Save the date: 2016 Annual Conference

The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s upcoming Annual Conference is scheduled for April 7 – 10, 2016 at Stoney Creek Hotel in Rothschild, WI.

This year’s schedule will feature guest speaker Jay Erskine Leutze, Tustee and Acquisition Specialist for the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and author of Stand Up that Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness Along the Appalachian Trail.

Additional plans include fantastic hikes on the Plover River and Eau Claire Dells segments, Thousand-Miler presentations, Trail Mix and a few wildcards. Check our website and/or the Spring 2016 issue of Mammoth Tales for registration and updated information.

New Ice Age Trail Databook now available

Pages from Databook2015_2015-0805-2If you’re thinking of hiking the entire Ice Age Trail, either all at once or in bits and pieces, the Ice Age Trail Databook is for you. It includes point-to-point mileage listings for hundreds of access points along the entire Ice Age Trail. The book is intended to be paired with Ice Age Trail Atlas maps.

Special shout-out to volunteers Sharon Dziengel, Gary Hegeman, and Sue Knopf for another top-notch publication.

Check out the Databook in our secure online store.

We hit a bump in the Trail

In case you missed it, the recently passed Wisconsin state budget threatens the Alliance’s work on the Ice Age Trail. The $74,000 capacity grant that we have applied for and received each year for more than 15 years will no longer be available. This grant was a reliable source of support for our efforts, and we are unwilling to lower our commitment to 2,300+ volunteers and 1.25 million trail users.

Consider a few things you can do to keep the Ice Age Trail moving forward and help fill the $74,000 budget gap:

Volunteers take first step toward opening new Rib Lake Segment

Crew members look on as a volunteer places a rock while building new trail.

Volunteers made the first large-scale trailbuilding project of the season a great success! The Rib Lake Mobile Skills Crew project in Taylor County saw 2,000 feet of newly-constructed trail, another mile cleared and ready for construction and 190 feet of new stone retaining wall.

This was the first project in building and opening the 4.7-mile Rib Lake Segment. Volunteers will be back with another MSC event in September to keep the rolling stone moving forward.

Thank you to everyone who attended!

Call for volunteers – upcoming MSC event: Rock County!

The next stop for the MSC program brings us to the Storrs Lake Segment June 24-28, just outside of Milton in Rock County. Join fellow volunteers for a day of being outside, working with your hands and enjoying good company!

The Milton Moraine left behind dry kettles settled by massive white oaks and shagbark hickories, and the event will delve into the heart of this landscape. Work to be done includes a half-mile reroute, boardwalk repair, signage upgrades, a full-blown attack on invasives andprep work to create…drum roll please…a new 1.5-mile section of trail to the north!

Learn more and register here

 

Thelma Johnson wins National Park Service 2014 Hartzog Award

Volunteer Thelma Johnson takes in the sun at a Mobile Skills Crew Project

Celebrating you, the Ice Age Trail volunteers, at our 2015 Annual Conference, we announced one of our proudest volunteer recognition awards given by the National Park Service. Thelma Johnson of Cumberland, Wis. is the 2014 recipient of the George and Helen Hartzog Award for Enduring Service. Congratulations, Thelma!

Dan Watson, National Park Service Volunteer Coordinator for the Ice Age & North Country National Scenic Trails, submitted the winning nomination for Thelma for the 2014 award.

See a snapshot of Thelma’s dedication to feeding her fellow volunteers through an excerpt from Dan’s nomination:

“Drawing large crowds to fairly remote areas in Wisconsin for back-breaking trail work isn’t easy, yet the Mobile Skills Crew and 12,000 volunteers continue to make the Ice Age National Scenic Trail successful. The food may have something to do with that.

For the past 12 years, Thelma Johnson, now 80 years old and still going strong, has fed an army of volunteers along the 1,200-mile trail. She has donated more than 2,000 hours to serve more than 30,000 meals to hungry volunteers. She commands a crew of cooks to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner for projects that run five days at a time.

Camping alongside the trail crews, she’s the first one up, setting up her mobile kitchen by flashlight at 4:30 a.m. She’s often the last to stop work in the evening, scouring pots as crews rest by the campfire. Finding food for the masses in remote areas may be difficult, but Johnson has kept it flexible and frugal, clipping coupons to keep the budget down.

Johnson’s selflessness and dedication have been noted by fellow volunteers. She is known to have dumped personal contents of her suitcase to fit more food for workers and to have sat in her car to keep her fingers warm in the frigid cold while peeling mountains of onions.”

Thelma’s positive attitude and constant smile add the extra touch to the hard work Dan described, and we’re grateful to have her as a volunteer on the Ice Age Trail!

