Ice Age Trail Alliance Receives Prestigious National Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service

Ice Age Trail Alliance is the Recipient of 2020 National Hartzog Volunteer Group Award

Volunteers’ hard work and dedication not only builds, supports, and maintains the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, it also wins awards.

During a virtual ceremony on Wednesday, August 25, Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers and staff were named recipients of the 2020 National Hartzog Award for Group Volunteer Service. Bestowed annually by the National Park Service (NPS), the prestigious George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service recognize the “exemplary contributions” NPS volunteers make to their park and community.

In 2020, while most National Parks shut down and volunteer activities were stymied, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail remained open and its volunteers continued trailbuilding, maintenance, and support. In fact, a total of 1,499 Alliance volunteers spent nearly 53,300 hours on Ice Age Trail-related activities; all while adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing safety protocols.

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Protect Langlade’s Glacial Landscape!

Some of the most geologically significant land on earth exists right here in Wisconsin; Langlade County to be exact.

It’s an area where moraines once collided, resulting in amazing glaciation and hummocky terrain. It would be a hiker’s dream to traverse. But right now, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail currently runs along roads. With your help, this will change.

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Three New Miles of Trail in Dane County!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Mammoth's Back Preserve, Valley View Segment, Reconnect, Mobile Skills Crew Events 2021
A crew of swampers pile brush in an effort to clear the corridor for a new section of Ice Age Trail along the Cross Plains Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Despite the sweltering heat and violent weather, two new Ice Age National Scenic Trail sections are open after a five-day Mobile Skills Crew Reconnect event. The efforts of 86 volunteers, donating 1,852 service hours, created a new path through Mammoth’s Back Preserve and more off-road hiking along the Valley View Segment. Each section is a work in progress and will require continued restoration. But, it is hard to overstate the value of three newly opened miles of Ice Age Trail in Dane County.

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A New Bridge Spans Sailor Creek!

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Sailor Creek Bridge, US Forest Service, Jerry Lake Segment
Volunteers cart soon-to-be repurposed deck boards to another location. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
Perfect weather, minimal bugs, and a fantastic crew, made for quick work as the bridge over Sailor Creek rose from the mud like a lotus. The squelching of boots through curmudgeonly swamp accompanied the din of hammers, saws, and drills, as 20 volunteers came together to complete the 178-foot-long Forest Service structure. In just over three days, the Jerry Lake Project totaled over 500 service hours! “Big Spider Bridge” will allow for the safe crossing of Sailor Creek for the next half century.

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Meet Melissa Pierick

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Melissa Pierick, Director of Marketing and Community Relations
Melissa Pierick, Director of Marketing and Community Relations for the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

The staff and board of the Ice Age Trail Alliance are thrilled to welcome Melissa Pierick, our new Director of Marketing and Community Relations!

Melissa will work closely with staff in the Trail, Lands, and Philanthropy programs to improve specific program and cross-program advancement through marketing and outreach. She will implement short- and long-range initiatives associated with the strategic plan and other operational goals, especially those which maximize the Alliance’s profile, reputation, and image.

The members of the Communications staff peppered Melissa with a few questions, excited to learn more about her:

What excites you most about your new role? 

I am very excited to have the opportunity to help spread the word about this amazing National Scenic Trail that we are SO lucky to have in Wisconsin. I believe every resident in Wisconsin should know about it—even if they’re not hikers.

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Help Our Precious Pollinators!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Land Stewardship, Lands Program
Blooming butterfly milkweed provides nourishment for a monarch caterpillar. Photo by Kelly S. Anklam.
Project Wingspan, a conservation project with Pollinator Partnership, is looking for volunteers who are interested in collecting native seed in their areas to contribute to biodiversity for pollinators. This landscape-scale project expands from Wisconsin into Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Arkansas. Continue reading

