After a summer of interning with the Alliance Trail Program, I am officially part of the team as Field Operations Specialist. So, please stop calling and emailing Mike. You did it. I’m hired. Thank you!
It is an honor to be transitioning into the Director of Trail Operations position with the Alliance. As a Wisconsin native, my passion and professional pursuits focused on outdoor recreation. The glacial Chain O’ Lakes of Waupaca provided my early education for what water, woods, and wildlife could do for my soul. Nature also fueled my studies at UW-Madison. Exploring lakeshore paths and Arboretum habitats, ultimately led to my degree in horticulture and natural resource management.
As the air grows chilly and snow begins to appear in the forecast, it can be tempting to huddle indoors.
But don’t close the shutters till spring just yet!
Our Trail Communities are proving there are many opportunities to get out and into the festive spirit throughout the month. Venture out and enjoy the lights, the snacks, and the community at any of these upcoming events!
After months of uncertainty, the familiar smiles of volunteers returned in a big way as 2021 progressed. Small events at the beginning of the year built toward the return of our large-scale projects. Despite shifting circumstances, trust quickly emerged as the season theme. Trust the plan. Trust Crew Leaders to lead. Trust volunteers to work carefully. Trust the skills, dedication, and passion of everyone who showed up to an event. As a result, we greeted August with a rousing return to near normalcy – hosting almost 100 volunteers and spanning two segments – that added three new miles of Trail in Dane County. A few months later, the ribbon (and cake) was cut on the newly minted Ringle Segment, an achievement worthy of a year filled with smiles.
Saying thank you feels insufficient compared to the accomplishment’s scale: opening the seven-mile section of the reimaginged Ringle Segment. Hewn from rocky ground, every hour you invested in this five-year project forged a world-class section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Right in our backyard, your selfless dedication created a lasting legacy. We spend our lives working toward achievements in which we take pride. If we’re fortunate, we may create something that lives beyond us. In this case, a signature segment contributing to the health and happiness of people we may never meet.
Be proud of the work you’ve done and what you’ve helped accomplish.
A blend of on-your-own hikes and virtual events kicked off Trailtessa events in 2021. Our planning focused on slowing the spread of COVID-19 and keeping participants safe. Happily, many new and seasoned Trailtessa attendees (325 in fact!) joined us for these adventures. As fall approached, we offered two outdoor in-person events, enabling participants to be together, build camaraderie, and still maintain social distance.
At the confluence of great weather and great volunteers is a great project. In the case of this year’s Wildcard event, three projects on three segments.
Calls of “Coming through!” rang out as hikers passed through the work area. The heavy hiker traffic caused frequent but not unwelcome interruptions. “Holy sh*t!” one hiker exclaimed. “I was here a couple of days ago, and this wasn’t here.”
2020 reawakened a love of the outdoors in many Wisconsinites. A perfect distillation of this excitement came from our Waterville Gap Campaign to help get the Trail off of a dangerous road walk in Waukesha County. The call to action went out in July of 2020, and by September we had exceeded our fundraising goal. In an astonishing show of grassroots philanthropy, the project was funded and purchased in under five months, and the new Trail opened in just over a year.
With fall rounding the corner, we bid farewell to long summer evenings, prairies in bloom and abuzz with pollinators, and weed pulling activities. It’s sad for all of us. As the days grow shorter, we can think back to the sunsets shared on Picnic Hill to get us through the darkness of winter.
Thank you to the 40 volunteers who contributed 142 hours in our first year of the Weeding & Wine Wednesday volunteer event series. Their dedication through rain or shine and positive attitudes made this season a great success.
The response to the Ice Age Trail Alliance fundraising campaign to permanently protect property for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Langlade County was INCREDIBLE. In little over a month, supporters donated nearly $160,000—exceeding our initial fundraising goal way before deadline!
Your commitment impressed the trustees of Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust so much they decided to increase their match from $120,ooo to $200,000!Thanks to your generosity and that of Prairie Springs: The Paul Fleckenstein Trust, the Alliance will be able to protect and preserve additional land across the state.
The less-than-stellar weather, coupled with a record hatch of mosquitos, attempted to slow down the 78 dedicated volunteers at the Ringle Trailbuilding event. Over four and a half days, and through rain, mud, and clouds of bug spray, volunteers contributed 1,972 hours to open a beautiful new half-mile section of Trail. Volunteers cut and hauled lumber, built bridges, constructed rock walls, drafted blazes, crafted tread and slung rotten granite through the air via a highline to more easily – and safely – create a hardened walking surface through a moss-covered boulder field.
The stage is set, and with October rapidly approaching, we await the final act in the Reimagining of Ringle saga.
By Justine Kapitzke, AmeriCorps VISTA Communications Support Specialist
Riley knew from the start that she would be the perfect addition to the Ice Age Trail Alliance team. To be exact, when she read that we were looking for someone with office experience who is also comfortable sleeping in the woods overnight, her reaction was, “Yeah! That’s me!”
Growing up on a campground outside of Pardeeville, WI, Riley spent much of her childhood exploring the marshes and woodlands surrounding the campground. She has lived in other states but feels a special connection to Wisconsin. As she noted, “I didn’t find that attachment to the land anywhere else.”
By Dan Watson, Volunteer Coordinator, National Park Service – Ice Age National Scenic Trail
The Ice Age Trail Alliance won the National Park Service George and Helen Hartzog award for the Midwest Region – Volunteer Group Award out of 21 outstanding nominations submitted in recognition of 2020 efforts.
Images worth a thousand words: Glacial rock and water formations are scattered throughout this beautiful landscape in Rusk County. Volunteers took in the sights while walking the land and planning how to best route future trail to highlight and preserve these features. Photos by Dave Caliebe.
Over four days, 19 individuals methodically explored more than six square miles of remote Rusk County. Building on the trail layout event last October, we continued to narrow down the locations for future Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Our group sought ways to connect significant geological features of the area and avoid wetlands and logging interaction where ever possible.
2021 is a year of new beginnings, new growth, and reconnecting. Our reforestation effort in Manitowoc County upholds this sense of hope for the year and beyond.
Beginning on Friday, April 30 – National Arbor Day – 60 volunteers came together to plant 5,500 young trees on the Ice Age Trail Alliance-owned Brownrigg-Heier Preserve. Volunteers (some coming from three hours away) donated 730 hours to help improve the earth in an effort extending beyond their lifetimes.