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Simple Goals, Real Gains for Friendsville Trails Alliance

One of my favorite trail development projects this year has been helping the community of Friendsville, Maryland, in their effort to bring more attention to a rail-trail in their community.

The Kendall Trail runs 2-miles right from downtown Friendsville along the beautiful Youghiogheny River, which attracts kayakers from all over the region.

1382362_544754512256964_1270248525_nA small group of citizens had been wondering how to generate local interest and energy behind the trail in order to keep it maintained and better promote its use. That was around the time my wife and I stopped through town, and once the locals learned of my work with Rails-to-Trails Conservancy asked me to lead a discussion of effective strategies for mobilizing local support behind trail development.

At that meeting, held in a beautiful coffee shop right along the river, I urged modest, achievable, short-term goals, and the importance of making more locals personally familiar with the trail. I also suggested changing the name of the fledgling group from the Kendall Trail Alliance (if people aren’t familiar with the Kendall Trail, then the Kendall Trail Alliance is not something that relates to 1379316_544755345590214_367281587_nthem), to the Friendsville Trails Alliance, to forge an immediate local connection to the group and to allow for its, eventually, broader mission to connect trails throughout the region. Small steps, very achievable, but distinct and concrete movements toward catalyzing local interest.

The first item on the to-do list as we emerged from the meeting was a community working bee and “get to know the Kendall Trail” event. Keep the ambitions modest – we aren’t trying to transform the trail in a day – with a focus on welcoming people, providing them with clear information about the trail and the group, and helping people understand the community’s ownership of the trail. The second item was a concise communications piece – a one-pager, a flyer, an elevator pitch – that spelled out simply who the group was and how people could get involved. It sounds obvious, but it’s an often overlooked component when young community organizations are first trying to grow their audience.

I was so pleased to see a sunny day and a terrific turnout that first community event, and the Friendsville Trails Alliance tells me the local interest and 1382879_544754848923597_441646266_ninvolvement is swelling already, with a number of newspaper articles in the local papers, and word of mouth, building awareness of the trail and the role of the people in maintaining it. Just click on one of the photos here, to see a slideshow of more photos from the day.

It’s important to not let that local interest lapse by leaving 6 months between events. As so we are now working on a follow-up event for later in the fall. Congratulations Friendsville Trails Alliance – it is great to be involved in this exciting time for your community.

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