It was a mix of business suits and biking shorts at the Marilla Center in Morgantown, West Virginia, where the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC) held its quarterly meeting on Thursday, August, 24th. Trail representatives from Parkersburg to the PA Wilds came together to continue their efforts to complete the vision of a 1,400+ mile network of shared use trails.
In the spirit of collaboration, trail corridor groups were encouraged to share the recent successes within their region to kick off the day. Facilitators scribbled on giant notes pads as updates shifted gears from ‘pending trail completions’ to ‘upcoming hurdles.’
During lunch, partners were urged to check out the newly released IHTC Story Map. This interactive tool combines maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content to explain the goal and mission of the Coalition. This map is the first in a series of story maps prepared by Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and designed and built by Environmental Planning and Design.
Afterwards, Frank Maguire of PEC and Eric Oberg of Rails-To-Trails Conservancy facilitated a group discussion about improving the organizational structure of IHTC by transferring leadership roles from the coordination committee to the corridor working groups. The goal of this reorganization is to better assess, prioritize, and address the specific needs within the corridors from the bottom up.
The real deep work and ideation happened in the breakout sessions, where the previously stated hurdles were synthesized into four categories: local government engagement, community engagement, funding, and closing gaps. The small groups were given 45 minutes to problem-solve as a group, before sharing their best solutions with the room. This session incubated a collaborative environment, demonstrating once again the benefit working within a diverse base of constituencies, each bringing its own set of skills and experiences to the table. One small group, for example, occasioned a conversation between Morgantown mayor Bill Kawecki and a trail ambassador for a small trail in rural Ohio, in which the mayor shared his best advice for working in tandem with local government.
After a full day of sessions, the group was invited to stretch their legs on a guided bike ride that highlighted trail improvements along Morgantown’s Deckers Creek and Caperton trails.