Meet the UGA alumna behind the Georgia Trail Summit: Tracie Sanchez (AB ’88, MPA ’11)
The Georgia Trail Summit is excited to announce the schedule for its second annual event, which will take place in Athens, Georgia, June 4-6 at The Graduate. Continue reading to learn more about Georgia Trail Summit’s founder, Double Dawg Tracie Sanchez (AB ’88, MPA ’11), and the inspiration behind this organization.
I’ve been riding bikes, hiking mountains and paddling rivers all my life. Being on a trail makes for wonderful escapes, new adventures and challenges, new friends, staying healthy and connecting with nature. And great photo memories.
Earning my Masters of Public Administration at UGA late in life allowed me to focus on which public policy I wanted to champion. Being part of the effort to build a world-class network of connected trails in every corner of Georgia is a cause I believe in deeply.
The first thing I did as an undergrad in 1985 was sell my car and become a bicycle commuter to campus. I still had that bike 24 years later when I returned to UGA for my masters’ in public administration. I caught trail fever in Athens biking the greenway, helping the Firefly Trail incorporate as a non-profit, and collaborating on a graduate project in Hartwell that led to inventorying regional greenspaces with UGA landscape architecture students.
Clearly, alternative transportation solutions involving active living are my passion. Eight years at UGA as a program coordinator for the Leonard Leadership Scholars and one-on-one chats with mentor Earl Leonard taught me a thing or two about leading an effort. So with a background in graphic design, leadership development, a public policy degree, and spare time during the job search, I reached out to all the trail hounds I knew in Georgia, and began to build a network.
Research in 2011 revealed there are 82 trail and greenway projects proposed or underway in Georgia. I was familiar with many of them from my own explorations and serving as a mobility manager for a regional commission. I learned of others while attending Smart Growth conferences, Transportation Camp, the Georgia Bike Summit and transit and mobility workshops. But something was missing. No one knew about anyone else’s project; no one seemed to be sharing lessons learned. Why wasn’t there an easy opportunity to convene Georgia’s entire community of trail experts in one place?
The Department of Natural Resources admitted they didn’t have staff capacity to update a 15-year-old comprehensive trail plan. With so much to learn from each other, I felt compelled to connect the dots…and the people.
The solution came when attending the National Bike Summit in DC. While visiting Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s development director, Kelly Pack, she inspired me with great advice, “Round everyone up and hold a Georgia Trail Summit.” I pitched the idea that spring and have been recruiting and collaborating with trail, greenway and blueway partners ever since. The time was right and I visualized myself as the champion for the effort. UGA taught me how and now I’m on a roll.
Today, I lead a dedicated team of volunteer trailblazers planning the second annual Georgia Trail Summit. So far, we’ve raised $20,000 with 35 sponsors, including UGA College of Public Health, UGA Office of Sustainability, UGA Warnell School of Forestry, Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services Department, Athens-Clarke County Mayor’s Office and Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau. More importantly, we’re connecting people.
The Georgia Trail Summit has seen a drastic increase in presenters since its creation. You all know Athens is an ideal, walkable city with hotels right on the Greenway and other nearby trails for biking, hiking and paddling, which will be featured during 10 mobile workshops.
I remain committed to my vision for Georgia’s trail movement to grow into an established and influential organization helping non-profits, governments and communities focus on connectivity, conservation and comprehensive planning.
UGA alumni are personally invited to attend this timely conversation on the future of Georgia’s trails June 4, 5 and 6 in Athens at the Graduate Hotel. For a closer look, stroll on over to georgiatrailsummit.com.