As Thelma demonstrates, trailbuilding is more than swinging a pick mattock or using a chain saw. Join fun, welcoming and hard-working volunteers at a Mobile Skills Crew project this season and choose from a variety of jobs. You may even get to experience Thelma’s famous bread pudding!

 

Spring trailbuilding projects a hearty success along the Trail

Stone steps on the Gibraltar Segment of the Ice Age Trail

The sound and feel of rock fitting solidly against rock is unmistakably satisfying. For trail builders, this sound represents a lasting contribution to the hiking community.

Thank you to the 28 volunteers who devoted a combined 1,020 hours to the Mobile Skills Crew Stonework Workshop event in Columbia County this spring, learning and applying stonework skills they’ll share along the Ice Age Trail.

Gaining stonework knowledge and experience was priority #1 during the project, but along the way, they also split boulders for new steps, built over 50 feet of retaining and side walls, and securely set a remarkable 27 rock steps in challenging terrain on the Gibraltar Segment.

Volunteers construct 100 feet of elevated boardwalk on the East Twin River Segment

Thanks also goes out to the 22 volunteers of the IATA Lakeshore Chapter region for devoting over 230 hours to constructing a masterful boardwalk on the East Twin River Segment in May. Last year’s successful Mobile Skills Crew event along the segment opened the serene 1.3-mile section, but one last item needed attention – an elevated boardwalk through a perennial wet area. Volunteers stepped up to coordinate this regional trailbuilding project and complete the 100-foot boardwalk.

Thank you to all our dedicated volunteers!

 

Help build new Ice Age Trail in Taylor County May 27-31

The hills and forests around Rib Lake in Taylor County have a rich history. From the great Wisconsin glacier that shaped the terrain 10,000 years ago to men atop ice sleds hauling hardwoods to build Milwaukee and Chicago in the last century, our stories abound.
IATA Mobile Skills Crew program logo
In the 1970s, efforts to create the Ice Age National Scenic Trail took root in the area. Join forces with volunteers young and old during a Mobile Skills Crew project to build a new section of the Ice Age Trail near Rib Lake!

The project takes place Wednesday, May 27 through Sunday, May 31. You’re welcome to join for any amount of time – even a few hours are a big help!

Learn more and register here.

We hope to see you soon!

 

 

A shout out to volunteer crew leaders

At the end of March, 23 volunteers gathered for the first-ever Crew Leader Retreat. This was a chance for those who lead fellow volunteers on the Ice Age Trail to spend time together in an environment of reflection, learning and growth.

Volunteer Wendell Holl reflects

Many of those who attended are certified as crew leaders through our Crew Leadership and Skills training, and others are on the path to crew leadership. Everyone contributed to an inspiring weekend focused on leadership on the Trail.

The volunteers moved through some team-building challenges, training modules and lots of idea sharing. The enthusiasm to continue improving how we do work on the Trail was infectious!

A group of participants at the Crew Leader Retreat work through a team-building exercise.

Thank you to all those who participated – this is a group of seriously passionate and dedicated people. If you know or work with a volunteer crew leader on (or off) the Ice Age Trail, send a thank you their way!

 

Road construction will limit access to IATA headquarters this summer

Due to construction on Hwy 14 (Main St.) in Cross Plains, access to the Alliance’s headquarters and the Trail’s Cross Plains Segment will be limited this summer and into the fall. Starting Monday, March 30, Hwy 14 will be closed from Market St./CTH KP on the west to CTH P on the east from April through November.

If you’re coming to Cross Plains to visit the office during that time, please use the following detour routes:

  1. From the north: Follow CTH P south to Valley St. Turn right on Valley and continue to travel south. Turn right onto Lewis St. and left onto Jovina St. Follow Jovina to Hwy 14, where you can cross Hwy 14 onto Mill Creek Parkway (formerly Lagoon St.) to access the IATA headquarters parking lot.
  2. From the east: From Hwy 14, turn right on Brewery Rd. (Walgreens is on the NW corner). Continue across CTH P, turn left onto Valley St. and follow the directions in Option 1.
  3. From the south: Travel north on CTH P. If it is open at the intersection of Hwy 14, continue north on P, turn left onto Valley St. and follow the directions in Option 1. If it is closed, turn right on Hwy 14 to Brewery Rd. and follow the directions in Option 2.
  4. From the west: From Hwy 14, turn left onto Market St. and right onto Park St. Follow to Wilson St. and turn right. Follow Wilson to Hwy 14, where you can cross Hwy 14 onto Mill Creek Parkway (formerly Lagoon St.) and follow east to access the IATA headquarters parking lot.

Here are a few other resources:

Call our office at (608) 798-4453 or (800) 227-0046 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday if you have any questions.

