The Empire State Trail: What’s Next with Jeff Olson

June 10, 2019

Blog 4 of 4 on the Empire State Trail

By: Jeff Olson

When complete, the Empire State Trail will be the longest statewide multi-use trail in the US. We caught up with Jeff Olson, one of Alta’s principals working on this project to hear about what’s next.

Local leaders celebrating the ribbon cutting for the new section of the Empire State Trail in Schuylerville, NY on June 4, 2019. Photo: Jeff Olson
  1. What are you hoping the impact will be for a project of this massive scale?

Jeff Olson: This is an extraordinary project — $200 million and 750 miles completed in less than four years. We hope that this will prove that green infrastructure is a vital investment, and that the trails movement will take a step up to a new level thanks to the EST. I want to look back 10 years from now and see major greenway projects like this happening all around the world, and at a scale that matches the urgency to address major issues of climate change, public health, economic development, and quality of life.

2. What are the first steps that someone could take to start something like this in their own communities?

JO: Have a clear vision, a plan of action, and the ability to assemble a great team. Work with leadership and partners at the highest levels — there is often more support and power to move forward than you may realize. Believe that anything is possible and don’t take “no” for an answer. At the same time, it’s important to understand that if something was easy to do, somebody else would have already done it. Be prepared for the long-term, both personally and as an organization — good things take time.

3. What’s next for the EST? What are you most excited about?

JO: The EST will be the “trunk” of an ever branching tree of trails connecting local communities to the long distance network. In many ways, we are creating a new kind of urban form, and a new landscape that connects people and nature. Since trails are sustainable, the network will grow to rival the railroads, canals and interstate highways. As the world continues to be more high tech, trails will provide a place where people can be outdoors, be physically active, and enjoy living happier, healthier lives.


Missed the other blogs in this series? Start from the beginning.

Interested in learning about the Empire State Trail, or how you could implement something similar in your community? Contact Jeff Olson, and in the meantime, follow along here.