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Jinkerson earns 2020 North Country Trail Association Tom Gilbert Lifetime Achievement Award, presented Aug. 6

Lorana Jinkerson

MARQUETTE — The North Country Trail Association is a national non-profit volunteer organization that works with the National Park Service to build, maintain, promote and protect the Congressionally approved North Country National Scenic Trail as it traverses approximately 4,600 miles from Vermont, to North Dakota.

Lorana Jinkerson, Marquette, retired Northern Michigan University School of Education professor and local North Country Trail Hikers chapter president, was honored Aug. 6 at the North Country Trail Association Annual Awards presentation via Zoom with the 2020 NCTA Tom Gilbert Lifetime Achievement Award.

This award goes to an individual, in recognition of 15 years or more of true dedication, exceptional service and outstanding contributions towards the dream of the North Country Trail or the success and growth of the NCTA, not just local service, according to a NCTA press release.

Jinkerson joined the NCTA in 2005, immediately getting involved with the local chapter by developing the chapter website (northcountrytrail.org/nct) which has morphed over the years and has grown to include a Facebook page (Facebook.com/NCTHikers). In 2007 she was elected to the NCT Hikers Board of Directors and became president in 2009, a position she still holds.

In 2007 she also took over the duties of producing the NCT Hikers Chapter newsletter, “Footnotes.” These tasks grew to include all local chapter communications and administration, including sending out press releases of activities, doing media interviews, doing presentations to other local organizations, taking photographs of chapter activities and members and planning presenters for chapter general membership meetings.

Events where tables are hosted have all been planned by Jinkerson for years, as well as arranging volunteers for such events. She attended a volunteer adventure in Baraga County in 2008 and then helped the NCT Hikers plan one for a new segment of trail east of County Road 510 in 2010. Volunteers from several chapters came to help build that new segment.

Jinkerson works with the MI DNR, the Hiawatha and Ottawa National Forests and private landowners to help promote and protect the trail as it traverses their properties, the release said. This includes sending yearly landowner “thank you” letters to all of our 60 or so landowners who host the trail. In this capacity she helped get permission from several to allow NPS informational and destination signage.

In addition to the local administrative duties, Jinkerson joined the NCT Hikers Trail Crew, the group of volunteers who go out on the NCT to maintain it by lopping encroaching growth, throwing off downed branches, painting blue blazes on trees to mark the trail, etc. She became a trail adopter of a specific segment as well. As she learned the ins and outs of accessing the trail in the woods, she became a driver for the trail crew, often dropping them off at one end of a segment then driving around to the other end to pick them up. To facilitate that transporting of trail crew volunteers and the tools to do the work, over the years, she purchased two large old SUVs that were primarily purchased for use by the chapter.

Jinkerson, along with three other chapter members, hiked and GPSed all 120 plus miles of trail that are the chapter’s responsibility. This work culminated in maps of each segment with driving directions and trail segment highlights being added to the chapter website. This also led to the development of numerous destination signs being placed across the chapter area. As the NCTA provided information, Lorana worked with the Marquette Community Services Parks and Recreation Department to approach the City of Marquette Commission to approve Marquette as an official NCTA Trail Town which was approved in 2017.

In an attempt to get new trail built off road and/or to connect dead-end sections, Jinkerson, along with other chapter members, spent many trips and hours scouting. Those hours ended up leading to connecting the west end of Elliott Donnelley Wilderness to County Road 510 and also connecting the east side of the Silver Lake Basin to Cole’s Creek. Additional scouting included along the Red Road and the Mulligan Plains as well as through the Rock River Canyon Wilderness in western Alger County.

In 2007 Jinkerson attended her first NCTA Annual Conference/Celebration in Bemidji, Minnesota. This event triggered her interest in more than the local chapter and trail, according to the release. She has attended every NCTA conference/celebration since, including planning the 2017 NCTA Annual Celebration held here in Marquette which had the largest attendance ever.

She also attended a couple of Triad meetings that included the National Park Service, the US Forest Service and the staff of the NCTA.

In December of 2008 she was appointed to serve on the NCTA National Board of Directors where she was secretary for a period of four years and concluded her tenure on the NCTA Board after term limits in 2017. She has served on multiple national NCTA committees including the Trail Protection Committee, Marketing and Communications, the Awards Committee, the Long-Distance Hiker Committee, the Fund Development Committee, and the North Star Editorial Advisory Committee. She still serves on the last two.

In 2009, Jinkerson wrote and self-published the first and only children’s book about the North Country Trail, “Nettie Does the NCT: North Country Trail,” an informational story based right here in Marquette. She mailed a copy of the book to every elementary school through which the NCT traverses their school district from eastern New York all the way to the middle of North Dakota, a total of over 660 books. This work earned Jinkerson the 2009 NCTA Communicator of the Year Award.

In 2012, Jinkerson was honored yet again, with the NCTA Distinguished Service Award for in recognition of exceptional volunteer service in furthering the goals of the NCTA, and outstanding contributions toward the dream of the North Country Trail at the NCTA Annual Celebration over a period of at least eight years.

Jinkerson not only has given of her time and talents, but also monetarily to the NCTA, becoming an early member of the NCTA Founder’s Circle, those members who give a minimum of $500 a year to the association. Each year she has donated more and has been honored for those donations by being awarded the 2017 NCTA Blue Blazes Benefactor Award. Along this line, she has commissioned numerous pieces of art or made donations of items for the silent and live auctions held at some Conferences/Celebrations. She’s often been the high bidder for items procured by others. More recently she has provided matching funds for the NCTA #GivingTuesday fund raising event in early December.

Many years ago, after making the Annual Big Mac Bridge Walk on Labor Day with some other chapter members, Jinkerson noticed that the back of the certificate for completing the walk was empty. She began working with the Mackinac Bridge Authority to get the NCTA 7-state logo and the words, “You just hiked 5 miles of the North Country National Scenic Trail” printed on the back where it has continued to be printed, albeit modified over the years.

Each year the National Park Service recognizes volunteers who have put in 100, 200, 400, 1000, 4000 and 10,000 volunteer hours working in some capacity for the NCTA and the NCT. Jinkerson has earned all those honors through 4,000+ hours, the release states.

For fun, Jinkerson has participated in the twice a year NCT Hikers Softies Hikes, beginning in 2006. Except for road walks and a few trail sections, she has hiked most of the 550 miles of the NCT in the Upper Peninsula. Jinkerson also planned a series of weekly hikes one summer to hike all 95 miles of trail in the boundaries of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And, due to attending the NCTA Celebrations, she has hiked small segments of the NCT in seven of the eight states. She has planned and led many hikes in our local chapter area and also hosted multiple potluck dinners at her house for the local members and volunteers.

As hikers come through the central U.P., Jinkerson has opened her home to them, providing showers, laundry, a real bed and food as well as transportation. She has hosted some for as long as two weeks. In addition, there are others she has for whom she provided car spotting or other transportation.

The release states: “All this and more led to Lorana being nominated and winning the NCTA Tom Gilbert Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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