2020 Statewide Trails Conference Speakers
Chris is a planner with more than 30 years of experience in community planning, recreation and tourism, and economic development, as planner with the State of Alaska and a consultant. Chris stepping back from Agnew::Beck Consulting, a firm he co-founded in 2002, but has more than filled his time helping to lead the ambitious Statewide Trail Initiative. Be careful about giving him the chance to share his passion for “One More Day” (of visitor spending in AK) or the wonders of New Zealand trails and huts.
More info on the Alaska Trails Initiative at: http://www.alaska-trails.org/alaska-trails-initiative.html
Lynne was hired as Sitka Trail Works, Inc.’s, (STW), Executive Director in September of 2015. Prior to joining STW, Lynne was City and Borough of Sitka Parks and Recreation Manager for fourteen years. Other positions Lynne has held in Sitka include work as an Alaska State Park Ranger, for the Forest Service, National Park Service and running her own pottery business while her two sons, Gavin and Kevin, were little. While at the City, Lynne collaborated with Deborah Lyons, former executive director of STW, on all trail projects on City lands including all phases of the Cross Trail, Thimbleberry-Heart Lake trail, Sawmill Creek road and Indian River road separated multiuse paths and Herring Cove trail.
During her career, she is proud of helping to develop the Cross Trail, Starrigavan trail system, the Turnaround skate park, the Kimsham Athletic Fields and improving greenspace and landscaping around many of Sitka’s parks and public buildings. Lynne has a Bachelor of Science degree, in Park and Outdoor Recreation Management, from Colorado State University. Outside of work, Lynne loves spending time with family, fitness, dance, artwork, gardening, wild beaches, hiking to mountain tops and snorkeling in tropical water.
Christine Byl, co-owner of Interior Trails, is a writer and a trail builder of 24 years. After 12 seasons working on federal trail crews in Glacier NP, Chugach NF and Denali NP, in 2008 Christine and her husband Gabe Travis founded Interior Trails, specializing in sustainable trail design, layout, construction, consulting and training in Alaska. Christine's first book, Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods is about trail crews, tools, wilderness, and labor, and was selected by Backpacker Magazine as one of 20 Great Books for the Trail. She lives on a few acres of tundra north of Denali National Park and spends as much time as possible in wild places by foot, bike, ski, boat and dog. For more information on Interior Trails, visit www.interior-trails.com.
Eric started working on trails 29 years ago when he discovered that he could get paid to hike, work, and play in the woods. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, he migrated up to Alaska, due to a road trip as a kid that exposed him to Alaska. He has worked as a crew member with the Chugach National Forest, lead crews with Alaska State Parks, paid and volunteer, in trail construction and maintenance, and has done layout, design and construction with Alaska State Parks Marine Recreation Projects of last century. Eric currently is the Trail Coordinator for Kachemak Bay State Park roaming trails, working with volunteers to keep trails open and assisting with partners on new trail projects.
Ricky Gease is the Director of Alaska State Parks and Outdoor Recreation. Prior to this position, he served in various non-profit executive management positions for twenty years, including as the Executive Director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association and the Kenai Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as the museum manager of the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center. He also served as a Park Ranger at Kenai Fjords National Park for six years. He holds Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees from Stanford University in Biology, and a Certificate in Non-profit Executive Management from The Foraker Group through UAA. He has extensive service on various boards and commissions relating to natural and cultural resource management. He and his wife Bunny Swan reside in Kenai.
Mark Gronewald got his start in the trail world as a US Forest Service trail crew member in 1977, then spent 20 years as a wildland firefighter and backcountry ski guide. As the owner of Wildfire Designs Bicycles, he was an early pioneer and manufacturer of fat-tired snow bikes. He is the founder of Valley Mountain Bike Alliance (now Valley Mountain Bikers and Hikers) and has volunteered on numerous trail projects in the Mat Su Valley. From 2005 to 2013, Mark worked as a trail crew leader and trails specialist for Alaska State Parks and the Mat-Su Borough. He has operated Trailwerx, a private trails construction firm since 2013.
Joe has been working on trails for the better part of the past ten years. After growing up in the malaise of suburban Detroit and working nothing but dead end jobs, he energized himself by joining a backcountry crew in Escalante, Utah. He is now the trails manager for Chugach State Park. Joe’s main focus is providing sustainable solutions for trails in Chugach State Park while getting young folks and volunteers out working on trails.
