Joe Taylor planted his feet near the edge of the Hunter Museum of American Art's deck and took a long look across the Tennessee River.
The Quad Cities, Iowa, resident and American Trails board member wasn't in town long enough to know the name of the Walnut Street Bridge, but that didn't matter.
Just the sight of it draped against mountains validated his nonprofit organization's choice to make Chattanooga the home for a national conference highlighting "all kinds of trails for all kinds of Americans," Mr. Taylor said.
"That fantastic bridge is symbolic of this city's attitude toward walkability, livability and wellness," he said. "It has quite a national reputation."
Trail administrators from all 50 states and an estimated 800 trail advocates will migrate to "this model the United States can learn from" starting Nov. 14 for a four-day conference, Mr. Taylor said.
He said participants will brainstorm better ways to facilitate trail operations and experience a healthy dose of "socializing and networking."
"Trail building is hard work, so it doesn't hurt to have fun every so often," Mr. Taylor said. "We'll help the local economy."
Chattanooga's water trails, equestrian trails and hiking trails all played a major part in the decision to choose the city, he said. Several outdoor advocacy groups plugged into the city also didn't hurt, Mr. Taylor said.
Goals of American Trails National Symposium:
* Design and build sustainable trails
* Obtain more funding for trails
* Preserve more open space amidst urban development
* Develop more support for volunteers
* Promote trail use as a means for mental, physical and spiritual well-being
Minya James, a recreation specialist with Outdoor Chattanooga, said her company is working full-throttle to promote several projects to showcase in November.
She's excited about showing off Raccoon Mountain and a trail being built at Enterprise South industrial park, home to the new Volkswagen plant. The Enterprise South park will open in October and host a 9-mile trail for beginners and eventually a longer "pump and jump" track for experienced mountain bikers.
"You can get on a bike in downtown Chattanooga and in 15 minutes be on a cool trail," Ms. James said. "For an urban environment, that's incredibly unique."
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