PNTS leadership and headquarters updates

(September 1, 2020 Update)

The Partnership is now anchored in Washington, D.C.

Read more about the Partnership’s move in the Executive Director’s Report, published in the fall 2020 Pathways magazine.

(August 17, 2020 Update)

PNTS Executive Director Valerie Rupp to Establish New Washington, D.C. Office

Valerie Rupp officially began her new role as Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System on August 17th! Valerie joins us virtually, however, her formal office will be located in Washington, D.C. As a reminder, Interim Executive Director Karen Crossley and Advocacy and Policy Director Kathy DeCoster, along with many others, will be involved in Valerie’s orientation and onboarding over the next several months. Karen and Kathy’s terms of service with PNTS end on September 18th. To contact Valerie, email or call 443-961-1150 (cell). We are excited to welcome Valerie to the Partnership! 

On September 1st, the Partnership office is officially moving from Madison, WI to Washington, D.C. This outstanding location is close to several peer organization offices, such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Outdoor Afro, and The Wilderness Society, as well as Capitol Hill, Federal agency partners, legislators, and our traditional Hike the Hill meeting location at the Washington Plaza Hotel. The new office phone number will be: 202-963-2910. 

Please promptly update our mailing address to:
Partnership for the National Trails System
1615 M St. NW, Second Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036

(July 14, 2020 Update)

Valerie Rupp named Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System

The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) has appointed Valerie C. Rupp of Baltimore, Maryland, to serve as the new Executive Director for the organization which represents 30 national scenic and historic trails. Valerie will assume the position of PNTS Executive Director effective August 17. She will succeed Gary Werner, who retired in February after nearly 30 years in the role, and Interim Executive Director Karen Crossley, who has served since Gary’s departure. Valerie will establish the Partnership’s new offices in Washington, D.C.

Read the full press release here.

(May 28, 2020 Update)

Partnership interviews candidates, seeks office space

The Partnership for the National Trails System Transition Task Force reports that the hiring of a new Executive Director is on schedule for mid-summer with a start date on or before September 1st. We were delighted with the number and caliber of applicants, and interviews are underway.

PNTS leadership is also exploring several promising options for its office move to Washington, D.C., including co-locating with a peer/partner organization.

(March 2, 2020 Update)

Partnership seeks new Executive Director

The Partnership for the National Trail System (PNTS or The Partnership) seeks a dynamic, entrepreneurial and visionary Executive Director to build on the organization’s 27-year legacy of accomplishments and guide its work to the next level of success.

The Partnership is the only nationwide, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the extraordinary value of America’s National Scenic and Historic Trails. It envisions a world-class system of National Scenic and Historic Trails that preserves natural and cultural values and provides recreational benefits for all. The Partnership’s mission is to empower, inspire, and strengthen public and private partners to develop, preserve, promote, and sustain the National Scenic and Historic Trails. It connects 34 member trail organizations, eight affiliates, and five federal agency partners to serve as a collective voice for the over 55,000 miles of trails within the National Trails System. 

The Partnership’s major activities and signature programs include:

  • The annual Hike the Hill® multi-day action aimed at increasing congressional and federal agency leader awareness and adequate funding of the National Trail System; 
  • An annual multi-agency Land and Water Conservation Fund collaboration; 
  • Multiyear Action Plan for advancing land protection and sustainable funding and management for the 30 National Scenic and Historic Trails;
  • National Trails System Gap Analysis and Corridor Projection Project; 
  • Monthly webinars and biennial convenings for members of the National Trails community; 
  • Apprentice and internship programs to introduce young adults to the National Trails System; and 
  • Publication of the Pathways Across America quarterly journal. 

The ideal candidate will demonstrate excellent leadership, fundraising and partnership building skills.  

The anticipated start date for the position is Fall 2020.

To review the full position description please visit here.

To inquire about the opportunity, please contact Mary Stelletello, Principal, Vista Global Coaching & Consulting at To apply or nominate an individual, please send a cover letter and resume to

(January 29, 2020 Update)

DeCoster, Crossley assume new Partnership positions

Partnership supporters attending Hike the Hill activities in Washington, D.C. will see at least one new face and one very familiar face in a new role.

Interim Executive Director Karen Crossley and Advocacy and Policy Director Kathy DeCoster started their new positions with the Partnership for the National Trails System, effective January 21, 2020, and will be active participants during Hike the Hill, February 8-13.

