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MEET OUR BOARD MEMBERS & STAFF

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Craig Della Penna

Board President

For twelve years, Craig Della Penna worked for one of the country’s earliest short-line railroad companies marketing rail freight and managing the planning and start-up operations of two of the northeast’s largest railroad-owned transloading facilities.

 

Having a background in railroad history, he was invited by a regional publisher to write a series of books about the history of old railroad lines and their conversion to bike and hike trails. He was later hired by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy as an organizer and for seven years covered the New England region.  He has been involved in much of the rail trail development in the northeast.

For the past 20 years, he has been a Realtor in Northampton Massachusetts, with a special niche. He specializes in the sale of houses near rail trails, greenways and other conservation lands.

He is the first Realtor in the U.S. with this niche and has been written about in numerous national Realtor trade magazines and local newspapers. In November of 2017 the National Association of Realtors awarded him the EverGreen award for his work in getting rail trails built in the northeast.

He is one of the top Realtors in his marketplace and now with over 1,200 lectures in 21 states, he is also one of the most in-demand speakers in the U.S. on various topics related to real estate and rail trail development. He and his wife Kathleen also operate an award-winning bed & breakfast in Northampton—that sits eight [8] feet from one of New England’s earliest municipally-built rail trails. 

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ROB KUSNER

Board Member

Rob Kusner is a mathematician and (since 1988) a professor at UMass Amherst.  Before serving on Amherst's Conservation Commission and Select Board, he led the town's Public Transportation & Bicycling Committee, working with Art Swift and Pete Westover to design the multi-use path joining the MCRT to the UMass Amherst campus, now known as Swift Way.  

 

Most recently, as chair of the Norwottuck Rail Trail Advisory Committee, he guided the redesign and reconstruction for the MCRT's first segment through Amherst, Hadley and Northampton.  

 

Rob helped found Norwottuck Network, and was also a founder and former co-president of the nonprofit North Amherst Community Farm.  His first "rails-to-trails" efforts date back to the early 1970s when (as a middle-schooler) he tried to resurrect Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Trolley line.

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Glenn Pransky

Treasurer

Glenn Pransky is a physician and public health researcher, with a focus on occupational and environmental health, based at the UMass Medical School.    He’s been an avid cyclist for many years, and with his wife Terry has explored most of the major rail trails in New England and the southern US on their tandem bicycle.   He’s a member of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail Advisory Task Force for the town of Sudbury, and has written several reviews of research studies on e-bike safety and bicycle crashes.

Glenn has seen first-hand how rail trails can improve the health, safety, and connections in a community, and provide safer exercise and transportation.  Although he enjoys riding the MCRT in Sudbury on his mountain bike, he’s looking forward to a few years from now when this portion of the MCRT is completed, and many more people will be able to enjoy it.

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Brennan is an attorney who earned his J.D. at Suffolk University School of Law in Boston. He previously worked in the railroad industry for both Conrail and Pinsly Railroad Company, one of the country's first shortline RR operators, where he handled land sales and railroad right of way, utility lease, and easement agreements. Today he is the data privacy officer for the Thales Group in the United States, a leader in the global aerospace industry. He is an experienced bicyclist having extensively toured much of the US and Europe on biking vacations on both single and tandem bicycles.

BRENNAN WALL, Esq.

Board Member

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STEVE DONNELLY

Clerk

Steve Donnelly serves on the Board of the Friends of the Manhan Rail Trail and was
instrumental in conceiving the trail that opened in 2004. A history buff, Steve is a regular contributor to the Historical Journal of Massachusetts. Below is the team in Easthampton beginning the installation of the iconic 120 foot mural on the Manhan Rail Trail. One of the first large scale murals on a rail trail in the US 

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SHARLINE NABULIME

Board Member

Sharline grew up in a loving and close-knit family in Uganda. Her father was an educator and business man and her mother was a businesswoman who, to this day, is the family rock. Both of her parents instilled in her a spirit of tenacity and hard work. They taught her that anything worth doing is worth doing well.

 

As a little girl, Sharline was extremely precocious and always asked "Why?" She respectfully challenged authority and the status quo to answer that probing question, and never settled for an answer that was neither rational nor practical. Subsequently she was nicknamed "Why."

 

Her world of wonder and discovery was turned upside down by a series of atrocious events amidst political upheaval. By the time she was 16, she had survived two wars. Sharline came to the United States as a refugee and was welcomed by this community. Her first jobs were as a caregiver to youth with special needs at the Fernald School and as a cashier at Osco Drug on River Street. She went on to work as a teacher, writer, and health care aide. 

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Elizabeth Johnson

Board Member

Liz grows one year younger each birthday, largely owing to her trusty, rusty sky-blue Raleigh. She leaves her bike rack in place year-round, just in case the weather turns mild. A resident of Holden, she has worked at Williston Northampton for a while, and her daughter attended Smith. Retired from independent schools, Liz still offers AP workshops for the College Board occasionally, and cycles in her Green Gym (Wachusett Greenway, West Boylston – Holden) almost daily, weather permitting.

 

She is an Advisory Board member of the Friends of the Gilbertville Stone Church and has been to Liberia three times, volunteering professional development in schools and colleges, and collecting & shipping over 26,000 books to rebuild schools after 20 years of devastating civil war.

 

A connoisseur of rail trails, she has ridden the Mohawk Hudson Trail near Albany, the Waterfront Renaissance Trail in Vancouver (twice), the Santa Monica and Golden Gate Trails in Cali, the Greenbrier River Trail in West Virginia, and most of the trails in Massachusetts. Apart from her darling Wachusett Greenway of the MCRT,  the Norwottuck section of the MCRT is still her favorite cycling trail of all!

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George Eckert

Board Member

My family and I live in Natick adjacent at various times to an Aqueduct Trail, Conrail / CSX / MBTA Main Lines and the former Saxonville Branch--now the Cochituate Rail Trail. 

 

My first exposure to Rail Trails was in 1972, hiking on the Peterborough and Shirley Branch in Townsend MA -- now the Squannacook River Rail Trail (MA), and followed by explorations of the Rutland Railroad Island Line--now the Island Line Rail Trail (VT.)  Other trails my family has enjoyed include the Great Allegheny Passage (PA), Burke Gilman (WA), Pinellas (FL), Southern New England Trunkline, Cape Cod, and Shining Sea (MA), Hop River (CT) Airline State Park (CT),  East Bay (RI), and South County (RI), Katy Trail (MO).  For decades we have found inspiration in every trail we visit.

 

Long time advocacy has led me to volunteer for 3 New England Rail Trails and several Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees.  The Mass Central Rail Trail presents a powerful opportunity to revitalize the social, economic, and environmental vitality of not only the cities and towns the MCRT directly links, but also for the many people living in communities connected via intersecting trails.  Can you imagine the day when we can give directions to our homes by saying, "take Mass Central Rail Trail to the Bruce Freeman, go north two miles, then turn east on Main St.?"   

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