You may not realize it, but behind the LHT is a whole cast of characters working to keep the trail safe and thriving. Our all-volunteer board – a group of Mercer County residents with different areas of expertise and a range of interests – keeps the rest of us hiking and biking. It’s time to shine a light on these folks in our ongoing series: Meet Our Board.
Courtesy of Ruth Markoe
Meet Ruth Markoe, a speech and language pathologist and the founder of a local theater group with a passion for cycling. Ruth’s background in promoting her own theatrical productions has made her an invaluable addition to the LHT’s public relations and events committee; and she has been an integral member of the small team bringing our Journey to the Moon initiative.
LHT: Can you share a biography or statement regarding professional life and involvement in the LHT?
Ruth: I was born in London and spent the first four years of my life in Israel before my family moved to NYC where I grew up. I have lived in Lawrenceville since 1980 where my husband and I raised our family. I have had a rather diverse professional life. I am speech and language pathologist in private practice with an MS from the University of Wisconsin, but I have always been active in the theater as an actor, and more recently a director and producer. I founded TheaterToGo in 1992. We began by offering immersive comedy murder mysteries for corporate, private, and public events, but have branched out to include full length plays in a variety of venues, most notably Kelsey Theater in West Windsor where I serve on the Advisory Committee. In addition to well-known plays such as Cabaret, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, we have also produced several original plays, notably Roebling: The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge, a sell-out at Kelsey Theatre in 2016. I really love all aspects of the theater, and love to perform as well as direct. It’s in my DNA.
LHT: How did you discover the LHT? How did you end up getting involved?
Ruth: I love cycling and I live quite close to the Pole Farm section of the LHT. While the county was developing the property, I would ride the paths on my bike to explore this nascent park. I loved watching it grow and learning about the history of the AT&T property and its importance to telecommunications. I am embarrassed to say that until the Pole Farm was being developed, I really knew none of this history. As the LHT grew, I loved exploring the whole trail. My family knew how much I love the park and the trail and several years ago joined together to get a bench in my honor at my favorite spot by the last remaining pole. I participated in every opportunity to engage with the trail, especially the biking events, and eventually was invited to join the board. I have always considered the LHT my happy place.
Ruth Markoe and her family on the bench they dedicated to her at the Pole Farm segment, courtesy of Ruth Markoe
LHT: How long have you been a board member and what projects have you worked on?
Ruth: I worked with the PR and Events committee in 2019 and joined the board in 2020. My biggest project so far was in helping to develop and implement the Journey to the Moon initiative. This came about after we were forced to cancel the 2020 Full Moon Ride because of COVID-19. We began this initiative to keep interest up in the trail and encourage outdoor activities during the pandemic.
LHT: As the full trail nears completion, what do you think is next for the LHT?
Ruth: I am hoping to see more people using the trail for a variety of purposes, including perhaps outdoor performances. I am also excited to see the end of COVID-19 restrictions and the return of some of our most popular events — the Full Moon Ride and Trail and Treat. Also, I am looking forward to seeing more people enjoy many of the wonderful events such as Art on the Trail, the Walking Club, and the Cycling Club.
LHT: You run a theater company and produce plays and events — how has that work informed your work on the LHT board?
Ruth: I have run TheaterToGo for almost 30 years. In addition to producing and directing a variety of entertainment events I also learned a lot about marketing and the value of social media, especially in this ballooning digital age. I am also acutely aware that developing strong social and business relationships can allow us to continue providing services with integrity and quality. As we continue to develop the beautiful and varied LHT, we can use this knowledge to increase participation in LHT activities and expand awareness of the LHT beyond local communities.
At the opening of the pedestrian bridge in Rosedale Park, courtesy of Ruth Markoe
Ruth: One of my greatest pleasures is riding my bike. I have loved the trail since I first discovered the Pole Farm many years ago and I love that I can bike over and enjoy such a diverse environment. As a board member, I feel I can contribute to discussions about ways to increase bike-friendly accessibility. I also feel that I can act as an ambassador for the trail as I bike with my varied cycling groups. I love introducing the trail to cyclists from outside our area and have actually led some cycling groups around the trail.
LHT: You’ve been very involved in our Journey to the Moon initiative — how did that come together? How has your background affected it? And how do you think it’s going?
Ruth: When the board was forced to forgo the increasingly popular 2020 Full Moon Ride, a suggestion was floated to create a related activity such as a virtual voyage to the moon. I loved that idea and a small group of us started meeting to flesh out this concept. We decided that the miles could be accrued with any form of physical exercise, anywhere, not only on the trail; and we decided to make one earth mile equivalent to 22 miles (the length of the LHT) reducing the number of miles from 238,855 to 10,818 in order to make it a less daunting goal. I loved helping to create the graphics and the marketing messaging and getting the message out on social media. My background in entertainment and audience engagement has been quite useful, especially since the original mission of TheaterToGo is all about getting people involved.
LHT: Are there any segments of the trail that are favorites or of particular interest to you, personally or in regard to cycling?
Ruth: I love the history of the Pole Farm section and the Lawrenceville Main Street section along the Johnson Trolley line and the Maidenhead Meadows section on the way to the canal, the beauty of the Carson Road Woods and Rosedale Park sections, the easy cycling from Pennington to the Watershed. I guess you could say there is no section I do not like!
Courtesy of Ruth Markoe
LHT: Please share any words of advice or encouragement for local residents discovering the LHT and how the trail can inspire a passion for cycling.
Ruth: The wonders of the LHT are that the trail goes through so many different types of properties. It is never boring. It takes us through towns, parks, and corporate campuses. And it can be accessed from many points along the way so that folks can do as much or as little as they want and still enjoy the trail. Also, it is wonderful that the LHT goes through Mercer Meadows, which is closed to vehicles, so you can see cyclists, walkers, and even horses in a safe and pollution free environment.