Lee Hart is the founder of the Alaska Outdoor Alliance. Lee has specialized in the outdoor, snow sports, bike and adventure travel industries for the past two decades of her lifelong career as a communicator and brand strategist. She has a successful track record providing marketing, event planning, production services, and media relations for established and emerging national and international brands, NGOs, and destinations. Her current coalition-building effort in Alaska marries her professional expertise with a fervent belief in the positive impact the outdoor recreation sector can have on small town economies as well as the mental and physical benefits of recreating outdoors.
A decade ago Wes left his career as an electrician to seek out work that felt more purposeful. He joined a wilderness stewardship organization in Nevada. Working with talented staff and volunteers he helped grow the stewardship program from 18 projects a summer to over 40. Working to secure grants from public and private foundations, as well as federal cost-share agreements from agency partners, he grew the program into a resource for federal land managers to use for much-needed and underfunded trail work. As manager of the program, Wes maintained a bird’s eye view from the office, but still enjoyed many days camping with the crew and connecting to the projects, people, and details of trail work.
Since moving to Alaska, Wes has been fortunate to work in several roles with regional and local non-profits that have allowed him to continue sharpening his skills – from organizational development and oversight at the board level, to supporter and donor engagement. But what truly inspires him is connecting with people outside.
Wes lives in Palmer with his wife Alli and daughter Reesa. Plus two tropical birds.
As Executive Director, Nolan provides overall leadership for the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, as well as support for other programs of the UAA Business Enterprise Institute. Prior to taking his current role in 2014, Nolan served as Associate Director. He has been a strategic advisor to tribal governments, municipal governments, non-profits, Alaska Native Corporations and private business groups, assisting them in realizing their economic goals. Nolan’s areas of professional interest include feasibility analysis, rural economic development, entrepreneurship and innovation policy, and engagement between the public and private sectors. He is a Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) through the International Economic Development Council, is a board member for the University Economic Development Association, and serves on the Municipality of Anchorage Budget Advisory Commission. Nolan was named to Alaska’s “Top 40 Under 40” in 2015. He holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kansas and a Bachelor of Arts, History and Political Science from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Kristen Mrozowski is returning for her second year as the Trails Technician for Alaska Trails. Through the Alaska Trail Stewards program, she coordinates and trains volunteers while leading trail work events on state and federal lands throughout southcentral Alaska. In the heat of the summer, Kristen will also be the project site manager for the twenty-four youth laborers and four crew leaders of the Youth Employment in Parks program in Anchorage parks. Prior to joining Steve at Alaska Trails, Kristen spent six years working with conservation corps crews throughout the Lower 48 and Alaska, and a season leading a trail crew at Kachemak Bay State Park in Homer. She brings a background in risk management and a passion for teaching both youth and adults. She is working to develop those aspects of the Alaska Trails Stewards program and to help build a skilled and efficient volunteer work force. Kristen believes that trail work empowers people, and strives to make that opportunity accessible to all. She learned a lot last season, but her favorite type of work is still moving boulders.
Maeve Nevins-Lavtar is a Senior Park Planner with the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department. Since 2012, she has been the project manager on several complex, large-scale trail projects including rehabilitation of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, the Lanie Fleischer Chester Creek Trail, the Campbell Creek Trail and the replacement of 9 pedestrian trail bridges. Currently, she is managing the new Chester Creek Urban Singletrack project and Anchorage’s first bike park project at the South Anchorage Sports Park. Her experience also extends to the design and development of single-track mountain bike trails, playgrounds and other recreation facilities. Maeve received her B.S. in Landscape Architecture from Colorado State University. She is active in the community as a volunteer youth mountain bike coach, steep skiing coach and was recently an international delegate with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Military Survivors (TAPS).
Beth is a third generation Alaskan park user. Born in Anchorage, she lost her first tooth at Russian Jack Springs Park. Beth was raised in Juneau and earned a double-major in Environmental Studies and Political Science from Baylor University, and a Master’s in Public Administration from The George Washington University.
Beth was the first staff hired for the Anchorage Park Foundation in 2004. Starting from scratch, she has helped shape the work plan and she enjoys working with volunteers to help them obtain grants, promote projects, build projects, and celebrate community achievements. One of Beth’s proudest accomplishments is helping to create and fund the Youth Employment in Parks program, which won the prestigious Partners in Conservation Award from the US Department of the Interior. Her community awards include Anchorage ATHENA Society and Top 40 Under 40. Beth lives with her husband Jim and child Ella next to a great sledding hill at Balto Seppala Park.
