Matthew J. Nelson

Executive Director

Matthew has been the Executive Director of the ATA since 2012, but his connections to the Arizona Trail go back over 20 years. Among his contributions are trail design, archaeological surveys, volunteer trail construction, and explorations of the AZT on foot, mountain bike and horseback. Matthew has worked as an outdoor educator, Grand Canyon backpacking guide, archaeologist, Native American repatriation coordinator, editor, and freelance photojournalist. He has more than 500 published articles to his credit and is the primary author of Your Complete Guide to the Arizona National Scenic Trail and the Arizona Trail Junior Explorer Handbook. Matthew serves on the Board of Directors for Natural Restorations, and La Tierra del Jaguar; is a policy advisor for Bikepacking Roots; and volunteers on the Trail Leaders Council and Policy & Advocacy Committee for the Partnership for the National Trails System. He has visited the summits of America’s highest peaks, and spent three winters removing trash from Cerro Aconcagua (22,841 ft.) in Argentina. He lives in the Sierrita Mountains southwest of Tucson.

Brittany Chavez

Development Director

Brittany grew up in a small Little Colorado River valley nestled in the beautiful White Mountains of eastern Arizona. She received her BA from Northern Arizona University and became licensed to practice law in 2013. Brittany has served as an associate attorney for Defenders of Children, a Phoenix nonprofit, and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. In 2018 she spent three months traveling the Western US and Canada, and that adventure prompted a career transition to outdoor recreation and conservation. She was a proud partner of the ATA while working as a market coordinator for REI Co-op. She enjoys hiking and paddling with her family and their German Shorthaired Pointer, Boudreaux. She is a member of the Arizona State Bar Environmental and Natural Resources Section, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, the Grand Canyon Trust and, of course, the Arizona Trail Association.

Zach MacDonald

Trail Director

Zach has been managing trail operations for the ATA since 2017 but has been actively involved with the Arizona trail since 2005 as a volunteer crew lead and served on the Board of directors for a number of years. He organized a weekday crew of a dozen dedicated volunteers, now known affectionately as the “Usual Suspects” who did the finish work for much of the Tucson area passages. He is an avid mountain biker, hiker, backpacker, adventurer, lover of the outdoors and past President of the Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists, where he helped develop fundraising events and worked with volunteers and land managers to maintain multi-use trails in southern Arizona. He worked as Trails Foreman for the Sandia Ranger District in Albuquerque, NM. He is passionate about protecting the land and our access to it, working in coordination with land managers, both paid and volunteer crews, and trail users to help protect, maintain and enhance the sustainability of the Arizona Trail for future generations.

Wendy Lotze

Volunteer Program Manager

Wendy is an avid hiker and backpacker as well as a native of Arizona. She has completed over 450 miles of the Arizona Trail, including the Sky Islands close to her home in Tucson. She has volunteered on trail building and maintenance crews since 2005 and has been an AZT trail steward since 2012. In 2015 she joined the ATA as the Volunteer Coordinator where she organizes volunteers for a variety of trail related events and crew work. Connecting with volunteers and trail users with the wild places in Arizona is her passion. When she’s not on the trail, Wendy teaches courses on the Sonoran Desert at the University of Arizona and consults as a Landscape Architect on pedestrian focused projects throughout Southern Arizona.

Chrissy Fichter

Volunteer Engagement Specialist

Chrissy is a passionate conservationist who is fascinated by the natural world and dedicated to inspiring human-nature connections. As an active volunteer in her community, she has supported native species, promoted animal welfare, encouraged sustainability, and advocated for the protection of our planet through informal education and outreach. In 2019, Chrissy moved to Tucson from Maryland and became instantly captivated by Sonoran Desert ecology and the diverse landscapes of the Southwest. She explores these interests and nourishes her relationship with nature through hiking, backpacking, trail running, and birdwatching. Chrissy has worked as a registered nurse since 2009 but shifted away from healthcare so that she can prioritize her goal of building human-nature connections in support of conservation. In 2022, Chrissy completed a master’s degree focused on leadership within the field of conservation at the University of Miami Ohio. Soon after, she joined the ATA team as a volunteer engagement specialist through which she supports the organization’s extensive volunteer community.

Renee Stevens

Administrative Director

Renee grew up in the New Orleans area and moved to Tucson in 1986. She quickly fell in love with the desert and mountains and decided to put down roots. She earned her degree in Accounting from the University of Arizona and has been a Certified Public Accountant since 2003. Throughout her career, Renee has helped many non-profit organizations achieve their financial and operational goals. She enjoys volunteering, especially for trail work events and at local trail races. She helped her husband plan and execute his successful thru-hike of the Arizona Trail in 2017. Renee is also an avid camper, hiker and trail runner, and has completed over 50 marathons and ultramarathons. When she is not working or spending time in the wilderness, she loves to read, watch documentaries, practice yoga and meditation, and tend to her backyard flowering cactus gardens.

