Thursday, December 3, 2020 | 8 am-2 pm
Virtual Conference

**Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our annual Trail Forum conference will be held virtually! We hope you can join us for another year of inspiring and educational presentations about trails.


13th Annual Trail Forum

Thursday, December 3 | 8 am – 2 pm

presented by

This region’s premiere trail conference will offer seven educational sessions in two concurrent time frames and two keynote presentations from the comfort of your home, office or wherever you have an internet connection. The Full Access Ticket presentations and the Community Ticket presentations will be available to view after they are broadcasted on the virtual event platform as well as be shared in an email to the appropriate ticket type attendee the day after the event.  We offer eight continuing education credits for members of AICP, NC/SC Landscape Architects and SC Parks and Recreation professionals. There will also be time to network with other attendees throughout the event, meet the presenters, connect with exhibitors, and enter into topic specific roundtables during the designated lunch break time frame.


Early Bird Full Access Ticket: $50


Standard Full Access Ticket: $75

(Starting November 20)

  • Full access to the conference
  • Accessible replays of all presentations
  • Access to the virtual Exhibitor Hall and networking during the conference


Community Access Ticket: $25

  • Access to both keynote presentations – “Trails: Today and Tomorrow” and “Wheel With Me: Using Life’s Obstacles to Live life to the Fullest”
  • Accessible replays of those two sessions
  • Your choice of a voucher to Blue Blaze Brewing good for a one pint of Carolina Thread Trail Pale Ale, OR a Carolina Thread Trail buff.

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access the event


8:00 am Check-in

8:30-9:15 am Welcome, Executive Director Bart Landess

Trails: Today and Tomorrow, Thread Trail Director Bret Baronak

Thread Trail Director Bret Baronak will share accomplishments over the past year that have been critical to advancing the regional trail system.  Collaboration is the embodiment of creating success and recognition for the trail system.  The continued expansion the trail network lies squarely on the enthusiasm and will of our many community partners throughout the Thread Trail’s 15-county region in North and South Carolina.  Bret’s presentation will emphasize this spirit of cooperation and recognize those partners involved who give us reason to celebrate, especially in light of the many challenges that 2020 has put before us and tasks us with addressing in the upcoming years(s).   For everyone who has a stake in trail development, our work is more important than ever.  Bret will discuss how the Thread Trail is adapting and evolving so we can play our role to ensuring a regional trail system that best meets for ALL.

Volunteer of the Year, Thread Trail Director Bret Baronak


9:30-10:30 am     Concurrent Session #1

  • Great Trails State Plan

The Great Trails State plan builds upon local and regional trails to identify an overall statewide trail network, focused on connections to State Parks and population centers. The statewide network will connect communities to the great outdoors, while creating opportunities for transportation, conservation, recreation, education, physical health, environmental health, tourism, and economic prosperity. The project is being led by NCDOT’s Integrated Mobility Division, with the participation of NC State Parks, hundreds of stakeholders, and input from thousands of residents. Plan development began in early 2020 and will run through early 2021.  The primary outcomes will be a proposed trail network map that connects, to the extent possible, all 100 counties within North Carolina, along with an action-oriented implementation strategy focused on establishing dedicated funding for trails in North Carolina.

Jason Reyes , AICP, Senior Planning Associate with Alta Planning and Design Inc.

Kathryn Zeringue , Interim East Region Planning Manager in the NCDOT Integrated Mobility Division

Jake Petrosky , AICP, Planning Manager, Stewart Municipal Planning & Mobility Practice

  • The Water Quality Case for Paved Streamside Greenway Trails

McAdams greenway designers and stream restoration engineers will make the case for paving greenway trails in riparian buffers to better treat overall drainage to streams. This session was filmed in the field to show real world examples of how choosing the right surface can protect water quality and reduce maintenance burdens for municipalities.

Iona L. Thomas , AICP, Director, McAdams, Public Sector

Graham Bruns , PE, Greenway Manager, McAdams, Public Sector

Rebecca Stubbs , PE, Project Manager, Water Resources Department, McAdams

  • Trails for All

In order to design “trails for all,” we will need to first understand how trail investment has historically occurred and how that investment has not equally benefited all communities and populations. This panel of national, regional, and local planning, design, and implementation practitioners and partners will provide an introduction to trail equity from a broad perspective including the perspective of a state agency, a municipal agency, the non-profit/research sector, and planning & design consultant.  The panel will include an introduction to an equity analysis tool that can help plan and prioritize investment in areas determined to have the most need. From an equity lens (including health, social, and economic equity), the session participants will better understand the tangible benefits of trail access for all populations and how to overcome historical investment patterns to provide more equitable outcomes for all existing and potential trail communities.

