Board Members

Bill Niedringhaus (President)

Bill originated the idea of the Fairfax Cross County Trail, a 41-mile north-south wooded route across the county. He outlined the basic route and led the first four Cross County Hikes. His trail volunteer work dates from 1991 with the Pimmit Run Trail in McLean.

Bill also was primarily responsible for Fairfax County's adopting of the West County Trail, a 26-mile mostly off-road trail linking the Cross County Trail in Reston and the Bull Run Occoquan Trail at Bull Run Regional Park.

Bill founded Fairfax Trails and Streams, which received an Elly Doyle award in 2001, and is president of the Potomac River Greenways Coalition.

Bill has organized dozens of worktrips over the past few years, especially since his retirement in 2014, to construct and maintain the Potomac Heritage Trail, Cross County Trail, West County Trail, Pimmit Run Trail and others.

Bill worked for 35 years at the Mitre Corporation as a simulation engineer before retiring in 2014.

Ric Francke (Executive Director)

Ric came to PHTA following a thirty-year career in international banking and finance, most recently as Chief Investment Officer of an international development fund. Having hiked and trekked around the world, he has more recently devoted much of his spare time to trail maintenance and trail-related event management. Ric’s first involvement in trail work was as a PATC overseer for a section of the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park; after six years he switched his assignment to a 2.8 mile segment of the Potomac Heritage Trail; and has recently been appointed PATC’s District Manager for Northern Virginia.

Ric has also been involved through Fairfax Trails & Streams in the development and construction of the Fairfax Cross County Trail and the Pimmit Run Trail. Beginning in 1999 Ric took on a four-year role as Director of the Dogwood Half Hundred, PATC’s annual 50 kilometer one-day endurance hike. Following a stint as Treasurer of the Potomac Trail Council, Ric became its Director of Programs; with the founding of the Potomac Heritage Trail Association, he was appointed its first Executive Director.

Karen Jones

Karen has been a trail enthusiast for over 25 years. She is an avid hiker, former equestrian/horse owner and outdoor lover. When not pursuing new trail routes, she is also actively building and maintaining trails throughout the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area. In addition to being a board member on the PHTA, Karen is also a board member of the Great Falls Trailblazers, another non-profit group dedicated to developing and maintaining trails in the Great Falls, Va area. GFTB was awarded the Elly Doyle Award from the Fairfax County Park Authority for exemplary service to parks in Fairfax County. Her other memberships include The Potomac Appalachain Trail Club, C and O Canal Association, Potomac Conservancy, Audubon Society, Nature Conservancy and numerous other organizations dedicated to protecting the environment and animals.

Karen is also an official volunteer for Loudoun County Parks and Recreation working with the Chief Park Planner, Mark Novak on the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, as well as other trails in Loudoun County.

Jim Lynch

Jim grew up in Arlington, Virginia, graduating from Washington-Lee HS in 1959 where he was on the cross-country, track and crew teams. He graduated from Auburn University with a degree in Aerospace Engineering in 1964 while a member of Auburn's cross-country and track teams.

Following college, Jim was employed for several years in the engineering divisions at Air Force bases in Alabama and California, before returning to Virginia in 1969. He worked at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia until his retirement in 2005.

An avid trail and park enthusiast, Jim volunteers at Shenandoah and Yosemite National Parks and Caledon State Park. Jim is also a member of a volunteer group building and maintaining the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail in King George, Va. The goal is for that trail to become part of the Virginia State Park system, as well as part of the Potomac Heritage Trail.

Ernie Rodriguez

Ernie served on the Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiasts (MORE) Board of Directors in 2013 as Virginia Advocacy Director. With Ryan Delaney, he led a bike contingent of the Oct. 2013 West County Hike/Ride. Ernie joined the PHTA Board shortly thereafter. He has played an active role in our Cliffs of Occoquan trail advocacy.

Ernie is the current president and board member for MORE Mid-Atlantic Off-Road Enthusiast.

Mark Holt

Mark was inspired to establish the Southern Prince George's Trails Coalition in 1998 after being informed by County planners that there was insufficient public pressure for trails in his area — which has the lowest dedicated trail mileage in the region. With crucial help from Jim Hudnall and the Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club, the Trails Coalition has ever since been lobbying local government officials for trails funding, including the Prince George's segment of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

A long-time hiker, backpacker, and short-distance cyclist, Mark is Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 1551 in Fort Washington and leads an annual Cub Scout ride on the scenic Henson Creek Trail. He is an energy policy analyst with the C

Steve Dontigny

Steve is the Associate Regional (Mid-Atlantic) Director for IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association and serves as the Executive Director for the Mid-Atlantic Off Road Enthusiasts. He came to MORE with a background in membership development but is now leading their advocacy and trail building activity. Although he cycles most days, he did grow up hiking and camping in central Pennsylvania and still enjoys outdoor recreation.

Dennis Kruse

Dennis recently joined the Board after 35 years in the international telecom industry in which he lived in many different cities of the US, Frankfurt, Germany and Brussels Belgium. Born and raised in the rolling hills of Iowa, he has always aspired to bigger challenges in other parts of the world. He has hiked, biked and mountaineered in Europe, Africa, and of course here in the US. A resident of Leesburg VA since 2004, Dennis is now active with Bike Loudoun in establishing much needed, new bike routes in Leesburg and the county of Loudoun, with a special interest in finally connecting the W&OD Trail and the C&O Canal Path via White’s Ferry. Dennis is anxious to help the Potomac Heritage Trail close the gaps by building new segments, finding unique route solutions and ensuring public support.