The California Trails Conference Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization founded in 1995. The Foundation works in partnership with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to offer an annual conference each spring. Our activities are designed to increase the knowledge of trail, recreation and wildland management professionals and advocates, both novice and expert, in order to improve non-motorized, recreational and heritage trail systems and programs throughout California.
The Foundation’s Board of Directors:
Cathy Haagen-Smit, President
Growing up, Cathy traveled the world as the daughter of an Army physician landing at age 8 in the Presidio of San Francisco – now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In such a place, she was drawn to the outdoors early in life. She met her husband in a nordic ski club and has been chasing him on trails ever since. Both a road and mountain bike advocate Cathy’s volunteer work runs from actual trail work to participating in local and statewide trails advocacy organizations. Living in a solar house in Newcastle built by her husband Jim, she is co-founder of the local mountain bike club, FATRAC, and is a member of the Placer County multiple use Trails Forum. She is also the Secretary to the board of the California Trails and Greenways Foundation and is pleased to serve as the President of the California Trails Conference Foundation.
Ron Krueper, Secretary-Treasurer
Ron’s introduction to the great outdoors occurred early through very active parents involved defending the southern California’s San Gorgonio Wilderness Area from proposed downhill ski developments and it’s designation as such through the 1964 Wilderness Act. Ron completed the John Muir Trail in sections by age 12, which led to a life time of enjoying, using and promoting the use of multi-use trails as a means to connect people to the great outdoors whether in the Sierra Nevada or any nearby urban/open space park. It also led him to a 38 year career as a Lifeguard, Ranger and District Superintendent with California State Parks throughout southern California where trails and regional trail planning was a “key” element for him. Now recently retired in Highland, California, Ron continues to enjoy the great outdoors through bike riding and hiking.
Clay Phillips, Director
Clay retired in 2014 after 37 years with California State Parks. Through the years, he was involved in every element of park management: Long-range master planning, site design, construction, public involvement, education, resource protection, law enforcement and general park operations. He concluded his career as a POST-certified peace officer and Superintendent for the San Diego Coast District and continues to maintain his status as a state-certified Landscape Architect.
Clay designed and managed construction implementation of various projects throughout Southern California including trail design/rehabilitation/
Maryanne Vancio, Director
Maryanne grew up in rural northern New Jersey where her love for great outdoor adventures began. She got involved in trails in 1986 after moving to the unincorporated area San Diego County when she volunteered to help with an assessment of the historic California Riding and Hiking Trail. She realized then just how important trails were to her community. She became an advocate promoting the idea of multi-use trails to the County Board of Supervisors. In 2002, Maryanne was hired as County of San Diego Trails Program Coordinator. In her free time, you can find her on her neighborhood trails hiking, walking her Doberman or riding one of her Arabian horses.
Garrett Villanueva, Director
Garrett Villanueva is a trail professional and has been employed by the US Forest Service since 1998. His passion and full time job include managing trails and fostering land stewardship. While he likes nothing more than digging in the dirt, his job has evolved from trail construction and trail design to trail operations, and policy and partnerships development. Currently, Garrett leads the trail program for the US Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region which encompasses the beautiful state of California. He works with statewide partners and tackles complex trail issues throughout California’s National Forests. Representing the US Forest Service, Garrett has travelled internationally to Brazil and Israel to share knowledge about partnerships, community engagement, trail management, and trail planning. In his free time he enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, cycling, hiking, paddle boarding and surfing with his family. As his job/hobby, he has a small business building wooden surfboards, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes.
The Foundation has one independent contractor who manages the foundations affairs and serves to coordinate the conference in conjunction with State Park staff:
Laurel Harkness, Executive Director
Laurel Harkness grew up in the Sierra Nevada foothills, where she had access to singletrack trails in her backyard. She got on her first mountain bike in 1987 and has since had a long career recreating in the outdoors mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, river guiding, hiking, backcountry skiing, and flyfishing. Laurel earned her degree in Soil and Water Science from UC Davis, with a concentration in Viticulture. After working in the wine industry for a period of time, Laurel worked as project manager during the dot-com boom in Seattle. Laurel has had a long and varied career in nonprofit consulting, project management, technology, and land use planning. With over 15 years in outdoor recreation advocacy, Laurel is passionate about connecting all people to landscapes through trails and recreation experiences. In addition to her role with the California Trails Conference Foundation, Laurel currently serves as the Executive Director of the Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals.
For the last 15 years Laurel has called Mt. Shasta home, where she enjoys an abundance of outdoor recreation in all four seasons with her two outdoor adventuring teenage kids. Laurel still keeps a hand in the world of winegrapes too, harvesting small batches of California’s finest each year and keeping the home cellar stocked.
Dave Gould grew up in the Los Angeles area and spent many days in his youth camping and hiking in parklands throughout California. That led him to a 34-year career working seasonally for the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service, and then for most of his career as a ranger and superintendent with California State Parks. Dave lives in Sonoma and spends much of his life in retirement volunteering on various parks issues in addition to time spent as a “Master Gardener” giving programs throughout Sonoma County. He retired from the Board of Directors in the summer of 2016.
