for Board, Trail Leaders Council, and other working documents

Please Update our New Address and Phone Number:

Partnership for the National Trails System, 1615 M St. NW, 2nd Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 963-2910



Craig Baker, Communication and Development Manager

Craig brings his extensive background in marketing and journalism to the communications arm of the Partnership for the National Trails System from his homebase in the Sonoran Desert region of Tucson, Arizona (right alongside passages 8-12 of the Arizona National Scenic Trail).

He received his B.A. in Creative Nonfiction Writing, with Honors, from the University of Arizona in 2007 before going on to work as a freelance writer and journalist, writing for a number of local and national publications. His hundreds of publication credits include titles like Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Atlantic, and Mental Floss, and his work in marketing has included managing communications for breweries and restaurants, national b2b software companies, and more.

As an avid camper, hiker, and rock climber, and a lifelong advocate for environmental conservation and biodiversity, Craig is passionate about working to preserve and protect wildlands as a means of keeping the planet habitable for all species, including human beings.

Through his work with PNTS, Craig aims to help current and future generations enjoy the myriad benefits associated with spending time in nature, and to make it easier for each and every individual to develop their own enduring, personal relationship with the natural world.

Contact Craig:

Valerie Rupp, Executive Director

Valerie Rupp of Baltimore, Maryland, is the Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System. Valerie joined PNTS on August 17, 2020 and will establish the Partnership’s new offices in Washington, D.C. on September 1, 2020. She was the unanimous choice of a Partnership search committee and the recommendation was approved by the PNTS Board of Directors.

As Executive Director she provides overall leadership for the Partnership. She is responsible for advancing the organization’s strategic goals, and for ensuring the day-to-day operations to support that work effectively and efficiently. She has extensive experience in development, communications, public-private partnership as well as both program and project management.

Previously, she worked for Parks & People Foundation in Baltimore, MD for eight years where she focused on engaging cross-sector partners and communities in the creation, study, activation and stewardship of urban parks and green spaces, as well as external relations and fundraising. Prior to Parks & People Foundation she led the fundraising and external relations as Development Director for the Women’s Law Center of Maryland and worked in development, visitor services and education in various positions with the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Valerie holds Bachelor’s degrees in history and communications from Shippensburg University and a Master’s in public administration from the University of Baltimore, where she was selected the top graduate student for academic achievement and civic leadership. She also earned a Certificate in Volunteer Management from Carroll County Community College while completing a term of service with Volunteer Maryland, an AmeriCorps program.

She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Friend’s of Maryland’s Olmstead Parks and a volunteer with the Maryland SPCA where she spends time some of her favorite hours socializing dogs and cats. In her free time she enjoys outdoor adventures near and far, trying every plant-based restaurant she finds, and exploring different arts venues and museums.

Contact Valerie: 

Felicita ‘Lis’ Wight, Operations Coordinator

Felicita Wight recently joined the PNTS team as Operations Coordinator. She has a background in conservation biology and has a master’s in environmental science. She previously worked at the National Wildlife Refuge and Nature Center, where she focused on community education and grassroots engagement – as well as getting to handle alligators, snakes, and raptors. She later worked for the American Geophysical Union heading their award-winning Centennial initiative.

To elevate her passions and interests, she runs a nonprofit, Wild Tiger, dedicated to persevering Bengal tigers and their habitat. The current focus is on the tiger pet trade here in the US and organizing an eco expedition for 2022. Felicita also is a volunteer campaign manager for a habitat connectivity initiative with the Endangered Species Coalition. As an outdoor enthusiast, she loves spending time in nature, and as a history and trail fan, she is excited to contribute to the PNTS mission.

Contact Lis:

Cara Yendrzeski, Program Coordinator

Cara Yendrzeski  joined PNTS as a Program Coordinator in February 2021, where she is excited to coordinate training and educational opportunities for the national trails community.

Cara is a passionate environmental advocate who has worked with Citizens Climate Lobby and Chesapeake Climate Action Network to advance climate policy. For the past year she has volunteered with Capital Nature as a Program Research Volunteer, finding new and exciting nature events to promote in the Washington D.C. metro area and researching health and environmental benefits of urban green spaces.

Cara holds a BS in Environmental Studies from Le Moyne College and a Master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law School.

Contact Cara:


Don Owen

Don Owen, of Round Hill, Virginia, is the senior executive of Lands Trails and Parks LLC, a consulting firm specializing in working with national scenic and historic trail organizations, non-profit land trusts, conservation groups, and parks.

