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Party for Bob Otwell tonight

Thu, Jul  1, 2010 - By Missy Luuyk

Join the TART Board of Directors this Thursday, July 1 at 6:00 PM at Right Brain Brewery for a send-off party in honor of Bob Otwell. Bob Otwell, the executive director of TART for the last nine (9) years, will be stepping down in July. Otwell became director of TART Trails shortly after the trail umbrella group was formed, when the board consisted of the founders of the four original trails. TART has evolved to become a regional bike and pedestrian advocacy group with a statewide reputation for getting trails built and providing innovative programming. Bob and his wife Laura plan to stay in the area and continue their involvement in TART’s bike and pedestrian advocacy.

Successes and achievements during Otwell’s tenure at TART include:

The Leelanau Trail mortgage was paid off, and the trail cleared its final legal and zoning challenges.

Private easements were obtained and the TART and Leelanau Trail were linked, creating an uninterrupted 25-mile long trail.

The east and north sides of the Boardman Lake Trail were built after securing the final easements. The TART and Boardman Lake Trails were connected.

TART Trails took over the annual Smart Commute Week and raised participation and community impact.

TART Trails was invited to join the TC-TALUS board, the local land use and transportation group. Otwell has served as chairman for the past 3 years. The Grand Vision, a TC-TALUS project, has shown wide community support for safe walking and bicycling facilities, enhancing both recreation and transportation.

Otwell says he is proud of his involvement as the executive director of TART; “I feel great about where TART is right now: a strong staff, committed board, solid financial position and exciting projects on the horizon. A strategic planning effort now underway will provide a framework for the board, staff and new Executive Director to move forward.”

TART is excited to announce the hire of its new Executive Director, Julie Clark, who will take the reins of the organization when she begins July 12.  The announcement follows an in-depth search and hiring process conducted by TART’s board of directors and staff after our current Executive Director, Bob Otwell, announced his plans to step down in December. Otwell will assist in the transition and help get Clark started in her new role.  “I feel very confident in Julie’s ability to take TART to the next level as an organization, and am  happy to know that TART is in good hands,” said Otwell.

Clark comes to TART from her current role as the Division Director for the Greenway Planning and Development for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation in North Carolina, a large metropolitan area that includes the city of Charlotte.  During her time as Division Director she earned a solid reputation as a passionate advocate for trails, a strong leader on major planning projects, and a highly respected professional whose drive for excellence is exemplified in her achievements.

In 2008, Clark led the development of a greenway master plan update for Mecklenburg County, which resulted in a plan for 120 more miles of trail development within ten years.  She also established the first greenway chapter in the Mecklenburg-Union Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Long Range Transportation Plan, helped secure $10 million in state and federal funding for the County, and is credited with leading the County’s efforts to adopt a route for the Carolina Trail Thread—a fifteen county regional trail network in the Carolinas.

“We are thrilled,” said board president Scott Howard.  “The depth and talent of our candidate pool for this job was incredibly impressive. Julie’s trail experience, warm and communicative personality and her proven skill set as an organizational leader makes her the perfect fit for TART.  We think she’s a superstar and will be a great addition to the Grand Traverse community.”

Clark steps into her new post in time to help lead a new collaborative project in Leelanau County that will bring a 27 mile non-motorized trailway through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  Her role as Executive Director will be to lead the organization on new projects like this, and to keep focused on the continuation of existing projects like the paving of the Leelanau Trail, extending the trail in Acme, and completion of the Boardman Lake Trail.

“I’m excited to get settled in Traverse City and get moving with TART,” said Clark.  “I am so impressed with everyone on the staff and the board there—it’s no wonder TART is one of the premier trail networks in Michigan.  After comparing different communities across the country like Boulder, Madison, and Burlington, the Traverse region holds its own in terms of people and resources.  I look forward to working with community leaders and partners to build upon TART’s impressive history and past success in the region.”

So, please join us this Thursday and wish Bob well. Our community has celebrated many trail and bikeway improvements (as evidenced by the many celebrations pictured in this email) during his tenure and we all owe him a big atta-boy. See you Thursday.