Trail Conference Annual Gala: Meet the Honoree's

October 03, 2022
Jennifer Zack
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Trail Conference Annual Gala: Meet the Honoree's


We celebrate exemplary environmental leaders who are dedicated stewards and advocates in protecting the land we love to explore. Thank you for helping to safeguard our trails, so future generations may bond with nature, learn to value it—and pass their environmental values on to the next generation.

Trail Champions: John and Marianne Gunzler

Trails were a life-long passion for John and Marianne Gunzler; in fact, it was on a hike in Harriman State Park that they first met. On their frequent hikes together, they would see first-hand the positive impact Trail Conference volunteers made on trails. The Gunzler’s were tireless champions of the Trail Conference, giving back to the trails they loved through volunteer service and financial gifts for nearly four decades.

John was a mentor and friend to many at the Trail Conference. He built a successful career in manufacturing and brought this experience to his volunteerism—offering solid business advice and common sense to the development of our funds and finances, and undoubtedly launching the Trail Conference to the standard it is today.

John was a very active member of the Board of Directors, serving from 1999 to 2008, and continued to be a leading member of various committees, including the Membership and Development, Nominating, Darlington Schoolhouse, Finance, and Investment committees.

Their hobby-turned-philanthropic-passion inspired the Gunzler’s to establish the Trail Conference’s Legacy Fund, to ensure that the trails and natural areas we share are accessible for all to enjoy for generations to come.

The Gunzler family is a monumental part of our heritage and has played a vital role in the Trail Conference's mission.

A Family Committed To Its Community: The DeSilva Family

Liberty Family of Dealerships, family-owned and operated by the DeSilva family, is a Subaru, Hyundai, Genesis and KIA brands servicing northern New Jersey. Over the last 40 years, they have built a reputation for providing stellar care to their customers. They are also known for their deep dedication to giving back to local communities. By naming the Trail Conference as a Subaru “Share the Love” Hometown Charity, and through sponsorships, the DeSilva family has been a force for good for all who cherish the outdoors. Their generosity has strengthened our organization’s efforts to keep trails safe, open and protected, while providing fulfilling experiences for thousands of volunteers.

The DeSilva’s commitment to their local community is extraordinary. In addition to the Trail Conference, their philanthropic spirit can be felt through their hosting of annual events such as, pet adoption; Special Olympics New Jersey Torch Run; Jersey Cares Coat Drive; Bergen Highlands Ramsey Rotary Gift of Life; and through the monetary support of Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon, the Valerie Fund, and the Ramapo College Foundation.

The service the DeSilva family provides to their community goes beyond the dealerships. Rick Sr. sits on the Mahwah Zoning Board of Adjustment and is a member of the Ramapo College Foundation. He received the college's Distinguished Citizen Award in 2012. Rick Jr. has served on the Mahwah Board of Education since 2012.

Their continual support and collaboration allows us to better serve the outdoor community and positively impact the support we are able to provide our volunteers.

The Trail Conference plays a key role in enhancing our health, wellness, and quality of life throughout this region.

This year’s gala theme, The Greater Need for Nature, The Greater Need for the Trail Conference, is a strong testament of the importance nature has on the mind, body, and soul. As more and more people visit parks and trails, the Trail Conference has the tremendous responsibility to ensure that these areas are safe to explore and used responsibly by those who venture out on the trails.

Our Gala is the perfect occasion to celebrate and share memories made over the years. The evening’s program will feature tributes to people, projects, and progress, including various personal sentiments about and from our volunteers. Seats are filling up, and we hope you are there to celebrate. If you haven’t already secured your place, please do so today! Click to RSVP