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Aaron Hautala, Strateligent CEO, Presents Keynote at 2022 Iowa Trails Summit

BRAINERD – Aaron Hautala, CEO and Creative Director of Strateligent and destination development consultant, recently delivered the keynote address to a captive audience at the Iowa Trails Summit, an annual event that focuses on trail development topics including land acquisition, engineering, funding, maintenance, and marketing.

“Aaron has a remarkable ability to connect with trail advocates through shared challenges and visions,” said Andrea Boulton, Trails and Greenways Director at INHF statewide trails coordinator. “In a matter of moments, he created a relationship with everyone in the audience and inspired them to not only consider what could be for their own communities, but also provided them with action steps from his own experience as examples of how to make big dreams a reality.”

Iowa Trails Summit

Photo Credit: Lance Brisbois

Hautala presented his road map in guiding the growth of Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area mountain bicycling system from 25 miles of two-way trail to 70 miles of one-way, one direction trail within a decade. Beyond offering guidance on trail system expansion, Hautala shared his proven process for building economic development and quality-of-life around outdoor recreation. His process helped to revitalize the Cuyuna region, recruiting more than 30 new businesses and increasing the annual number of cyclists to 119,000, and a $9,000,000 economic impact each year.

“What Aaron helped do in Cuyuna, bringing a community together around mountain biking and proving a positive impact on the local economy, provided me an entirely new way to speak with others about the importance of singletrack trails,” said Shae Rossetti, Whiterock Conservancy marketing director and Iowa Trails Summit attendee. “It’s exciting to be able to say that mountain biking helped breathe life back into a small town. With the help of community leaders across Iowa, we can replicate this and bring small towns across Iowa back to life. Not only providing much needed public recreational space, but bringing existing and new businesses to life. Trails in any magnitude, when built with the help and collaboration of community leaders and passionate volunteers, can create an economic gold mine.”

The event—hosted by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF), Golden Hills Resource Conservation & Development, Iowa Bicycle Coalition, the Southeast Iowa Regional Planning Commission, and the National Parks Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program—was attended by attended by trail builders, supporters, and volunteers across Iowa.

“I have received numerous emails and comments since the closing of the Iowa Trails Summit in appreciation for Aaron’s keynote address—many noting that they felt a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the work they were doing,” shared Boulton. “This reaction is inspiring to me as someone who works on and advocates for Iowa’s Trail System as a whole. I am excited to see so many partners motivated to press on making things happen across the state.”

About Aaron Hautala

Aaron Hautala is the President and Creative Director of Strateligent™, the Founder of Cuyuna Adventure Town USA®, a destination development consultant, and a certified executive coach. He is passionate about economic development through purpose-built, smart design outdoor recreation, and speaks globally about the power it has to transform communities.