John Cock , AICP, Vice President Planning/Southeast Region, Alta Planning + Design

Brandon Gonzalez , AICP, Senior Planning Associate, Alta Planning + Design

W. Lee Jones Jr. , AIA, Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Director

Lindsay M. Oluyede , MURP, AICP, PhD Candidate, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

  • Triangle Trail Initiative

The Triangle Region is blessed with a well-developed network of trails and greenways that afford excellent access to regional outdoor resources. With a constructed network of approximately 400 miles of trails and greenways in use today, the region is working collaboratively to establish a new regional organization that can brand, promote, market, program and grow this network. The Triangle Trails Initiative (also known as TriangleTrails) was launched in 2019 and is a collaboration between government, business, anchor institutions and civic leaders to make the Research Triangle Region a national leader in greenways and trails.

Chuck Flink , FASLA, Owner/President, Greenways Inc.

Sarah Sanford , North Carolina and Virginia Coordinator, East Coast Greenway Alliance  


10:45-11:45 am   Concurrent Session #2

  • Trails and Ecosystem Restoration: Finding a Balance

As the largest metropolitan area in North Carolina, the Charlotte Region continues to grow at a rapid pace and demand for recreational outlets increases along with the population. Striking a balance between manmade improvements and protecting the natural environment can be challenging. This session will present different approaches to planning, designing, and implementing two unique multi-use trail and stream restoration projects. The presentation will feature the Briar Creek Greenway and the Reedy Creek Greenway in Mecklenburg County, NC. These projects were developed to restore wetlands, streams, and natural habitats while reconnecting people to the environment through trails.

Emily Reinicker , PE, CFM, Director of Operations and Design, Wildlands Engineering

Jon Wood , PLA, Senior Project Manager, Alfred Benesch & Company

Jeff Ashbaugh , PLA, Senior Project Manager, Alfred Benesch & Company

  • Funding Opportunities through the NC Land and Water Fund

Since 1997, the NC Land and Water Fund (previously known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund), has provided funding to nonprofit and government partners for acquisition, restoration, and preservation of water, natural heritage, cultural and historical sites, and military buffers. Learn how your organization can apply to the Fund’s upcoming grant cycle to acquire land for trails and greenways, what makes a successful application and project, and what goes into the long-term protection of these lands. Catawba Lands Conservancy has successfully utilized NC Land and Water Fund grant awards to leverage funding for acquisitions that support additional trail miles and connectivity. Participants will learn about several examples of grant funded land acquisition projects that provided access along Carolina Thread Trail planned routes in Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Lincoln Counties.  

Marissa Hartzler , Stewardship Program Manager, NC Land and Water Fund

Damon Hearne , Western Field Representative, NC Land and Water Fund

Amanda Byrum , JD, MPA, Land Conservation Director, Catawba Lands Conservancy

  • Updates from the Capitals: State and Federal Advocacy Efforts to Increase Funding for Trails

This session will provide an update on state and federal efforts to increase political support and funding for all kinds of trail projects. There is a newly organized NC Coalition for Trails that has worked at the state level. Several national organizations, including East Coast Greenway, Rails to Trails, and the Coalition for Regional Trails are all working to increase federal support for trails through stimulus and reauthorization of the transportation act. We will end the session with local strategies communities can use to engage elected officials.

Palmer McIntyre , Conservation Planner, Piedmont Land Conservancy

Sarah Sanford , North Carolina and Virginia Coordinator, East Coast Greenway Alliance


11:45 -12:30 pm  Lunch, Networking Sessions, and Individual Networking


12:30-1:30 pm   Keynote Address – Jesi Stracham , Wheel with Me: Using Life’s Obstacles to Live to the Fullest

Jesi’s presentation will take you through challenges she faces as a wheelchair user in the outdoors.  An avid trail user, Jesi will share how she independently navigates uncertainties in accessibility, trails surfaces, and what access means to her.  Her message serves as both a call for the outdoor community to reimagine trail design and usership, as well as inspiration for all trail users regardless of ability.

1:30-2:00 pm    Closing



Interested in sponsorship opportunities and exhibitor space? Download the corporate sponsorship package. If you are a non-profit, contact Vanessa Covington at vanessa@carolinathreadtrail.org.