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Our Keynote Speakers


Peter Harnik

Peter Harnik has worked to promote and create parks and trails since 1980 when he led a campaign to close Washington’s Rock Creek Park to cars.


He is the co-founder of both the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the Center for City Park Excellence of the Trust for Public Land. Now retired, his most recent book, published in April of 2021 was a history of the rails-to-trails movement. LINK HERE to this new book.

Harnik’s career has spanned both bicycle and urban park advocacy. He served as president of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, co-founded the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail (in Washington, D.C.) and served on the national boards of the City Parks Alliance and Smart Growth America.

Harnik’s books include Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities; Inside City Parks; and Railroads Recycled. He was the founding editor of Trailblazer magazine, and has frequently written for and spoken at the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Matthew Kierstead

Matt Kierstead of Milestone Heritage Consulting, Marlboro, New York is an historian of engineering, industry and transportation. He grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, graduated from Framingham State College and received his Public History MA from West Virginia University.


Kierstead has completed many regional cultural resource mitigation and public history interpretation projects. Railroad-related projects include documenting the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania, installations for the Hopewell Junction, New York Depot Museum, and concept and interpretation for “Roundhouse Park” at the Whitman, Massachusetts MBTA station, which won a US DOT Design for Transportation National Merit Award.


He is currently developing new history signage for the Harlem Valley Rail Trail and an electronic touchscreen display about the 1875 Erie Railroad Portage Viaduct at Letchworth State Park. His Golden Spike talk focuses on his interpretive history signage for segments of the new 750-mile New York Empire State Trail which opened December 31, 2020.


Kierstead Portrait.jpg
Maybrook Trailway History Signs.jpg
Click on the image to the left to go to a recent story about one of Matthew's historic interpretive projects.
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