This Park Bench Chat featured a discussion about how from Main Streets to mountaintops, trails are leading the way to a healthier, more resilient, more equitable future. By connecting us to nature, trails deliver a straight shot of joy in the form of birdsong, fetching foliage, fresh air, and more. And, with billions of dollars earmarked for urban transportation projects by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, now is the opportune time for communities to think ambitiously about their trail systems.
- Peter Harnik, Author and Co-Founder of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
- Lea Hong, Hawaiʻi State Director, Trust for Public Land
- Sean Terry, Associate Vice President and Ohio State Director, Trust for Public Land
- J.T. Horn, Trails Initiative Director, Trust for Public Land
More details about our conversation
Trust for Public Land (TPL) has had a hand in some of America’s most iconic trails, including the Appalachian Trail in the East, the Pacific Crest Trail along the West Coast, and the Ala Kahakai Trail in Hawaiʻi. We’ve also long worked to connect cities to suburbs and rural landscapes through efforts like The 606 in Chicago, the Mountains to Sound Greenway in Washington, and the Cuyahoga–Lake Link Trail in Cleveland.
Our panelists illuminated the many ways trails and trail systems are transforming our world for the better: You learned how trails connect communities to their heritage through enriching historical and cultural experiences; explored how trails contribute to economic revitalization by attracting visitors and join residents with local business districts; and considered how urban trails provide healthy and climate-friendly transportation routes for commuting and recreation by linking urban centers to neighborhoods and nearby natural areas.
Finally, we are glad you did not miss our speakers’ top picks for hitting the trails this summer, so roll, walk, ride, or skate on over and join us for this informative and fun discussion.
Author and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Co-Founder
Peter Harnik is a co-founder and was a long-time board member of the City Parks Alliance. For nearly two decades he was director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land until his retirement in 2016. His most recent book, “From Rails to Trails: The Making of America’s Active Transportation Network,” was published in 2021. Earlier, he was co-founder and vice president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and also president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association in D.C. A native of New York City, he came to Washington because of Earth Day in 1970.
Hawaiʻi State Director, Trust for Public Land
Lea Hong is the Hawaiʻi State Director of The Trust for Public Land (TPL) where she and her team spearhead the Aloha ʻĀina program, which returns treasured lands to Native Hawaiian stewardship, the Sustainable Hawaiʻi program and the Parks for People Program with a pilot project at ʻAʻala Park in urban Honolulu. Lea previously chaired the environmental and cultural resource law practice group at the Honolulu law firm of Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing (now Dentons), and worked at the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. Lea graduated from Leilehua High School, Rice University, and the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawai‘i. She has received a number of recognitions which she credits to the communities with whom she works, including Honolulu Magazine’s Islander of the Year (Environment), the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance Outstanding Leadership Award, and the Hawai‘i Women Lawyers Outstanding Woman Lawyer of the Year. She is from Wahiawā on the island of Oʻahu.
Associate Vice President, Ohio State Director, Trust for Public Land
Sean Terry joined Trust for Public Land’s Ohio team in January 2020 as a seasoned urban planning and community development professional with nearly two decades experience in non-profit organizations, municipalities, public-sector agencies, and private businesses. Sean has worked tirelessly to improve communities through facilitated stakeholder engagement and public input processes that puts people at the heart of policy. This focus has allowed him to contribute to community vitality in the fields of: environmental sustainability, economic development, placemaking, bike and pedestrian advocacy, and park and trail design. Achieving an equitable quality of life for all people has been a constant throughout his career. Since joining Trust for Public Land, Sean has lead the work to ensure every Clevelander lives within a 10-minute walk of a quality park. As Ohio State Director, Sean is focused on expanding the organization’s visibility, network, and land for people mission across Ohio.
National Trails Initiative Director, Trust for Public Land
J.T. Horn is Trust for Public Land‘s National Trails Initiative director where he oversees TPL’s national strategy to create and protect trails that make communities more vibrant places to live, work and visit. J.T. previously spent 15 years as a senior project manager in TPL’s New England program where he protected land for community benefit including community forests, timberlands, farmland and trail access programs. J.T. began his conservation career as a trail crew leader and winter caretaker for the Appalachian Mountain Club in New Hampshire. He then spent a decade with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy as New England Director, overseeing 730 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail between Connecticut and Maine. J.T. is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY with a degree in philosophy. When not working on conservation issues, you can find him hiking, trail running, nordic skiing or paddling in the mountains and waters of New England.