Mike Shields started working on trails in 1960 at Olympic National Park, in the days of axes, misery-whips, and 90-lb loads in a Trapper Nelson pack. A graduate of the University of Idaho, in his NPS career he’s been a Crew Leader, Ranger, Roads Foreman, Maintenance Mechanic, Trails Foreman, and Facility Manager, but primarily and always a trailman, and has worked trails in Olympic, Big Bend, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, North Cascades, Kings Canyon, Rocky Mountain, and Denali. Two of those parks (Canyonlands, North Cascades) were brand new and he helped “invent” the trail systems in both. He became adept at timber felling, log and rock construction, mule packing, rigging, using explosives as a precision tool, disposing of unstable explosives, suspension bridge and tram design, and contract administration. Since his retirement as Denali’s Chief of Maintenance in late 1996 he has been a small contractor providing training, trail layout, and technical consulting services from Alaska to West Texas and California to Ohio. In 2010 he received American Trails “State Trail Worker Award” (Alaska) for his efforts at training and mentoring younger folks, and in 2015 the Professional Trail Builders Assn “R.H. Bell Lifetime Achievement Award” for excellence in trail design and construction.
Lia Slemons is the Trails Coordinator for the Kenai Mountains-Turnagain Arm National Heritage Area, a nonprofit that leverages volunteer contributions with federal funding. The restoration and preservation of historic trails and sites are a primary goal of KMTA, while telling some of their stories along the way! Lia has enjoyed learning the history of communities from Bird to Seward while having a greater reason to run more trails along the Kenai. She and her husband and two daughters also enjoy camping, biking, fishing, skiing and berry picking throughout Southcentral Alaska. Lia holds a Ph.D. in oceanography, coaches Girls on the Run, and bakes sourdough. For more information on KMTA, visit www.kmtacorridor.org.
Blaine Smith started doing trail work in 1976 as a Boy Scout working with Chugach State Park Rangers to reopen the Turnagain Arm Trail.From that point on he has maintained an active interest in trails, becoming the trails manager for Chugach State Park, a job from which he retired in 2016. Since then he has occupied his time by working and volunteering for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Chugach State Park, Alaska Trails and the Student Conservation Association.
Gabe Travis, co-owner of Interior Trails, has been a professional trail builder since 1996. Gabe has led trail crews in Glacier National Park, Chugach National Forest, and Denali NP; in 2008 Gabe and his wife, Christine Byl, began Interior Trails to address the need for specialized trail expertise in Alaska. In addition to design and layout, assessment and prescription, and hand and mechanized construction for clients statewide, Gabe has taught introductory and technical trails courses for the past 12 years. An avid skier, biker, and runner, Gabe is also a visual artist who brings his eye for design and detail to the trail layout and construction process. He lives in a yurt north of Denali National Park. For more information on Interior Trails, visit www.interior-trails.com.
Jon Underwood has had a life-long fascination with trails as a biker, skier, runner, walker, and ATV rider. In 2006 Jon started Happy Trails, Inc. to provide trail design and construction in Alaska. Since then he has designed and built trails all over the state, having so much fun he is astonished when it is sometimes profitable. Jon is President of the Professional Trail Builders Association.
Find Happy Trails on Facebook or www.happytrailsak.com to see more.
Joni Wilm is a a Senior Transportation Planner with Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions (AMATS). Joni has a cumulative 15+ years of experience working in the fields of urban design and transportation planning. Joni is currently managing the AMATS Non-motorized Plan and the AMATS Street Typologies Plan as well the UrbanStreets Magazine. Past projects of hers include the AMATS Complete Streets Policy, the Spenard Corridor Plan, the AMATS Public Involvement Plan and the Government Hill Neighborhood Plan. A lifelong Alaskan, Joni is passionate about helping to make Anchorage a more livable, sustainable and healthy place for all.
Jared has worked on the trail crew at Denali National Park since 2005. During that time he has learned a lot from some amazing crew leaders and challenging working conditions. Since 2009, he’s planned and designed many of the park’s trail improvements, both in designated wilderness and in accessible areas around the frontcountry. When he’s not working on trails, he enjoys hiking, biking, skiing and mushing on them with his young family.