June 4, 2017

Guild Project Will Create Trails, Reduce Carbon Footprint

Staff: Susan Harrel and Suellen Rowlison Staff: Susan Harrel and Suellen Rowlison
The first regional conference for creating a California Trails Master Plan was a great success, and a good omen for this visionary Guild project.  Held May 20 at the Chico Guild hall, the conference attracted local residents, representatives from public and private organizations, and walking & biking enthusiasts from across California. 

There were several excellent presentations by experts in the field of non-motorized trails, interspersed with great music from Guild member David Zink of the Paradise Community Guilds.  Much good information was shared and positive work accomplished.  Good food and drink were provided and the mood was festive & fun!

Conference organizer Ken Donnell of the Taylorsville Guild introduced an impressive group of speakers.

The opening speaker was Bob McFarland, President of the California Guild, the parent organization of the local Chico Guild chapter.  McFarland presented an overview of the need for non-motorized trails planning & development and committed the Guild's support for future fundraising and legislative efforts toward the goal of creating a state-wide non-motorized trails system.

Keynote speaker for the conference was Laura Cohen, Regional Director for the Rails to Trails Conservancy, an organization with over 30 years of non-motorized trail building experience across North America.  Laura's presentation focused on how rapidly changing technologies are re-shaping the use of motor vehicles in many positive ways.

Laura CohenLaura Cohen

She noted that personally-owned motor vehicles sit idle and unused an average of 97% of the time.  Ms. Cohen further described how the emergence of Uber, LYFT, and similar ride sharing services have created an inexpensive and convenient “on demand” style of vehicle use, where actual ownership of a vehicle is not required for reliable transportation.

Self-navigating vehicles are opening new possibilities for further ride sharing & home deliveries.  As use of self-navigating vehicles become more widespread, the need for personal ownership of a motor vehicle will be further reduced.  Fewer personal motor vehicles parked and sitting idle will free up space for creating non-motorized trails along existing streets and roadways.

Thad Walker, a local resident who works with  the Resource Conversation Agency, the Butte County Forestry Commission, Chico Velo Bicycle Club, and the Butte County Trails Committee, spoke about the vast economic power of the outdoor recreation industry (4th overall in the USA), and how consumer demand for outdoor recreation is  shifting towards non-motorized activities.  Walker further described how multiple local organizations and agencies are currently at work to plan and develop non-motorized trails in Butte County.  He gave great encouragement to the California Guild for continuing to pursue the development of a Master Plan for all of the non-motorized trails in California. 

David ZinkDavid Zink

After the presentations and speeches, a productive discussion began about how to move forward towards the creation of a California Trails Master Plan.  It was agreed that the first important step is to form a committee to create an inventory and database of everyone and every organization

currently involved with non-motorized trails planning and development in California.  This information will be used to reach out to these organizations, agencies, and individuals to encourage cooperation and attendance at one or more of the upcoming regional conferences.

The next California Trails Regional Conference is scheduled for Friday, September 22, 2017, in Oakland.  A third conference is planned for January, 2018 in Elk Grove (10 miles south of Sacramento).  The January conference will be hosted by the Elk Grove Guild, which has several members interested in horse drawn vehicles, and will focus specifically on trails issues related to equestrians.

Everyone at the California Trails Conference in Chico commented how this was a near perfect first event.   Each presentation provided a different “cutting edge view” for how non-motorized trails are being used, and how such trails might be better developed in the future.  There were wise and thoughtful conversations, with decisions made and implemented to best prepare for the September 22 conference in Oakland. 

Pamm Larry, “original instigator for Proposition 37" (for GMO labeling) and member of the Chico Guild provided a glowing view for how Chico is the perfect community for a movement such as the California Trails Master Plan project to begin.  While our federal government has stepped back from working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the citizens of Chico are not afraid to take direct action to reduce our local carbon footprint.   Chico is large enough to have a strong and diverse population, filled with many well educated and skilled citizens, thanks to good local schools and colleges.  But Chico is still small enough that it is easy for people to interact with each other and share social contacts.

For more information the California Trails Master Plan, contact Project Coordinator Ken Donnell at (530) 566-2561 (voice & text) or via email at