Donovan Caputo

Administrative Assistant

Donovan first discovered the Arizona Trail while exploring trails near his home in Tucson. His work as a coach with the local nonprofit organization El Grupo, which empowers youth through bicycles, led him back to the Arizona Trail over and over again. Donovan was eventually hired to co-lead outings with the ATA’s Seeds of Stewardship program, then was selected for an intern position in 2020. He is fascinated with Arizona’s wild landscapes and is grateful for the trail that connects them all. Donovan supports the ATA through myriad programs and projects, including membership and retail fulfillment; special event coordination; map distribution; food preparation for volunteer projects; youth outreach; and so much more. In his own words, Donovan found a home within the Arizona Trail community. When he’s not working in the office or on the trail, Donovan’s passion lies within the kitchen. Cooking is his primary creative outlet, and he loves working with fresh, local, in-season foods to create edible works of art.

Shawn Redfield

Steward Extraordinaire

Shawn has been volunteering with the ATA since 2005 when he first made his mark by working on Passage 15 with Anna Pfender. Since then he has been a dedicated volunteer. After 30+ years of bureaucracy as a regional director position with the Department of the Interior’s real estate valuation organization, in 2010 he retired and decided to unwind by hiking the AZT. Since then he has continued to work on many areas of the trail including the layout plans for Passage 14. In 2011, he committed to full-time volunteer work within the Trail Operations program where you can witness his unwavering commitment to the continuation of developing and maintaining the trail. Whether he’s installing a sign, replacing a gate, or conducting trail work, Shawn is always busy supporting staff and volunteers to see that they have the tools, supplies and the where-with-all to do their part. He received the 2015 Trail Volunteer of the Year Award from American Trails, and in 2016 was named the Cox Conserves Hero for Arizona – an award that honors volunteers who create, preserve or enhance the outdoor places in our communities.

Michael “Chappy” Chappell

Veteran Outreach Coordinator

After serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, Chappy looked to nature’s healing properties, leading him to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), where he focused his studies on Outdoor Education and Conservation. In turn, he applied that knowledge to educating and assisting outdoor enthusiasts to stoke their passions by outfitting them with the best equipment from REI. While at the Old Pueblo Co-Op, Chappy assumed the Outreach Specialist position and Outdoor School Instructor, working with local nonprofits and teaching classes on various outdoor activities and fundamental topics. As a Tucson native, Chappy has given back to the community through volunteering with the Southern Arizona Rescue Association, Arizona Conservation Corps, and National Park Service. As Veteran Outreach Coordinator with the ATA, he is focused on creating veteran-specific programming and establishing meaningful experiences and connections to benefit those who have served our country and our beautiful Arizona National Scenic Trail.

Treven Hooker

Youth Outreach Coordinator (Southern AZ)

Treven was born and raised in Tucson Arizona, and is dedicated to helping youth develop long lasting and meaningful relationships to the incredible natural landscapes of Southern Arizona. His goal is to help youth love to learn through fun and explorative expeditions outdoors. He hopes that by doing this, students will take the positive experiences had outdoors with them into every aspect of their life. Treven teaches students about self-reliance, environmental education, personal learning strategies, and leadership skills. He believes that in order to have a sustainable future, it must include healthier and happier relationships to the outdoors.

Clay Showalter

Youth Outreach Coordinator (Northern AZ)

Environmental, racial, and social justice form the foundation of Clay’s approach to conservation and environmental education. He fell in love with Arizona’s diverse landscapes and people while thru-hiking the AZT in 2022 and is excited to bring over a decade of field experience across six states and five countries to his work in Northern Arizona. “It has been a particularly challenging period for young people in this country and adolescents are capable of much more than what they believe they can do and what society tells them they can do,” says Clay. “Outdoor education has never been more urgently needed to empower youth, build community, and sow seeds of advocacy and stewardship.”

Makenzie Mabery

Gear Girls Coordinator

For the better part of the last decade, Makenzie has worked across the West as a wildland firefighter and most recently as an Environmental Planner, focused on NEPA work in the Southwest. Her background exemplifies an admiration for sustainability and land management which is highly relevant to mountain biking and trail stewardship. Makenzie grew up and learned to pedal in Northern Arizona. Though she has ridden trails and roads all over the world, she notes that nothing compares to the diverse terrain, weather, and varying ecosystems found throughout Arizona. She is very excited to cultivate community and create an experience on bikes that is specific to the needs of girls, allowing them to embrace the fullest versions of themselves. She hopes that as girls continue to progress on the bike, they will stay in the sport and apply lessons learned in the saddle to everyday life.

Jody Bartz

GRO Girl GRO Coordinator

Jody is a passionate educator, energetic mountain biker, trail runner, and dedicated cycling coach. She received her Ph.D. with a major in Special Education and a minor in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona in 2012. In 2013, she moved to Flagstaff, Arizona where along with being an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, she was a steward of the AZT, developed and was the head coach for a local high school MTB team. Jody is the developer and coordinator for GRO Girl GRO – a girls’ only program in Tucson that uses mountain biking, hiking and stewardship activities to fostering a love of and respect for the outdoors. Jody and her husband Jon were married 100 steps from the trailhead of their segment of the Arizona Trail in Flagstaff! In 2021, they moved to Tucson, where they now live and are proud trail stewards of one of their favorite sections of the AZT!

