You may have heard of “trail towns” or gateway communities…

This is my trail town story.

In 2007, I was part of the team that implemented the Trail Town Program® along the Great Allegheny Passage. It was a multi-community program intended to help trail communities to better understand the trail and its users, to better connect to the trail, and better benefit from the trail economy.

I worked on that program for five years before establishing Cycle Forward. I take pride in knowing that I helped implement a first-of-its-kind program that has since been modeled throughout the U.S. and Canada.

What I’m most proud of, however, is my continued evolution in how I view the benefits of trails and what it means to be a trail town. For years, I added to the chorus of voices that touted the economic benefit of trails. While the economic piece is important, tourism messages ring hollow in the absence of a community culture that values and celebrates trails (see my TrailsNEXT talk on this topic).

If you’re thinking about a trail town initiative for your community and agree that it should be a holistic program—one that gives equal thought to the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit—I’m the consultant for you.

Opportunities I like to address

  • Working with communities to re-think trails and tourism
  • Educating local decision makers and area residents on the value of trails and tourism
  • Shifting to a culture of hospitality that’s hell-bent on providing exceptional experiences for locals and visitors alike
  • Engaging all segments of the community to ensure that tourism endeavors are in the community’s best interest
  • Assessing how to connect “trail-to-town”

Related Experience

  • Consulted Kawarthas Northumberland (Ontario) on launching a trail town initiative. With my help, they launched the Waterway Trail Town initiative along the 386-km Trent-Severn Waterway.
  • Assessed the first 10 years of the trail town movement for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
  • Hosted five “best practice missions” showcasing the Great Allegheny Passage, C&O Canal Towpath, and Appalachian Trail to trail and tourism professionals from five Canadian provinces. Would you like to organize a best practice mission for your group? 
  • Lead trail town trainings, workshops, and community readiness assessments throughout the U.S. and Canada.
  • Moderated conference panels with administrators of some of the leading trail community programs around the U.S., including along the Appalachian Trail, North Country Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Arizona Trail, and the state of Kentucky.

Long story short: When it comes to trail towns, I bring insights on best practices and a wide knowledge of the various existing programs and can offer keynotes, workshops, trainings, and consultancy.

“Amy has facilitated stakeholder consultations, developed a strategy for utilizing the Trent-Severn Waterway as our trail, and continued to be a resource through the various stages of developing our program. She is without doubt one of the most knowledgeable, professional, and supportive consultants I have worked with in my 25 years in the tourism industry. Our Trent-Severn Trail Town program would not be where it is today without her.” –Brenda Wood, Executive Director, Kawarthas Northumberland (Ontario)

Links and Work Product

Heart, Healing, and Hospitality: How Trails Contribute to Four-Season Economies and more Vibrant Communities for the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition

“Building Trail Culture” TrailsNEXT Talk at the 2019 International Trails Symposium

Trail Trips and Story Maps for the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition

Perception is Reality. Factors to a Successful Trail Economy – in collaboration with Sara Petyk of Noble Invention Bike Touring

How Long Does a Trail Trip Last? (and Trail Towns 101) – as featured in American Trails Magazine

Moving Right Along: Trail Towns Proving Vital Links to Historic Pasts, Economic Futures – Pennsylvania Borough News (p. 24), written with Cathy McCollom and Lauren Imgrund

Beaver Falls Change Agents for RiverWise (best viewed on a desktop)

Fitness Lab Pittsburgh Podcast Feature

Are Communities Performing the Grand Seduction? blog post