“We are fortunate to have these two professionals joining the PNTS team during the crucial months ahead,” said Barney Mann, PNTS President. “Our members, agency partners, and affiliates can be confident that we are in capable hands.”

Karen Crossley’s professional career in the nonprofit and public arenas has focused on conservation, higher education, arts, culture, and civic engagement. As a volunteer, she has worked on environmental and sustainability issues, public education, youth leadership involvement, and other areas.

A resident of Madison, WI since 1984, Crossley will manage the day-to-day activities of the Partnership and help with planning for a move of the PNTS offices from Madison to Washington, D.C.. 

“I am humbled by the confidence placed in me by the Board of Directors and the Transition Task Force,” Crossley said. “We have a great organization in place thanks to the efforts of Gary Werner and the members of the Partnership, and I look forward to building on a legacy of leadership, accomplishment, and relevance. Like so many members, there is no question that our best days are ahead of us and I am enthusiastic about helping set our direction into the future.” 

Crossley will replace Gary Werner, who officially retires on February 9 after 25 years as PNTS Executive Director. Gary will be honored at a reception that evening at Hike the Hill.

Kathy DeCoster retired last year after 25 years with The Trust for Public Land, including the last 10 years as Vice President and Director of Federal Affairs. She is a former member of the Partnership’s Board of Directors. 

Based in Washington, D.C., DeCoster will serve as a consultant and focus on keeping the Partnership and Trail Leaders Council up to date on Federal agency and congressional developments. She will work closely with the PNTS Advocacy and Policy Committee and will have an important role during Hike the Hill.

“As a long-time advocate of the Partnership for the National Trails System and the importance of trails to our national well-being, I’m excited about this opportunity to use my experience on behalf of an organization whose mission and activities are very close to my heart,” DeCoster said. “The relationships our National Historic and Scenic Trail groups already have with our Federal partners are models of successful collaboration and I am grateful to have the opportunity to further these positive experiences.”

Meanwhile, the Transition Task Force has begun planning for the search for a permanent Executive Director, and anticipates having that person in place by the end of summer 2020.

(January 21, 2020 Update)

PNTS welcomes Interim Executive Director and Advocacy and Policy Director

On January 21, 2020, the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) officially welcomed Karen Crossley as Interim Executive Director and Kathy DeCoster as Advocacy and Policy Director to lead the Partnership during a nine-month transition period before a permanent Executive Director is appointed. Learn more about them here.

(December 2019 Update)

PNTS hires Interim Executive Director and Advocacy and Policy Director

submitted by the PNTS Transition Task Force

Karen Crossley

The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) Board of Directors has approved the hiring of an Interim Executive Director and an Advocacy and Policy Director to lead the Partnership during a nine-month transition period before a permanent Executive Director is appointed. 

Both actions were based on recommendations from the Transition Task Force, which has been working for nearly a year to prepare for the retirement of Executive Director Gary Werner on February 9, 2020. 

Karen Crossley of Madison, Wisconsin, will serve as Interim Executive Director, beginning on January 21, 2020. She has extensive experience in nonprofit organizations, management, and fundraising, and has served as an Interim Executive Director for two Madison based organizations – Sustain Dane and The Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools.

Karen will work closely with the Board in managing financial activities, staff and contractors, coordinating activities of the Trail Leaders Council, preparing the organization to move its offices to Washington, D.C. and assuring that the organization is aligned with its existing Strategic Plan, among other duties. 

In addition, former PNTS Board Member Kathy DeCoster, who recently retired as Vice President and Director of Federal Affairs at The Trust for Public Land, has agreed to serve as a contractor and coordinate the Partnership’s work on advocacy and policy issues from January 21, 2020  to mid-September, 2020. 

Kathy DeCoster

Kathy will keep the PNTS Board and Trail Leaders Council up to date on federal policy issues, work with the Advocacy & Policy Committee, represent PNTS at Congressional hearings, and help maintain and strengthen communications with our federal agency partners. 

Both Crossley and DeCoster will also be involved in planning for and participating in Hike the Hill, February 8-13, 2020, in Washington, D.C.

“We are delighted to have both Karen Crossley and Kathy DeCoster joining our team of trails professionals,” said Liz Bergeron, Chair of the Transition Task Force. “They bring the exceptional experience and expertise that we need during a time of transition and immense change.”

“We appreciate Gary Werner’s willingness to work with Karen and Kathy and share his extraordinary expertise as he winds down his decades-long leadership of the Partnership,” said Barney Mann, PNTS Board President. 