Joining Forces to Improve Water Quality

By Luke Kloberdanz, Director of Philanthropy for the Ice Age Trail Alliance

When kindred spirits come together, it’s all smiles. Members of the Only in Wisconsin Giving, Inc. Charitable Foundation present a $25,000 check to Ice
Age Trail Alliance staff. Standing left to right in front of an enormous kettle of New Glarus Brewing Company brew is Ciaran O’Neill-Culhane, Eric Felt, Riley Miller, Mike Wollmer, Kari Haser, Luke Kloberdanz, and Drew Cochrane. Photo by Susan Moen.
When kindred spirits come together, it’s all smiles. Members of the Only in Wisconsin Giving, Inc. Charitable Foundation present a $25,000 check to Ice Age Trail Alliance staff. Standing left to right in front of an enormous kettle of New Glarus Brewing Company brew is Ciaran O’Neill-Culhane, Eric Felt, Riley Miller, Mike Wollmer, Kari Haser, Luke Kloberdanz, and Drew Cochrane. Photo by Susan Moen.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance is proud to call Wisconsin home. The land, the people, and the Trail connecting these places and communities are core elements of our work. In recent years, the Alliance launched its Corporate Friends program, further advancing our mission to conserve, create, maintain, and promote the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The family is growing!

Recently, the Alliance joined in partnership with an iconic brand, New Glarus Brewing Company and its Only in Wisconsin Giving, Inc. Charitable Foundation. Established in 1993, the New Glarus Brewing Company’s philosophy is based on individuality, cooperation, and the employment of 100% natural ingredients to produce world-class, handcrafted beers. Like the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, which meanders exclusively throughout the state, the New Glarus Brewing Company proudly claims their beers are brewed “Only in Wisconsin”.

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Trail Steward of the Year Award: Jerry Sazama

We Make a Life by What We Give

By Tricia Baker, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Trail Steward of the Year, Jerry Sazama
Jerry Sazama, 2021 Trail Steward of the Year, is in his element, leading the morning round-up at a Mobile Skills Crew event. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
While we feel like explorers as we hike the Ice Age Trail National Scenic Trail, it is important to remember the people whose footsteps we follow. The dedicated and inspiring volunteers of the Ice Age Trail Alliance make the Ice Age Trail the national gem that it is. Each year, we recognize our most esteemed volunteers. One award, the Trail Steward of the Year, recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to Trail management and development.

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David Lonsdorf Receives Cherished Spirit Stick Award

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David Lonsdorf, a member of Dane County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, was awarded the Spirit Stick; one of the highest honors bestowed by the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Spirit Stick award symbolizes long-term dedication and service to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and is presented to only one recipient per year. The Spirit Stick nominees must exhibit a passion for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail that has become a way of life; lead by example and inspire those around them; and carry out their service in a spirit of cooperation, optimism, and enthusiasm.

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A One-Mile Section Becomes a Jewel

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Reconnect, Mobile Skills Crew, trailbuilding season
A newly built 311-foot-long boardwalk greets hikers as they emerge from the woods along the Montrose Segment. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
After two days of sawdust-filled work preassembling frames and cutting deck boards, all hands were on deck to begin construction in the middle of the week. Over three days, despite challenging weather (Tuesday was cut short due to rain), 20 volunteers donated 351 hours of service to construct 311 feet of boardwalk and a 12-foot bridge. These structures offer easier passage for hikers across an area notorious for standing water and muddy conditions.

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Volunteers Upgrade Structures on the Waterville Segment

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age Trail, Mobile Skills Crew, trailbuilding, Reconnect 2021
Members of the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter work together to deliver a boardwalk frame to the construction site. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.

Over three official days (and one unofficial), 31 volunteers donated 615 hours to build four structures totaling 450 feet. Ahead of the project, efforts by the Waukesha/Milwaukee County Chapter generated momentum with pre-built boardwalk frames. The on-site crews, composed predominately of chapter members, maintained the pace with their skillful construction. They also remained undeterred by the fickle weather, which alternated between snow squalls and spring sunshine. Continue reading

Happy Anniversary, Kevin … 20 Years!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Director of Land Conservation, Kevin Thusius
In 2000, a young man applied for a position with the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation as its Eastern Field Coordinator based in West Bend. A two and a half hour interview ensued, and a day later, Kevin Thusius accepted the position. Within 24 hours, he was meeting with a landowner in Door County. That’s baptism by fire, but it was a productive meeting. It would eventually lead to a permanently protected corridor for the Ice Age Trail 12 years later! Talk about patience. Continue reading