He consults regularly for the Partnership for the National Trails System, the Maryland Environmental Trust, the West Virginia Land Trust, the Land Trust of Virginia, and a variety of other conservation organizations. He also serves as the Potomac River Watershed Circuit Rider for the Land Trust Alliance.

Don worked for the National Park Service from 1985 to 2008 in several different capacities: as a realty specialist for the Appalachian Trail Land Office, as the resource management coordinator for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on special assignment, and as the environmental protection specialist with the Appalachian Trail Park Office.

He then served as executive director of the Land Trust of Virginia from 2008 until 2014. Don was a volunteer trail maintainer for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club from 1988 to 2013, and continues to serve as a volunteer corridor monitor.

He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, the Stewardship Council for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Advisory Council for the Mosby Heritage Area Association.

Liz Wessel

Liz WesselLiz Wessel opened Green Concierge Travel in 2006. She has a strong interest in building the market for ecotourism and supplying the needs of ecotravelers either inbound or outbound to destinations in North America and beyond. By identifying and enhancing links between ecotourism destinations in North America and green tourism infrastructure such as lodging, transit, restaurants, indigenous sites and local natural areas and trails we can continue to strengthen the ecotourism market in North America.

In her consulting work for Partnership for the National Trails System, she has supported fundraising efforts, coordinated the 2013 Biennial conference in Tucson, and worked on the redesign of the Partnership website.

Officers and Executive Committee

  • Barney Mann – President
  • Luke Kloberdanz, Ice Age Trail Alliance – Vice President for Governance
  • John Hoffnagle – Vice President for Development
  • Liz Thomas – Secretary
  • Kaleo Paik, Ala Kahakai Trail Association – Treasurer
  • Ray (RG) Absher, Overmountain Victory Trail Association – PNTS Trail Leaders Council Chair
  • Steven Gonzales, El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Association – National Historic Trails Representative
  • Andrea Ketchmark, North Country Trail Association – National Scenic Trails Representative
  • Sandi Marra, Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  • Kristin Murphy, Audubon Great Lakes
  • Jim Muschett, Rizzoli International Publications
  • Tony Richardson, National Environmental Education Foundation
  • Ron Tipton

Other Committees

Advocacy & Policy, Conferences & Workshops, Finance, Honors & Awards, Pathways & Website

Trail Leaders Council

  • Ray (RG) Absher, Overmountain Victory Trail Association – PNTS Trail Leaders Council Chair
  • James L. Mallory, Lewis and Clark, Trust, Inc. – National Historic Trails Representative
  • Mike Wollmer, Ice Age Trail Alliance – National Scenic Trails Representative
  • Kaleo Paik, Ala Kahakai Trail Association
  • Elizabeth Stewart, Anza Trail Foundation
  • Bridget Likely, Appalachian Mountain Club (NET)
  • Morgan Sommerville, Appalachian Trail Conservancy
  • Matt Nelson, Arizona Trail Association
  • Susan Shingledecker, Chesapeake Conservancy
  • Clare Cain, Connecticut Forest & Park Association (NET)
  • Teresa Martinez, Continental Divide Trail Coalition
  • Jim Wolf, Continental Divide Trail Society
  • Marcie Davis, E Mau Na Ala Hele (Ala Kahakai)
  • Steven Gonzales, El Camino Real de los Tejas NHT Association
  • Kelly Van Patten, Florida Trail Association
  • Judy Bittner, Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance
  • Sarah Cawley, Lewis and Clark Trail Heritage Foundation
  • Ron Andersen, Mormon Pioneer Trail Association
  • Tony Turnbow, Natchez Trace Parkway Association
  • Pat Hearty, National Pony Express Association
  • Ellen von Karajan, National Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route NHT Association, Inc. (W3R-US)
  • Jim Zimmerman, Nez Perce Trail Foundation
  • Andrea Ketchmark, North Country Trail Association
  • Richard Waller, Old Spanish Trail Association
  • Bill Martin, Oregon-California Trails Association
  • Justin Kooyman, Pacific Crest Trail Association
  • Jeff Kish, Pacific Northwest Trail Association
  • Ric Francke, Potomac Heritage Trail Association
  • Marcia Will-Clifton, Santa Fe Trail Association
  • Deloris Gray Wood, Trail of Tears Association