The Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC) envisions a 1,500-mile network of trails that stretch from the shores of Lake Erie to the confluence of Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers and on to the Appalachian foothills of West Virginia. Cycle Forward has consulted the IHTC since its inception. The most recent project, evaluating the first 10 years and planning for the future, was particularly rewarding.
Dates: December 2021 – November 2022
Client: Pennsylvania Environmental Council (returning client)
Location: New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia
Outdoor Assets: Regional multi-use trails
Project Type: Plan development
When the trails staff at the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) realized the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition (IHTC) was approaching the 10-year mark, they engaged Cycle Forward to evaluate its success. Cycle Forward worked with the coalition to assess its accomplishments to date and develop a success strategy for the next 10 years.
PEC is one of three organizations that lend professional staff support to the 51-county, multi-state coalition. The others are the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the National Park Service’s RTCA Ohio Field Office. The project began with a full-day off-site strategic session with these organizations to clarify project goals and reflect on the successes and challenges of the first 10 years. Next, Cycle Forward began seeking input from coalition members with a survey, virtual meeting, and focus groups. These conversations and survey responses helped to inform the report. The report itself was designed to be highly visual, with engaging imagery and eye-catching graphics. The coalition was consulted throughout the process and provided with a presentation at the end of the project.
Cycle Forward produced the IHTC 10-Year Evaluation & Success Strategy, a 34-page report in two parts. The first part documents the history of the coalition, its successes, challenges, and lessons learned. The second half offers recommendations on how the coalition can fulfill its vision of establishing the Industrial Heartland as a premier destination offering a 1,500-mile multi-use trail network experience.
- The report provides the most extensive documentation of the coalition’s history. Involving Cycle Forward made perfect sense, as Amy had staffed the effort during its formation and was familiar with IHTC’s institutional history.
- The report celebrates IHTC’s many successes. As important as having them documented was the reflection process and the realization of what a feat it was to keep a multi-state coalition in place over the course of a tumultuous decade. Naming and celebrating successes provides fuel for future work!
- Cycle Forward and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy are hard at work implementing one of the report recommendations: Conducting a study focused on increasing the economic impact of IHTC trails. The project is actively engaging non-traditional partners from the tourism, economic development, and business communities (and others) to generate new ideas for advancing this important work.
Past Projects for IHTC
- IHTC 2016 tourism strategy
- “Trail Trip” itineraries and story maps
- “The Heart of Our Community” video (production assistance)
- “Heart, Healing, & Hospitality: How Trails Contribute to Four-Season Economies and more Vibrant Communities” report
- IHTC “Community Chat” workshops
Image Credits: Jason Cohn (cover image), Renee Rosensteel, Courtesy Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (all others)