IATA Preserves Benefit from Knowles-Nelson Funding

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Liebetrau Prairie, Table Bluff Segment, Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund
The Liebetrau Prairie in full bloom along the Table Bluff Segment. It's a view courtesy of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Photo by Gary Hegeman.
Strung like pearls along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail’s winding route are both beautiful and geologically significant properties owned by the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Take, for example, the Marimor Preserve, in Taylor County, known for hosting one of the state’s finest examples of a terminal moraine. Another is the Moraine-Outwash Preserve in Langlade County – it offers spectacular views across the Antigo Flats and illustrates its name-sake glacial feature. And then, the Muir Preserve, in Marquette County, which protects the area surrounding John Muir’s boyhood homestead, allowing Wisconsinites better to appreciate the land’s hold and influence on Muir.

Another commonality among these properties? The Alliance purchased them using matching grant funds awarded from Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

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Alliance Headquarters and the Dane County COVID-19 Order #10

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance headquarters
The Ice Age Trail Alliance headquarters is located in Cross Plains, WI along the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

Our Primary Concern: The Health and Safety of Guests, Volunteers, and Staff!

Updated 12/17/2020

Due to the impact of Dane County COVID-19 Order #10, staffing at the Ice Age Trail Alliance headquarters is limited. As such, our headquarters will be CLOSED to the public until further notice.

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A Brilliant Finale for the 2020 Trailbuilding Season

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ringle Segment, Marathon County, Mobile Skills Crew Project, Reconnect
A volunteer crew shovels rotten granite into a pile for distribution along soft tread. Photo by Patrick Gleissner.
Like the witch-hazel flowers that dazzle in autumn as its leaves fall to the ground, the 2020 Reconnect Mobile Skills Crew Trailbuilding Season had a final flourish before settling in for winter. We all needed a bright spot this year, and Mother Nature provided plenty of brilliance during the Ringle Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) event. The weather, the leaves, the volunteers were perfect.

It was a much-needed respite from the unsettled “real” world. Bad news only came when your name was called to help move rotten granite. Continue reading

Ray Zillmer Award: David Kinnamon

By Sevie Kenyon, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ray Zillmer Award, David Kinnamon
David Kinnamon is a recipient of the Ray Zillmer Award, which honors those whose work exemplifies the long-range, big-picture ideals that inspired the establishment of the Ice Age Trail. Photo courtesy of David Kinnamon.
The Ray Zillmer Award recognizes individuals whose work exemplifies the ideals that inspired the establishment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. This year, the award recipients are David Kinnamon and David Phillips, both of whom have steered the course of the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s history.

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Trail Steward of the Year Award: Gail Piotrowski

By Bill Polacheck, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Trail Steward of the Year, Gail Piotrowski
Gail Piotrowski affixes a temporary blaze to help mark a newly opened section of Trail. Photo by Rachel Roberts.

While we feel like explorers as we hike the Ice Age Trail National Scenic Trail, it is important to remember the people whose footsteps we follow. The dedicated and inspiring volunteers of the Ice Age Trail Alliance make the Ice Age Trail the national gem that it is. Each year, we recognize our most esteemed volunteers. One award, the Trail Steward of the Year, recognizes volunteers for their outstanding contributions to trail management and development.

Bill Polacheck spoke with this year’s winner, Gail Piotrowski. Gail is a Co-Coordinator for the Central Moraines Chapter.

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Our Commitment to Justice and Equality

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Statement of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The Alliance is committed to making the Ice Age Trail and our community of supporters a safe and inclusive experience. Photo by IATA staff.

Outdoor spaces are everyone’s right to enjoy without being subjected to danger, suspicion, and violence. The tragic events in recent weeks, resulting in the senseless deaths of black Americans, exposes a challenge to our mission that goes well beyond the Trail.

Simply, we are appalled.

The Alliance is wholly committed to making the Ice Age Trail and our community of supporters a safe and inclusive experience for all people. Continue reading

Hiking Responsibly During a COVID-19 Pandemic

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Note: Updated 5/27/2020

A hike on a favorite segment of Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers mood-boosting fresh air and sunshine and provides a respite from the uncertainty around us. The Ice Age Trail is a perfect place for slowing down, gathering your internal resources, and gaining clarity.

It’s also important, while we are out exploring the Trail, that we remain respectful of the fact COVID-19 is still in our midst. It’s important to help stop the spread of the virus and help flatten the curve with considerate and responsible behavior.

