The Age of Connectivity: A Strategy for Putting Trails at the Center of Our Lives

Aerial Starburst Over Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge Dallas TexasHealthy people. Healthy places. Sustainable Communities. These aspirations are the driving force behind a revolution that’s changing how we think about the places where we work, live and play. Changing mindsets, advances in technology and evolving ideas about quality of life are inspiring a cultural shift toward active lifestyles and active transportation. The time is now to put trails, biking and walking at the center of people’s lives. Join us and imagine what’s possible when we put trails at the heart of our communities—in Texas and beyond. 

About the Presenters:

Keith Laughlin_Headshot1Keith Laughlin is the President of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. He came to RTC with more than 20 years of governmental leadership experience in Washington, D.C., and he has focused his energy since 2001 on guiding the organization’s efforts to become a national leader in the trails and greenways movement. Keith is responsible for overseeing all aspects of RTC’s trail development, policy advocacy and public education work, and regularly speaks before Congress and in the national media to establish strong support for trail networks and active transportation infrastructure


Brandi Horton_HeadshotBrandi Horton serves as Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s vice president of communications. She has dedicated her career to communications for social change and is passionate about creating communities that promote health and well-being. She brings diverse, comprehensive public relations and integrated marketing experience to RTC’s portfolio of projects, with a skill set spanning earned, paid, owned and shared media strategies that advance nonprofit advocacy agenda.




Dr. Rose Gowen_HeadshotRose M.Z. Gowen, M.D. was elected to the Brownsville City Commission in 2009, and re-elected in 2013 and 2017. As a commissioner,Dr. Gowen focuseson smart growth, quality of life projects and health-related issues such raising awareness of the region’s high levels of obesity and related chronic disease.

Partnering science, city government, and the community has resulted in a rich integrated network of policy and programing throughout the city that enables and invites a healthy living.

One partnership that Dr. Gowen forged is with the University of TexasSchool of Public Health-Brownsville to improve nutrition and accessibility of healthy food choicesin the city. Through that work, she was instrumental in the design and development of the Brownsville Farmers’Market. Dr. Gowen served as the first Chairwoman of the Board of Directors and led the market in becoming a Texas certified farmers’ market. The Brownsville Farmers’ Market was recognized as a model of excellence by the Texas Department of Health and the U.S.Mexico Border Health Commission.

By establishing a working relationship between the UT School of Public Health, many city departments and business entities, Dr. Gowen spearheaded the city’s efforts to provide family-oriented active living programming such asits cycloBiaseries.Brownsville has hostedcycloBias since 2012 with as many as12,000 in attendance at each event.

Building a vibrant Brownsville in a healthy way is Rose’smantra as she goes about creating capacity and momentum with programs like the Vibrant lecture series to create a community that is economically bustling with people-friendly spaces that are health promoting. Speakers have including the Complete Streets Coalition, Jason Roberts and the Build a Better Block initiative, Gil Penalosa from 8-80 Cities, and Dan Burden.

In 2014, Brownsville was recognized out of 250 cities across the country by the RobertWood Johnson Foundationas a Culture of Health winner. Most recently,she and her team have included bicycle tourism in their toolkit to encourage regular activity in their own people while attracting bicycle tourism to the unique eco environment that is her home. Rose was a leader in designing and developing the Lower Rio Grande Valley Active Plan, which leverages active tourism and active transportation strategies to improve the health and wellness of the region. The project was recently adopted as a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy TrailNation™project.

Rose serves on the board of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the nation’s largest trails andactive transportation organization, representing more than 22,000 miles of rail-trail and 30,000 miles of multi-use trails nationwide. The organization works to connect trails and create healthy, thriving communities nationwide.




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