Slagle, Sekely honored by NCTA as top leaders
MARQUETTE — The North Country Trail Association held its 2021 Annual Awards Ceremony via Zoom recently, honoring volunteers and supporters of the North Country National Scenic Trail across the eight states the trail traverses.
From the local North Country Trail Hikers Chapter based in the central Upper Peninsula, two members were honored with the Leadership Award. The Leadership Award goes to volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional leadership over a three or more year period leading to significant local achievements or highly successful events.
The first awardee was Brad Slagle. Slagle joined the NCTA in 2014. At that time he was still working for the State of Michigan Veteran’s Affairs Office. He began attending NCT Hikers Chapter general membership meetings, often asking questions and providing comments. Within a couple of years he started working with the trail crew and eventually volunteered to take over a couple of quite remote segments as the trail adopter. He quickly signed up for chain saw certification so he could be a certified sawyer for the chapter. He has proven to be a valued trail adopter and trail crew member, checking on his adopted segments multiple times a year and working with the trail crew on a regular basis.
Then in 2019, Slagle was elected to the chapter board where he continues to serve. As a board member he has really been an asset and eager to learn how the chapter operates and provide new ideas.
Along the way, he became interested in advocacy at the national level and was appointed to serve on the NCTA Advocacy Committee and attended the American Hiking Society’s 2020 Hike the Hill in Washington D.C.
Prior to and for that occasion he went out and purchased a new sport coat and took it to a local embroidery company to have the NCTA logo and “Michigan” embroidered on the front, all done with his own money and effort. Soon thereafter he took over as chair of the NCTA Advocacy Committee and is heavily involved at the national level in that effort, including attending the virtual 2021 Hike the Hill.
Slagle eagerly joined in on the NCTA Chapter Leadership Zoom meetings and continues to do so, often adding comments or asking pertinent questions.
NCTA locally has a landowners committee that Slagle was appointed to back in early 2019. He has helped with annual mailings to all landowners, providing feedback on the draft letter and this year, actually doing the draft himself.
With NPS’s new Compliance Project Planning Process, he was appointed to be a member of our Project Planning Process Committee. He actively worked on specific projects, gathering all the necessary data for submission to the NPS last December. He worked diligently with the chair of that committee, Michael Sekely, and the other members, refining a project list and once they had them submitted, he had already started scouting for the new Rock River Canyon Wilderness project.
Due to decreasing numbers of volunteers helping with the trail crew, the NCT board sent out a survey to gather data on how to get more participants. A new Trail Crew Committee that is now working on revising how to maintain the local section of trail. In the past some trail adopters did little if anything other than have their name listed as an adopter. Slagle volunteered to serve on a new the TCC and has offered great suggestions that NCT is in the process of implementing in an attempt to get better efforts from trail adopters but also to bring in new volunteers for the trail crew.
Other areas where Slagle has demonstrated his leadership include meeting with the 906 Adventures, the MI DNR and Kenny regarding 906 Adventures hosting bike racing events on the NCT. At this time, Slagle is now the chapter’s contact person with 906 Adventures.
For several years now, the NCT Hikers have provided volunteers to help with the Marquette Trail 50 Ultramarathon which utilizes portions of the NCT for their race. In return the Marquette Trail 50 gives the chapter a generous donation. For the past three years, Slagle has been a significant help in that regard, helping to set up the race beginning and finish line, climbing up to install their banner even though he claims to not like heights.
Besides being a strong leader in the chapter, Slagle enjoys the NCT. He and his wife, Lynn, have participated in the NCT Hikers Softies Hike Series and has completed several Hike 100’s. He often hikes on segments just for the fun of it.
Recently, Slagle was selected to be a member of the NCTA Board of Directors.
Slagle had said on multiple occasions when thanked for volunteering for some activity that “the Trail is a labor of love.” For his early involvement in the chapter up to now and going forward, he demonstrates all the qualities that make for a leader. For that Slagle was awarded one of the three 2021 NCTA Leadership Awards.
The second Leadership Award was given to Michael Sekely. Michael and his wife, Jeanne, joined the NCT Hikers Chapter in early 2014. They have both been active members as volunteers adopting two segments of the trail and also working regularly on the trail crew as well as participating in meetings, hikes and volunteering to work events.
Sekely stepped up at the end of the Softies Hike II to help launch the Softies Hike III and he and his wife have spent hours planning and scouting for the fall 2020, the spring 2021 and the fall 2021 hikes that brought in excess of 20 hikers from multiple chapters to the western end of the upper peninsula all with the extra precautions needed in the COVID era.
Sekely was recently elected to an open board trustee position and soon thereafter, the new National Park Service Project Planning Process was announced and it is his leadership in this arena that was highlighted in this award.
The Chapter President asked for volunteers to form a committee to collect, organize, and submit projects for the chapter. Sekely immediately volunteered as well as Brad Slagle and Lynn Meister-Thomas. Sekely was asked to be lead/chair for the Project Planning Process Committee and he eagerly agreed. He jumped right in by setting up twice a month Zoom meetings for the committee and including Kenny Wawsczyk, Michigan’s Regional Trail Coordinator.
He attended the NPS Zoom training for the PPP compliance where he learned the process and requirements needed to submit projects. Then he solicited proposed projects from all board members and began email and Zoom communications with Kenny, the committee and with the full board as needed.
A total of 14 projects were submitted from the board to the committee. With Sekely’s due diligence, working with Kenny and consulting with all, by the time the NPS opened up the window for submissions, the local group had them pared down to seven that were spread over four years. At each step, communication with the committee, with Kenny and with the full board was excellent. Sekely’s organizational skills in helping pare down the list and getting all to agree on the list was professional and empowering.
At the monthly board meetings in October and November, Sekely led the discussion of where things stood with each project and why some projects were moved off the PPP list but not forgotten, rather those projects were deemed not requiring PPP submission with most ending up on a “notes” list of projects the chapter could conduct directly, i.e., work on spur trails, replacement/repair of board walk/bridges, installing a natural fence on private property, etc.
By Dec. 1, 2020 the day for submission of projects to the NPS, all committee members were ready with their projects to submit and, in fact, one of our projects was the first to be submitted. Kenny mentioned that the chapter was the first chapter in Michigan to submit all projects right off the bat. All of this is thanks to Sekely’s dedication, organization, communication, and leadership skills.
With the new Trail Crew Committee, Sekely volunteered to be one of three new trail crew leaders. He leads on the western, most remote portions of the assigned area from County Road 510 to west of Craig Lake State Park at Long Lake. He has contacted all the trail adopters in that region and worked diligently with them to get out on the trail early and clear any downed trees or other obstacles that might hinder hikers as they enjoy the NCT either for a long distance hike or just a shorter day hike.
The two bridges east of Craig Lake State Park have been officially close since 2019. Michael worked with the MI DNR Deb Gill who had arranged for their replacements. About a month ago he and his wife, Jeanne, moved the smaller pieces of the new bridge to the bridge site so the DNR could begin constructing the easternmost bridge. He also took a day and drove up to Canyon Falls MDOT turnoff to retrieve used timber from the replacement of the boardwalk back to Canyon Falls.
Whenever a job needs to be done, NCT can count on Sekely volunteering and leading the effort to improve the Trail for all users. For all this, Michael easily earned one of the three 2021 NCTA Leadership Awards.