Melissa Schwan

Youth Outreach Assistant (Southern AZ)

During an outdoor adventure class in high school, Melissa was introduced to hiking, backpacking, and climbing. Through spending time in nature, she started to find her identity and gain confidence. Her curiosity and respect for nature grew too, leading Melissa to pursue an education in the natural sciences at the University of Arizona. Along the way, she got involved with youth outreach, volunteered for organizations dedicated to conservation, and spent as much time in the field as she could. Now she is excited to be working in a role where she can give back. Melissa hopes that through leading adventures and facilitating positive experiences in nature, the youth she helps mentor will grow to be connected to themselves, their community, and the natural world.

Sarah Dowling

Youth Outreach Assistant (Northern AZ)

Sarah’s love of the outdoors sprouted while catching frogs, foraging herbs, and playing in the lush forests of the Northeast. She believes in the power of connection to the natural world as a necessary element in inspiring a sense of creativity, joy, and responsibility for the greater world around us. Sarah is passionate about fostering spaces for youth and adults that encourage greater confidence and joy within themselves as well as deeply personal bonds with the outdoors. She is grateful to be doing so with the Arizona Trail Association. When she is not working with the ATA, Sarah teaches yoga and can be found outside trail running, biking, or catching a great sunset with some grade A snacks.

Rosi Green

Trail Technician

Rosi fell in love with the outdoors as a child in Oregon, where they grew up amidst the cedars and mossy maples of the Willamette Valley, and spent summers llama-packing with their family in the high alpine lakes of the Wallowa Mountains. After graduating from college, they happened upon an opportunity to work on a conservation corps trail crew in the Grand Canyon, and soon fell in love with Arizona and trail work. Since then, they have worked for various conservation corps, land management agencies, and educational programs around the country as a trail worker, instructor, youth leader, and trails coordinator. They are very excited to be working for the Arizona Trail Association, and to have the chance to work on such an important and spectacular trail (truly, the ultimate trail project) with so many passionate folks.

Shannon Villegas

Marketing and Graphic Designer

Shannon is an enthusiastic and passionate Arizona Trail ambassador. A passionate mountain biker, bikepacker, and trail runner, she’s always looking to spend time on the trail and inspire others to fall in love with the AZT. She enjoys pushing pixels as a graphic designer and marketing guru, and has been lending her talents to the ATA since 2016. Her own graphic design business, Sugarfrog Design Studio, was started after she left San Diego and moved to Tucson in 2006. A SoCal convert, she feels incredibly blessed to live and work in Arizona and is always looking for a new adventure…living life ‘with the lid off’!

Aaron Seifert

GIS Director

Aaron has been with the Arizona Trail Association since the summer of 2008 when the “Close the Gap” trail work was being done just north of Flagstaff. He publishes and maintains all the passage maps, interactive website maps, and supply map data for the Arizona Trail App, Arizona Trail To Go App, Topo/Trail Line Map Set, exports to GPX files that are posted on the website as well as other various map products. He’s been working in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) since 1996 after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Geography from Northern Arizona University. He mostly likes mountain biking and hiking trails across the state and hopes to bite off segments of the Arizona Trail until he completes it. In 2015 he received the AGIC (Arizona Geographic Information Council) Chairperson’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his work with the ATA.

Tasha Pontifex

Field Coordinator – Southern Arizona

Tasha has been volunteering with the ATA since 2006, where she initially cut trails on the Las Cienegas passage south of Tucson.  She grew up in Montana and attended college on the East Coast but couldn’t resist returning to the West.  She moved to Tucson in 2001 and started working at the University of Arizona as a research technician.  She has also volunteered to build and maintain trails for other organizations in the Tucson area, believing that the more trails, the better.  She received the 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award and now embraces her new role as a Field Coordinator.  As the use of the ATA grows, so will the need for volunteers, and Tasha is committed to making sure each and every volunteer has a great experience.

Olivia Woods

Field Coordinator – Northern Arizona

Olivia was born and raised in Arizona, and grew up exploring the diverse landscapes near her home. She is an avid hiker and backpacker, and first discovered the joy of stewardship while volunteering with the Phoenix Park Stewards. Olivia has attended all of the Trail Skills Institute courses and is putting those skills to work on the Arizona Trail every chance she gets. She is a certified Wildland Firefighter and is excited to support the ATA’s Volunteer Program as a Field Coordinator in northern Arizona. Her goal is to protect and preserve the beautiful lands of Arizona so as many people as possible have an opportunity to experience the forests, canyons, mountains, deserts and trails that have impacted her life in such a positive way.