Trail Towns Represented at MATAG Conference

Earlier this week, Jeff Malik, project leader for the Trail Town Outreach Corps, attended the Mid America Trails and Greenways (MATAG) conference to speak about the Trail Town Program. He was asked to be part of two presentations, a field session to explore a trail project in the area, and a panel discussion about Trail Town style programs.The MATAG conference, a biannual event that gathers trail advocates and organizations from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin, was held this past week in Matteson, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. While Pennsylvania is not part of that definition of Mid America, many trail groups across the country have looked at the Trail Town Program along the Great Allegheny Passage as a model program, and are seeking to implement their own similar projects.The first session Jeff was involved with was a field trip to explore the Cal-Sag Trail.  This trail, on which construction will begin in early 2014, will be a 28 mile trail that links nearly 14 communities in the southern suburbs of Chicago.  It will connect to various other trails to create a one hundred mile loop between many small towns. The “Friends of the Cal-Sag Trail” and “Trails for Illinois” groups are already planning on implementing Trail Town type projects, such as signage to direct trail users from the trail to downtown business districts, and camping or other overnight accomodations. The friends group asked Jeff to come along on the session, where he provided insight on the type of projects that have been implemented in Pennsylvania. The next day, Jeff spoke on part of a panel dedicated to Trail Town programs. He was joined by Amy Camp, who helped launch the original Trail Town Program, which our corps members are still working with, and Elaine Wilson, from the Kentucky office of Tourism, who spoke about their state-wide program to designate communities as Kentucky Trail Towns. The panel began with Amy Camp giving an overview on the philosophy of Trail Towns, and then Jeff discussed the role of the SCA and the type of on-the-ground projects that our corps members implement. The session was full and we received great feedback, in terms of engaged questions, and most importantly, the admiration that everyone shows for the work our members do is always the best take-away from a conference like this.