Florida Trail Association

Meet the Team

Royce W. Gibson
Royce W. GibsonExecutive Director

Royce became the executive director in October of 2020. Prior to joining FTA, he was a consultant and spent a year in Puerto Rico with the Friends of San Juan National Historic. Royce served over 11 years as the Senior Director of Membership and Development at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) where he won awards for his fundraising work including a Direct Marketing Association MAXI award and two Gold Awards from Fundraising Success magazine. During his tenure at ATC fundraising revenue nearly tripled. Royce has spent the past 25 plus years in non-profit fundraising for a variety of organizations.

Royce was raised Mississippi and graduated high school in Arkansas before moving to Washington, D.C. where he earned a BA in Political Science from The American University. He spent nearly 20 years living within site of the Appalachian Trail in Harpers Ferry, WV and in 2021 moved to Gainesville.

Janet Akerson
Janet AkersonAdministrative Director

Janet Akerson became the part-time bookkeeper for FTA in 2002. Her responsibilities evolved, and in 2009 she became the Administrative Director.

She manages the Gainesville office, supervises the FTA staff, helps with event planning, and continues to keep the books.

Janet grew up in St. Petersburg, FL, and attended Berry College and the University of Florida. Since 1976, Janet and her husband, Randy, have lived in Gainesville, where they managed Burrito Bros. Taco Co. – a popular local restaurant – until 2017. They have been members of the FTA since 1982.

Kelly Van Patten
Kelly Van PattenTrail Program Director

Kelly oversees the FTA’s trail-related staff and operations. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont, where she earned a BA in Environmental Studies while interning at the Lake Champlain Land Trust. After graduating, Kelly completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Boston City Hall. She then went on to manage a regional food access program at a non-profit in upstate New York.

Kelly started with the FTA in 2016 as the Central/South Regional Trail Manager before stepping into the Trail Program Director role in 2019. Kelly and her husband live in Melbourne Beach.

Jeff Glenn
Jeff GlennNorth Trail Program Manager

Jeff manages 400 miles of the Florida Trail on the eastern and western corridors of the trail from the Ocala National Forest to Suwannee River State Park and from Green Swamp West to Silver Springs State Park. He joined the FTA in 2013.

Jeff works with volunteers and agency partners to coordinate trail construction, maintenance, protection, gap closures, and outreach efforts. He also engages volunteers in stewardship events on the Florida National Scenic Trail.

Previously, Jeff worked with the Student Conservation Association (’06 – ’13), as both a seasonal trail crew leader and a full-time staff member. For 4 years he managed a large SCA program and maintained 100 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail through the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. He has led crews in Alaska, the US Virgin Islands, Arizona, Colorado, and Kentucky.

Jeff is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, where he studied environmental education and outdoor leadership. An avid hiker, he loves to spend time out on the trail with his kids and the best trail dog around, Strawberry, as well as playing music, fermenting food, and organic agriculture.

Jenna Taylor
Jenna TaylorCentral/South Trail Program Manager

Jenna Taylor has joined the FTA team after spending the last 8 years serving as the AmeriCorps Program Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters of St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee Counties. A native Floridian, Jenna is a graduate of Flagler College where she earned a BA in Psychology and Communications. She then completed a Masters in Social Work through Florida State University with a certification in non-profit and emergency management.

When she isn’t working, Jenna can be found serving her community as a coach for Girls on the Run and the Special Olympics Equestrian teams. Jenna lives in Fort Pierce with her husband James and her two hiking partners, her dogs Gracie and Magnolia.

Adam Fryska
Adam FryskaPanhandle Trail Program Manager

Adam Fryska is an experienced long-distance backpacker and trail steward. He joined the FTA in 2017 after working in various conservation and stewardship roles along the Appalachian Trail and Vermont’s Long Trail. Adam is a passionate supporter of the National Scenic Trail system; he’s experienced the magic of these trails and their communities first hand while completing the “Triple Crown,” thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail.

Now immersing himself in the unique environments found along the Florida Trail, he’s working to ensure this exceptional resource is developed, maintained, and protected for current and future generations of users.

Adam grew up in northern Indiana. He studied biology at Indiana University, European studies at Jagiellonian University, and environmental law at Vermont Law School. Previously he worked with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Randolph Mountain Club, and Green Mountain Club. As the FTA’s Panhandle Regional Representative, Adam coordinates trail building, maintenance, resource protection, and volunteer work along the Florida National Scenic Trail from to Suwannee River State Park to the Northern Terminus of the Florida Trail at Fort Pickens in Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Chelsea Collison
Chelsea CollisonCommunity Outreach Manager

Chelsea Collison is the FTA Community Outreach Manager with a combined 10 years of experience in outreach, education, and programming for nonprofit organizations. She most recently worked five years as an educator for the Florida Museum of Natural History. Chelsea specializes in using communication strategies and partnership-building to increase public awareness, appreciation, and curiosity for our natural world. She holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Florida and a master’s degree in museum studies from Johns Hopkins University.

Anthony Tridente
Anthony Tridente GIS Program Manager

Anthony maintains the authoritative Florida Trail geospatial data, handles all mapping efforts, develops mobile data collection solutions to support the program and has a hand in many projects around the trail.

Prior to working with the FNST program, Anthony was an environmental consultant who worked in Florida and around the southeast on a wide variety of conservation projects. Before moving to Florida in 2017, Anthony worked for the National Park Service In Corpus Christi, Texas patrolling the beaches for nesting sea turtles and responding to sea turtle strandings while earning his GIS certificate from Texas A & M, Corpus Christi.

Diane Strong
Diane StrongMembership and Retail Coordinator

Diane is the friendly voice on the other end of the phone at our Gainesville headquarters. She administrates the FTA’s membership, coordinates donations, and manages the store.

Diane came to Gainesville in 1990 for school and never left. She earned a degree in history and secondary education in 1994. After graduation she worked at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine for 15 years.

Diane grew up in Orlando, where she spent a lot of time on the Wekiva and St. Johns Rivers. She is married to an entomologist who works with the USDA on the University of Florida campus.

Diane and her husband enjoy spending their free time kayaking and fishing in the Gulf.

Jane Pollack
Jane PollackGateway Communities Coordinator

Jane is a born-and-raised Floridian and nature enthusiast who completed a thru-hike of the Florida Trail in 2020. She is a graduate of the University of Florida where she earned a degree in English with an emphasis on postcolonial studies. Jane worked in a variety of nonprofit settings from academic publishing to sustainable food systems before joining FTA as the Gateway Communities Coordinator.

She is very excited to work with the Gateway Communities along the trail to strengthen the connection between outdoor recreationalists and the towns surrounding the trail

Abe Christian
Abe ChristianTechnical Advisor

Abe grew up in Gainesville where he spent a lot of time exploring the woods and swamps in and around Florida. He graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Food and Resource Economics. During and after his time at UF, Abe spent almost two decades in retail sales and was Verizon’s first general manager to complete a Lean Six Sigma green belt project. After tiring of the retail aspect, he transitioned his love of the outdoors into volunteering and nonprofit work.

He has enjoyed developing his hiking, woodsman and horseman skills. Abe recently was awarded The FTA’s “2018 John Weary Trail Worker Award,” which he was surprised and honored to receive. He is very passionate about using his acquired skills to increase awareness of the Florida National Scenic Trail and helping the FTA in any way that he can. In his free time, Abe enjoys traveling to the beach, touring zoos and going on long walks with his wife and dog.