Karl J. Froelich has been hired as the new director for the Carolina Thread Trail (The Thread) and will bring more than 30 years of professional experience in management, business development and project administration to The Thread.
For 20 years, Froelich managed research, development and commercialization initiatives for an international chemical company. Using his knowledge in marketing and sales, he recently served as a vice president for start-up companies in the energy storage industry. Since 2010, he has been a consultant specializing in new business development and product commercialization for small businesses in the technology and energy sectors.
Although Froelich has spent much of his professional career in private business, he always had a passion for the environment, outdoors, conservation and connecting people to open space. When Froelich relocated to Charlotte from his hometown of Miami 30 years ago, his first home was on Sardis Road near the McAlpine Greenway. He frequently used the greenway to bike, walk and reconnect with nature. Inspired by how the greenway attracted people and families from all backgrounds and various neighborhoods, he volunteered on greenway and trail initiatives, on Mecklenburg County’s greenway advisory council, and later became a park and recreation commissioner for the county’s southwest district.
In 2001, he applied his outdoor interests and professional experience to a project manager position with the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation group. While there, he worked with conservation groups and government officials on land acquisition and fundraising efforts for the Nation Ford Greenway in York County and on various greenway projects in Mecklenburg, Lancaster, Gaston and Cabarrus counties.
“I’m truly honored and very excited to be the newest member of the Carolina Thread Trail team,” Froelich said. “Trails and greenways have always been my passion and ‘saving grace’ from a busy and often hectic professional career. I think in some ways I’ve always been searching to align my personal interests with my professional career. This opportunity will allow me to do just that, while being a part of a meaningful and ambitious effort that is important to the health, sustainability and wellness of our communities.”
Carolina Thread Trail Governing Board Chairman Philip Blumenthal said The Thread’s success is deeply rooted in the strong foundation, leadership and skillsets of the board and staff members. “Karl has unique experience and familiarity with our work which we believe will bring a strong level of commitment and collaboration to advance The Thread,” said Blumenthal. “Our work takes diligence, dedication, community collaboration and teamwork. The board believes Karl possesses those key talents and abilities which will serve him well as he works closely with staff, board members, community leaders and many partners to successfully champion and advance our efforts.”
His primary responsibilities as director will include managing all aspects of The Thread’s operations including working with community partners and staff to add trail miles to the system, advancing fundraising efforts to engage new and existing donors and supporters, and securing funding for The Thread’s community grants program. He’ll also oversee other fundraising, communications and volunteer recruitment and engagement initiatives.
Froelich has undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering from the University of Florida. Froelich, who is an avid biker, kayaker and hiker, lives in Charlotte’s Steele Creek community, with his wife Sandy, where he is the president of Steele Creek Residents Association and chairman of the neighborhood’s greenway committee.
“I enjoy connecting with people, learning about their experiences and exploring why they love the outdoors. From water quality issues to alternative transportation, The Thread is a community asset that everyone can benefit from,” Froelich said. “I feel so lucky that I’ll be working to advance this effort. The Thread feels like home to me.”
His first day as The Thread’s director will be October 28. Froelich will report to Tom Okel, executive director for Catawba Lands Conservancy, and succeeds Ann Hayes Browning who resigned in July 2013 to pursue other personal interests and was The Thread’s project director for seven years.