Matthew J. Nelson
Matthew has been the Executive Director of the ATA since 2012, but his connections to the Arizona Trail go back almost 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 tribal liaison, 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, Bikepacking Roots, and La Tierra del Jaguar. He lives in the Sierrita Mountains southwest of Tucson with his daughter.
Director of Trail Operations
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 direction 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 formally took on the role as the ATA Trail Director 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.
Zachary J. MacDonald
Zach is an avid mountain biker, hiker, and lover of the outdoors. He is the 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 during the summer of 2016. He is also past board member of the ATA and was an active volunteer crew leader for the Las Colinas and Las Cienegas passages south of Tucson. 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. All of this has developed his passion for the Arizona National Scenic Trail, for building and maintaining trails, and working with volunteers representing all user groups and all walks of life. He is excited for the opportunity to work with the ATA, 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.
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, and, of course, the Arizona Trail Association.
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. Wendy also teaches backpacking seminars and classes several times a year to pass on her love of life outdoors. 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.
Karrie began working with the ATA in 2016 while thru-hiking the AZT for her honeymoon. Since then she has worn many hats for the organization and she is excited to be back once more. Karrie has a B.A. in Mathematics from Earlham College, and an extensive background in outdoor education, outdoor recreation, sustainability, and trail maintenance. She has worked for the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and various environmental non-profits. It’s no surprise, that in her time off, she takes to the woods as well. In addition to the AZT, Karrie has also completed thru-hikes of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest National Scenic Trails, and she has canoed the entire length of the Mississippi River. Karrie has found that time spent outdoors is truly transformative, and she is eager to help connect others in the Arizona community to the beautiful and wild places in their backyard.
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.
Youth Outreach Coordinator (Northern AZ)
Julie’s passion for ecology, recreation, public lands conservation, and social justice permeate her work as an outdoor educator. Before joining the ATA team in 2019, Julie taught, designed curriculum, and conducted outreach for a diverse set of programs across 6 states—though no place has ever tugged at her heartstrings quite like Arizona. She aims to share her love for the Colorado Plateau with youth in order to foster stronger connections with Arizona’s landscapes, nurture healthy communities, and empower stewardship. Since thru-hiking the Arizona Trail in 2015, Julie has continuously sought out backpacking, rock climbing, and canyoneering adventures in Arizona’s wildest places.
Michael “Chappy” Chappell
Veteran Outreach Coordinator
After serving during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, Chappy looked to nature’s healing properties which led him to the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), where he focused his studies in Outdoor Education and Conservation. He took that knowledge and applied it to educating and assisting outdoor enthusiasts stoke their passions by outfitting them with the best equipment from REI Co-op. During his tenure, Chappy assumed the role of Outreach Specialist and Outdoor School Instructor, working with local nonprofits and teaching classes on a variety of outdoor activities and topics. A Tucson native, Chappy has given back to the community through volunteering with Southern Arizona Rescue Association, Arizona Conservation Corps, Beads of Courage, and TreeHouse Farm. In his new role as Veteran Outreach Coordinator with the ATA, Chappy is focused on creating veteran-specific programs and establishing meaningful experiences and connections for the benefit of those that have served our country and our beautiful Arizona Trail.
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 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 aztrail.org 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.
Wildlife Monitoring Coordinator
Chelsey spent her childhood on a small ranch in Arizona becoming acquainted with her surroundings, turning over rocks, climbing trees, and introducing herself to every inhabitant she met along the way. In these early formative years she connected deeply with nature and found a love for all animals, large and small. Chelsey discovered ecology to be the means of continuing to learn more about the plants and animals of the world, and conservation to be the best way to protect them. She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in life sciences. She has utilized camera traps to study focal species in the Sky Islands of southeastern Arizona (one of the most biologically diverse regions of the United States) and has also spent time working on wildlife mitigation and corridor connectivity in Mexico and Costa Rica. Chelsey began working with the Arizona Trail Association in partnership with The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation’s Field Research Department in 2018 on the Arizona Trail CAM (Conservation and Monitoring) project, using wildlife cameras to gain valuable knowledge of human and wildlife uses along the Arizona Trail. When she is not working in the field you can find her on her yoga mat, backpacking, climbing, or with her nose in a book.
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.
Judy joined Arizona Trail Association in January 2021 to serve as a field coordinator. She brings experience in field work and program coordination from her work experience with Arizona Conservation Corps. Judy is a mountain biker and hiker and can often be found on Arizona Trail segments near her home in the Flagstaff area.