Local Trail Group Recognized
The Western Michigan and Spirit of the Woods Chapters of the North Country Trail Association Honored by the US Forest Service for Volunteer Work
By Charles Chandler
There is an old saw that state “Good help is hard to find and when you do find it be sure that you show lots of appreciation.”
This is especially true with our governmental agencies since many like the US Forest and Parks Service operate on thin budgets and limited resources. They often depend on local volunteers to assist them with their mission to protect and manage our national lands, parks and natural resources. According to Kathleen Atkinson the Forester for our Eastern Region which includes the Huron-Manistee Forest in Fiscal Year 2016 some 9,231 volunteers contributed...
...266 person years of service with a combined value of more than $11.2 million. She further stated that this outstanding accomplishment connects citizens to the land and helps achieve our mission.
On April 15 about 20 members of two North Country Trail Association Chapters (NCTA) met at the Forest Service Office, 650 N. Michigan Ave., Baldwin, MI 49304 to receive the 2017 Enduring Service Award.
These volunteer and service awards are given by the Eastern Region of the US Forest Service. This award recognizes sustained support over many years with engagement and volunteerism and service. The recipients exemplify excellence in their work and commitment to the Forest Service mission “Caring for the Land and Serving People”.
The two Chapters with about 360 members help promote, develop, maintain and protect about100 miles of the 4600 mile North Country Hiking Trail (NCT) that travels through the Huron-Manistee National Forest and Newaygo, Manistee, Mason and Lake Counties. Some of their Chapter projects include maintaining a kiosk, trail blazing, repairing trail damage, cutting fallen trees, building boardwalks and bridges over streams and wetlands, summer weed mowing and supporting the many trail hikers that use the NCT.
The awards ceremony was hosted by Dave Jaunese local resident and Trail Coordinator for the Huron-Manistee National Forest Baldwin-White Cloud District. The Enduring Service award plaques were presented by Forest Supervisor Leslie Auriemmo to Beth Keloneva President of the Western Michigan Chapter and Robert Dunning President of the Sprite of the Woods Chapter of the NCTA.
Leslie thanked members of the two Chapters for their continuous collaboration and partnerships with the Forest Service and reiterated the importance of volunteer organizations like the Chapters of NCTA in maintaining our recreational infrastructure like the North Country Trail. She also noted from 2011 and 2016 the two NCTA Chapters had spent about 8,550 hours developing and maintaining their respective sections of trail that passes through the Huron-Manistee National Forest.
Other ceremony participants from the Baldwin-White Cloud Ranger District were Assistant Ranger Dianne Walker and Recreation Planner Kathy Bietau.
The US Parks Service has oversight responsibilities for the complete North Country National Scenic Trail and was represented at the ceremony by Superintendent Mark Weaver, Trail Manager Chris Loudenslager and Luke Jordan- ORP & Volunteer Coordinator.
Among long distance trail hikers Luke Jordan is a superstar. In 2013 he hiked the entire 4,600 miles of the North Country Trail and in 2016 hiked from far West Texas to the Canadian border. He has written a book that will be out this summer “Thru and Back Again, a Hiker‘s Journey on the North Country Trail” a great story about hiking from New York through the “Red Plaid Nation” along the Great Lakes to North Dakota.
After the awards ceremony the attendees and agency officials enjoyed homemade desserts and a media presentation of recent trail maintenance projects and shared passionate and humorous stories about developing and maintaining the NCT.
For more information about joining one of the North Country Trail Association Chapters go to https://northcountrytrail.org/get-involved/volunteer-info/