John is a native Californian who grew up in rural Sonoma County enjoying the outdoors – primarily hiking, camping and fishing. That background led him to a career as a Ranger and Superintendent with California State Parks, for a time overseeing some of state’s most extensive trail programs. Now retired in Quincy, California, John continues to enjoy outdoor activities as well as his role as volunteer for the California Trails Conference Foundation. One of his favorite quotes is from John Muir: “The mountains are calling and I must go!”
Dick enjoyed a 30 year career with California State Parks where he retired in 2002 as Deputy Director for Park Operations. Beyond the Trails Conference, he stays active in park matters, serving on the boards of the State Railroad Museum and Anza Borrego Foundations. He divides his time between Sacramento and Borrego Springs where he designed and built a straw bale house.
For more than 20 years, Dick has provided leadership and support for the annual statewide California Trails and Greenways Conference. He played a major role in forming the Foundation to provide financial assistance to the conference and served as the Foundation’s first president. Under his guidance a memorandum of understanding was created between the Foundation and the Director of California State Parks, ensuring mutual cooperation and support for the conference. Dick has worked to strengthen the conference and the leadership role it plays in the California trails community. Always positive and encouraging, Dick models a “cheer-leading” style that ensures the success of many endeavors. He retired from the Board of Directors in January 2015.
Beth Boyst is the U.S. Forest Service Trail Program manager for the entire 2,650 mile Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) traversing the Sierra and Cascade Ranges through California, Oregon, and Washington from Mexico to Canada. Her duties include supporting a volunteer partnership programs that excels in trail construction, maintenance and primitive skills. Her work has always emphasized citizen stewardship and partnerships in special places. From 1991-2007 she worked in various roles on the White River National Forest, Colorado supporting the wilderness and trails programs. Beth’s career has taken a nontraditional path, working first as a pediatric nurse at the University of Virginia and Denver Children’s Hospitals prior to attending Colorado State University and receiving her Masters of Forestry in 1991. In 1985, Beth completed the Appalachian Trail and has hiked most of the PCT through California.
Trails have been a significant part of Kurt’s life since before he was born, when his parents would camp in the Lake Tahoe area. 30 years ago he was looking for some stress relief from his day job which included management, engineering, business development, and technology in the aerospace industry. That stress relief came in the form of a volunteer trail maintenance day, and Kurt was hooked ever since. His professional background gives Kurt the opportunity to look at trail elements from the technical side (design, construction, maintenance, etc.) as well as the management side (resource, staffing, budgeting, etc.). Kurt has had the privilege of working with phenomenal land managers, seasoned professional trail contractors, and some of the most dedicated volunteers over the past decades, and he looks forward to expanding an already diverse and experienced trail community in California (where his family goes back five generations).
Hayden Sohm is a Deputy Director with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation. He is responsible for the management and operations of LA County’s Regional Parks. With an operating budget of $40 million and 500 budgeted positions, this program provides some of the most diverse recreational opportunities in the country. Prior to his work in Los Angeles, Mr. Sohm served for 30 years with the California Department of Parks and Recreation. His last position in that capacity was serving as the District Superintendent for the Sierra District at Lake Tahoe. He holds a B.A. in History from University of California at Santa Cruz. He is active in the Dragon Boat community and is an active participant in the sport. He recently traveled to Fushun, China to represent the International Collegiate Dragon Boat Association at their June races.
Carl Somers is the Chief of Planning & Acquisition for Marin County Parks & Open Space District, where he directs programs, including a highly visible trail initiative, and manages real estate for a growing network of 34 Open Space Preserves, 70 county park units, and Marin County’s extensive and heavy utilized multiuse pathways. Prior to joining Marin County Parks in 2013, Carl spent a decade with the Northern California Program of the Trust for Public Land, developing a varied portfolio of land acquisition and conservation projects totaling over 41,000 acres. He currently lives in Albany, California and spends as much of his free time as possible exploring the world through trails.
Vicki has been active in trail issues since the 1990s when she joined the staff of the San Dieguito River Park. She is a frequent California Trails and Greenways participant and has assisted in organizing several pre-conference workshops. Since 2003, Vicki has been working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Refuge System, where she is responsible for the preparation of refuge management plans and working with other agency partners and the public to conserve sensitive habitats, while also providing opportunities for the public to access and enjoy the natural resources being conserved within our National Wildlife Refuges.
Jim Townsend recently retired from the position of Trails Development Manager at the East Bay Regional Park District, the nation’s largest regional park agency. In that capacity he was responsible for the development of both paved and narrow natural surface trails in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. He served on the Board of Directors of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council for many years, and chaired the Citizen’s Advisory Committee for the Contra Costa Transportation Authority. Currently, he serves on the Board of Coastwalk California, and was recently appointed to the Caltrans Active Transportation Program Technical Advisory Committee.