Is Hiking Still Allowed?

Yes! It’s allowed and good for you, too! However, best practices call for thoughtful social distancing.

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Mammoth Steps to Reconnect

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mammoth Steps, National Trails Day, Straight Lake Segment, Polk County
Overjoyed to Reconnect with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Photo by Mary Johnson.

National Trails Day, Saturday, June 6, 2020

A Day to Reconnect, Refresh, and Assess.

Some days feel like they take FOREVER to get here. This year, Saturday, June 6, National Trails Day, is one of those. We’re marking its arrival by joining together and taking Mammoth Steps on behalf of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

This day will be among the first opportunities for Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers to get back to doing what they love best: creating, supporting, and protecting the Ice Age Trail.

It’s a day to reconnect with the Trail from which they’ve been apart during the last few months.

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Mammoth Beauty Celebration!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mammoth Steps, National Trails Day, Lodi Marsh Segment, Dane County
A mother and son enjoy a spring saunter on the Lodi Marsh Segment in Dane County. Photo by Joshua Fager.
Imaginehikers safely sauntering along the entire Ice Age National Scenic Trail from end to end in a single day!

Imagineif they photographed the best features of the Ice Age Trail along the way: the expansive views, tread unfurling ahead, and ephemerals peeking up from the forest floor.

Imaginea snapshot of the Ice Age Trail, in its entirety, as it looks on a single day!

This vision could become a reality with your help.

We have 120 Ice Age Trail segments waiting for you to enjoy, camera in hand and eyes finely-tuned for beauty, as part of our National Trails Day celebration on Saturday, June 6.

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Contest: Trail Inspired Limericks

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Quarantine Challenge, Limerick Contest
Are you looking for a lighthearted distraction from the pandemic?

Limericks are the answer! These short, silly poems offer a much-needed dash of humor to an otherwise uncertain situation.

Try your hand at writing an Ice Age Trail inspired limerick, (or two, or more) and enter them into our contest (in honor of National Poetry Month).

Your limerick could be an ode to mosquitoes, permethrin, ticks, yellow blazes, eskers, or kettle lakes! (Or wherever else your inspiration is found!)

They’re easy enough to write – get the kids involved!

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Spring’s Woodland Beauties

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Woodland flowers on the IAT, Refuge in uncertain times, COVID-19, pandemic
Hepatica blooms along the Gibraltar Rock Segment of the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Nazan Gillie.
It’s a pleasant surprise to find small, dainty wildflowers peeking up through rough, brown leaves scattered across the forest floor. Such delicate beauty after a stark, frozen winter. Their emergence is a less a lesson about timing and patience, than it is of hardiness. They barely wait for a thawing earth before they surface and each year, it seems, their hardiness is tested as they endure one last snowy lashing of winter.

As you turn your face to the sun and head out on a hike, be on the look out for these woodland beauties:

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Hike Responsibly: 13 Things to Know

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice age national Scenic Trail, COVID-19, Hiking Responsibly
Bohn Lake Segment, Washara County. Photo by Dave Caliebe.
The weather is perfect: sunshine, a light breeze, blue sky. It’s ideal hiking conditions. However, our nation is in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic. What’s a responsible hiker and Ice Age Trail enthusiast to do?

Help Flatten the Curve:  

  1. Stay Local. Limit travel to within your community (or county). If you do not live near an Ice Age Trail segment, please enjoy your local county or city parks, or your own back yard.
  2. Let Go. Set aside your Thousand-Miler goal, whether it was to section-hike segments, or to begin a long-distance, multi-day thru-hike.

Hike Responsibly, if You Choose to Hike: Continue reading

The IAT & Closing/Reopening of Public Land

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, COVID-19, Closing of Public Land, Impact of Governor Evers' order on the Ice Age Trail.

What to Know Before You Go!

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is open (except where it crosses federally owned land in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest).

As of 5/01/2020, 34 of the 40 state parks, forests, and natural areas, previously closed, will now be reopened.

Reopening does NOT extend to restrooms, campsites, towers, shelters, playgrounds, nature centers, headquarters, contact stations, and concession buildings. These facilities remain closed until May 26, 2020. Continue reading