Chris Maron, the founding Executive Director of Champlain Area Trails (CATS), announced he will retire in December 2024 after 14 years. Under Maron’s leadership, CATS became an accredited land trust that developed miles of trails, protected land, publicized local hiking opportunities, and enabled thousands of people to connect with nature in New York’s Champlain Valley.
Maron is a founder of CATS. During his tenure, CATS created 77 miles of hiking, snowshoeing, and cross-country ski trails. These trails are a popular destination for over 20,000 people annually.
Additionally, CATS protected 983 acres of land through acquisitions and conservation easements, working with local landowners, the Open Space Institute, Eddy Foundation, and Northeast Wilderness Trust.
The organization focuses conservation efforts on the Split Rock Wildway, a wildlife corridor linking New York’s Champlain Valley with the Adirondack High Peaks via the West Champlain Hills, and its trails’ master plan includes town-to-town trail connectivity to provide fun outdoor activities for people of all ages and attract ecotourism and economic development.
Under Maron’s leadership, CATS received recognition for its sustainable trails and outdoor recreation. It earned awards and commendations from organizations such as the Adirondack Council, Adirondack Wild, New York State Outdoor Education Association, and the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism.
Since 2009, CATS built a volunteer program with over 2,000 volunteers contributing over 20,000 hours and established an endowment and saw a six-fold budget growth to over $600,000.
Maron began his career in 1984 with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Indiana. He initiated conservation projects at several significant sites, includingin the state’s northwest city of Gary, near Indiana Dunes. He came to upstate New York in 2001 as the Champlain Valley Program Director for TNC’s Adirondack Chapter/Adirondack Land Trust. In that role, he conserved several thousand acres of farmland and significant natural areas, including Boquet River Nature Preserve in Willsboro and the Hidden Valley addition to Coon Mountain in Westport. Both sites now have popular trails that he created.
Beyond his conservation work, Maron has been involved in community activities with Westport’s Planning Board, Ballard Park, the Westport Library, the development of Willsboro and Lewis’ town plans, several chambers of commerce, and the Lake Champlain Citizens’ Advisory Committee.
As Maron prepares for his retirement in late 2024, the CATS Board of Directors has formed a search committee to conduct a national search for the next executive director.
For more information, visit the CATS website.