Some of the best trails minds in the world gathered in Syracuse from April 28 to May 2 for the 2019 International Trails Symposium (ITS). Hosted by American Trails, this biennial event featured leaders in the trails industry from across North America and around the world.
The more than 500 attendees to ITS gathered in Syracuse’s Oncenter Convention Center for a jam-packed schedule of compelling speakers, informative panels, and great networking with trails enthusiasts from across the state, country, and world. Mayor Ben Walsh, Onondaga County Executive Ryan McMahon, and Visit Syracuse President Danny Liedka welcomed attendees to Syracuse and updates on the Empire State Trail and trails work in Western New York were provided by Andy Beers, Director of the Empire State Trail, JJ Tighe of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, and Jeff Olson of Alta Planning + Design.
Among the Advancing Trails award recipients presented by Conference Hosts American Trails was the Willie Wildlife Marsh Interpretive Trail, located on Peck Hill State Forest in Fulton County, New York. Other keynote speakers included Charles Thomas of Outward Bound Adventures, Gary Vernon of the Walton Family Foundation, and Greg Brumitt and Andy Williamson of Active Strategies. The Trails Rock Party at the Museum of Science and Technology provided an opportunity for networking, as did takeover night at Blue Tusk restaurant.
PTNY staff were speakers in two breakout sessions, serving as the moderators of the panel in both instances. Executive Director Robin Dropkin moderated one of the “Core Track” sessions, and was joined by Federal and State Government representatives and other advocates to discuss “An Empire State of Trails”, the history of the different trails systems, both land-based and water-based, that make up the Empire State Trail project. Dylan Carey, PTNY Project Coordinator, was the moderator of “Making it Count: Analyzing Trail Use Data in New York and Connecticut,” which discussed the different approaches used to measure the usage of trail networks and how that data is used to demonstrate the benefits of trails.
In addition to the breakout sessions, the Professional Trail Builders Association (PTBA) offered a series of hands-on workshops focusing on the skills involved in sustainable design, planning, construction, and maintenance of trails. This program created a “legacy” of the ITS and the PTBA Sustainable Trails Workshop. Beyond the PTBA workshops, an overnight hike and paddle trip in the Adirondacks was held the weekend before the conference as was various other mobile workshops exploring trails in the greater Central New York area.