Local North Country Trail volunteers honored

MARQUETTE — The city of Marquette, a designated Trail Town of the North Country Trail Association, was the site of this year’s NCTA Celebration July 27-29, which was based at Northern Michigan University.

Visitors took part in many break-out sessions and hikes. But a little recognition was in order as well.

At the event, co-sponsored by NMU’s School of Health and Human Performance and the Upper Peninsula chapters of the North Country Trail Association, several local chapter members were honored for their service to the chapter, the trail and the NCTA.

NCT Hikers “trail boss” Cliff Stammer was honored during the National Park Service’s Volunteer in Parks recognition session July 27. Stammer has volunteered over 4,000 hours of time to the NCT Hikers chapter through mostly “on-the-ground” trail maintenance.

During the NCTA’s July 28 annual awards presentation, NCT Hikers Reggie and LuAnne Krueger were honored with one of three Trail Maintainer Awards from across all 4,600 miles of the trail. The Kruegers are Trail Adopters for a segment of the NCT from the Craig Lake State Park parking area east about 4 miles.

They also are part of the chapter’s trail crew that works throughout the spring and summer and into the fall, maintaining all segments of the chapter’s area of responsibility. The crew, led by Stammer, usually works several days each week, clearing encroaching growth, throwing off branches, whacking weeds and performing other work that needs accomplishing.

The new Boots on the Trail Award, given to a person who has planned hikes open to the public as well as members of the association on a regular and exemplary basis, was awarded to chapter member Marge Forslin. Forslin has been the primary planner for the twice-a-year Softies Hikes series that has taken hikers to three- to four-day overnight-stay day hikes for well over a decade.

Softies Hikes involve hiking from west to east across the U.P. on the NCT. The “Softies” means hikers do not backpack, but instead day hike, staying in motels, cabins or other places and eating evening meals in restaurants. This fall, the hikes will continue from the Tahquamenon Falls area southeast toward St. Ignace.

Forslin, along with her husband, John, scout each hike prior to the group outing, making sure road access is located, arranging the housing, and developing the maps and information to get everyone where they need to be on time.

Jessica Bale, an NMU student in the Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management program who served as an intern with this year’s NCTA Celebration chairwoman, Lorana Jinkerson, throughout the winter semester, was honored with the Rising Star Award.

That award goes to a young person aged 8-25 who has demonstrated commitment to the NCT and the NCTA through activities and who shows potential for furthering the mission of the NCTA.

Bale performed research, designed the NCTA Celebration poster, helped with the table decorations and wrote the article for the NCTA magazine North Star about the Marquette event. She also spent a day on the NCT, helping the trail crew with maintenance.

Chapter President Jinkerson was awarded the Blue Blazes Benefactor Award, which is given to an association member who displays “extraordinary dedication and outstanding contributions and unwavering support” for the NCT.

The North Country Trail is the longest of the national scenic trails, stretching through seven states from New York to North Dakota.

In the U.P., the North Country Trail Hikers chapter is responsible for more than 100 miles of trail from Rock River Road in western Alger County, through Marquette County and to the Long Lake outlet in eastern Baraga County.

Jinkerson said about 400 hikers, NCTA members and friends from across the trail’s seven states, as well as some from other states, came together in Marquette, breaking an attendance record for the NCTA Celebration. The previous record was approximately 270 in 2016 in Fargo, North Dakota.

“The weather was perfect, the town was humming with activities, the volunteers did an excellent job of serving our guests, the service of NMU’s Simply Superior Catering and Events, AV office and housing offices was superb and the Marquette Area Public Schools bus drivers the best, getting our people out and about to the NCT as well as the Iron Ore Heritage Trail for fantastic hikes, views and history of the area,” Jinkerson said in an email. “I have heard many who said, ‘Now I know why you love Marquette so’ and ‘I’m coming back to explore more.'”

The NCTA Celebration also had support from the political arena throughout the event.

Jinkerson said Marquette Mayor Dave Campana welcomed the crowd, Michigan U.S. Sen. Gary Peter’s U.P. representative Elise Matz read a letter from Peters, Michigan U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow had a video chat with the attendees and Jack Bergman, congressman from the state’s 1st District, spoke briefly to the crowd, noting that “trails are not political. We all love trails.”

Jinkerson thanked all the event’s sponsors, specifically co-sponsor NMU’s School of Health and Human Performance, the Community Foundation of Marquette County and WE Energies for their support.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.