 

Now is the time to support the Ice Age Trail

Updated April 16, 2015

The threat

We introduced in a previous post the severe impact the governor’s proposed state budget would have on protection for and development of the Ice Age Trail. Since then, we have learned more about the proposed budget and further negative impacts it would have on the Trail if the budget does not change.

The major hit would come from a 13-year freeze on land acquisition funding through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, affecting both direct acquisition by the state and grants to the Alliance. This would limit the collective effort of the DNR and the Alliance to protect land for the Ice Age Trail.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has had a significant role in making protection of the Trail possible:

  • Since 2000, the Stewardship Program has helped fund more than 150 acquisitions for the Trail, which now permanently protect more than 85 miles of Trail on 14,000 acres.
  • The Ice Age Trail Alliance has used Stewardship Program 55 times to protect more than 3,300 acres to make the Ice Age Trail more contiguous. Each one of these 55 Stewardship purchases by the Alliance was leveraged with private, county or other funds.
  • The DNR has acquired Ice Age Trail rights on more than 100 properties for the Trail over time – nearly all of these used the Stewardship Program.
  • Since 2000, the Ice Age Trail Alliance and our partners at the National Park Service have successfully leveraged more than $14 million from the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund – funds that would have gone elsewhere in the country if not used in Wisconsin with matching Stewardship funds.
  • If you’ve contacted your legislators, you may have heard that bonding is not an acceptable use of the state’s (DNR’s) budget. However, bonding for the Stewardship Program is less than 3% of the state’s total revenue collected. The overall investment in Stewardship over three decades (1990-2020) would be less than what is proposed for transportation over the next two years.
  • For some perspective here, bonding for the Stewardship fund costs 30 cents per person per week, an annual cost that’s less than an annual fishing license or state park pass. Just like most of us take out a mortgage to acquire a home and pay it off while it appreciates, the same goes for acquiring land. Land will not be any cheaper in the future, and everyone is able to use the land now and forever. Interest rates are also incredibly low at this time – it’s a good time to buy.

The further threat comes from the elimination of state funding to support the Ice Age Trail, which has directly benefited the Trail for nearly 20 years. Its elimination would inhibit the Alliance’s ability to maintain and support the 650 miles of existing Trail that more than a million people enjoy each year.

The state’s historically reliable funding source has contributed to the success of the Ice Age Trail and Ice Age Trail Alliance:

  • Since 1997, we have received funding through the DNR budget to help the state promote, develop and maintain the Ice Age Trail – the only state scenic trail.
  • These funds are money well spent as annually they have been leveraged with nearly 80,000 volunteer hours, more than $500,000 in private donations, and as much as $400,000 in federal support. 80,000 volunteer hours, coupled with the equivalent of 9 full-time staff working for the Alliance, equates to 48 full-time employees working on behalf of the state.
  • It will be nearly impossible to make up with private donations the loss in funding from the elimination of state funding to support the Trail. Despite the Alliance’s long record of success, we would have to start evaluating which of our important programs we can retain.

These cuts would severely impact current and future development of the Ice Age Trail. We need your action to help make the dream of a thousand-mile footpath a reality.

What can you do?

Contact your local representatives and ask them to support the Ice Age Trail by saving the Stewardship Program. Tell them that the Ice Age Trail is important to you, your family, your community and the state of Wisconsin.

Along with the talking points above, we’ve developed the following to help you shape your message:

  • The Ice Age Trail is a local resource. More than 3.4 million Wisconsinites live within a one-hour drive of the Ice Age Trail, and 18 million Americans live within a two-hour drive.
  • The Ice Age Trail is an important component of our state’s economy. According to a 2012 study, an estimated 1.25 million people use the Ice Age Trail each year. Trail users contribute $113 million to the local and state economy annually.
  • The Ice Age Trail is an economic resource. In Wisconsin, outdoor recreation generates $11.9 billion in consumer spending; 142,000 direct Wisconsin jobs equaling $3.6 billion in wages and salaries; and $844 million in state and local tax revenue.

Though these talking points will help you support your message, don’t be afraid to tell your representatives about your personal story. Your experience is important and makes the best impression.

What’s next?

The legislative fiscal bureau has released their report on the Stewardship Program. The Joint Finance Committee is now debating the budget, including the Stewardship Program.

It is vital that your representatives hear from you. Ask them to support the Ice Age Trail and the Stewardship Program and to share their support with their colleagues who are on the Joint Finance Committee. Please consider sharing with us any responses you receive.

If you have not already done so, sign up for our Advocacy Alerts. We will provide periodic updates and may request additional assistance, asking those of you who sign up to take additional steps, such as meeting with your legislators.