The Task Force expects to begin a search for a permanent Executive Director immediately after Hike the Hill aiming toward a September 2020 start date.

(September 2019 Update)

Partnership plans to hire Interim Executive Director, move to D.C. 

by Bill Martin, PNTS Transition Task Force and Trail Leaders Council member

The Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) will retain the services of an interim executive director as a bridge between the retirement of long-time Executive Director Gary Werner and the hire of a permanent, full-time executive director.

Gary Werner

In addition, PNTS will move its national headquarters from Madison, WI, where it has been located for nearly three decades, to the Washington, D.C. area.

Both decisions were made by the PNTS Board of Directors following recommendations from a Board-appointed Transition Task Force (TTF), which was established earlier this year to help guide the organization through a time of change and opportunity.  

“As we considered the needs of the organization, it became clear over the course of our discussions that there was much more involved than simply posting the job and waiting for qualified applicants to pour in,” said Liz Bergeron, PNTS immediate past president and chair of the TTF. 

“We found that transitions from beloved founder executive directors are particularly challenging and that organizations that hire an interim executive director emerge stronger, more financially sound and more optimistic about the future than organizations that transition immediately to a new permanent executive director. Most significantly, we concluded that an interim executive director would best assist the PNTS in addressing any systems and capacity issues and lay the foundation for the permanent executive director’s success.”

Bergeron and the TTF praised the leadership of Werner, who has served since 1991, first as chair and now as Executive Director of the Partnership. 

“We would not be where we are today, nor would we be as successful, without the hard work and leadership of Gary Werner,” she said. “When he announced his retirement, the Board recognized that we had some big trail boots to fill.”

Werner is scheduled to retire at the PNTS Board meeting in February 2020 at Hike the Hill, the annual Washington, D.C. gathering of scenic and historic trail supporters organized by PNTS and the American Hiking Society. 

The TTF expects to identify an interim executive director before the end of 2019, a hiring that will require approval by the Board of Directors. The interim executive director will be retained on a part-time basis for no more than 12 months while the formal search of a permanent executive director is ongoing.

“PNTS has benefitted from stable leadership and a strong, passionate Board and membership,” said Bergeron. “A new executive director gives us an opportunity to bring a new perspective and a new energy. However, it has become clear that there could be unreasonable expectations in hiring a new executive director and asking this person to ‘hit the ground running,’ developing short- and long-term strategies and goals for the organization while at the same time addressing organizational infrastructure development.” 

The move of the PNTS headquarters to Washington, D.C., planned for late in 2020, is seen as necessary because of the importance of the Federal legislative process and Federal agency partners to PNTS scenic and historic trails.

In addition to Bergeron, who is Executive Director of the Pacific Crest Trail Association, members of the TTF include: Christy Corzine, former PNTS Treasurer, at large Board member; Sandi Marra, President and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and PNTS Board member; Bill Martin, Oregon-California Trails Association and Trail Leaders Council member; Elizabeth Stewart, Anza Trail Foundation, PNTS Board and Trail Leaders Council member; and Mike Wollmer, Executive Director of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, PNTS Board and Trail Leaders Council member. PNTS Board President Barney Mann serves as an ex-officio member of the Task Force, which also uses the services of consultant Mary Stelletello and Vista Global Coaching and Consulting.

(July 2019 Update)

Gary Werner retiring, PNTS seeks next Executive Director

by Liz Bergeron, Chair, PNTS Executive Transition Task Force

Gary Werner has announced that he will be stepping down as Executive Director of the Partnership for the National Trails System (PNTS) and retiring from full-time work early in 2020.

Werner, who has served as PNTS Executive Director since 1991, made the announcement on February 9, 2019, at the PNTS Board and Trail Leaders Council meetings. Werner recited a promise he had made to his wife, that as she retired, he would too. This transition has been anticipated for some time. Werner reminded the Board he had mentioned it five years beforehand.

This transition was an “Action Step” for 2019 in the Partnership’s 2017-2019 Strategic Plan. An Executive Transition Task Force has been established and is chaired by immediate-past-president Liz Bergeron.

The Task Force has been meeting to draft a position description and prepare for the transition. The next report to the board is scheduled for July 24, and recruitment will begin in August 2019.

Unless otherwise indicated, all material in Pathways Across America is public domain. All views expressed herein are perspectives of individuals working on behalf of the National Trails System and do not necessarily represent the viewpoint of the Federal agencies.