren. A town that had its initial burst of growth from the timber and oil boom of the late 1800’s, Warren has done well to maintain its community feel and numerous historical buildings.
It is currently undergoing a new influx of community pride, with great efforts underway to re-connect the town to the Allegheny National Forest, Conewango Creek, and the Allegheny River. All of this makes Warren a town to watch in the years to come, with trails leading the way to its resurgence.