David Lonsdorf Receives Cherished Spirit Stick Award

Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age Trail, Spirit Stick Award, Dave Lonsdorf, David Lonsdorf, Dane County Chapter
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.

David Lonsdorf is famous for his versatility. During his six years on the Ice Age Trail Alliance board, two of which were as president, he joined each of the committees to learn about the organization’s inner workings. He didn’t hesitate to offer ideas and take on committee work. Similarly, his leadership roles within the Dane County Chapter have run the gamut from equipment manager to being the current chapter co-coordinator. Dave revived the Hike-a-Thon, the primary fundraiser for the Dane County Chapter. He and his wife, Marilyn Chohaney, led the effort for nine years. Former Chapter Coordinator, Tess Mulrooney, observes, “Whether the issue is administration, trail work, or land stewardship, Dave has given the matter serious thought and stepped in to supply a solution.”

Dave has really done it all. From getting filthy at trail construction projects to being board president to, most recently, fundraising for land protection. His honesty and humor provide a refreshing and enjoyable experience for those around him.”

Kevin Thusius, Director of Land Conservation

He leads by example, dedicating incredible hours to projects capturing his imagination. Chapter Co-Coordinator, Bob Kaspar, recalls, “While walking through the Verona Segment recently, I came upon him and his wife, completing a brush pile burn along the Trail near Badger Mill Creek. Dave had been at a corridor clearing/brush pile burn at the Cross Plains Segment on Saturday, then led the clearing and burning along Badger Mill Creek on Sunday, returning on Monday to finish the burning.”

“As a volunteer, Dave sees the larger picture of conservation along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, says Mike Wollmer, Executive Director. “Trail improvement, land protection, and preservation are all equal priorities.”

Dave has been instrumental in restoring two Alliance properties in Dane County, the Moraine Kettles Preserve and Mammoth’s Back Preserve. Over seven years, at Moraine Kettles, Dave and his crews turned cornfields into a prairie, restored woods, rerouted trails through prairies, and added a parking lot. With similar enthusiasm, he’s helping chapter members transform Mammoth’s Back Preserve, which is now three years ahead of schedule.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail, Spirit Stick Award, Dave Lonsdorf
Dave Lonsdorf, in his happy place, along the Ice Age Trail at a Mobile Skills Crew event. Photo by Joanne Ellarson.

 “As a volunteer, Dave sees the larger picture of conservation along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Trail improvement, land protection, and preservation are all equal priorities.”

Mike Wollmer, Executive Director

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Spirt Stick Award, Dave Lonsdorf
David Londsdorf was surprised at his home by a team of Ice Age Trail Alliance staff bearing the Spirit Stick. This unusual award prestation was necessitated by the virtual Annual Conference. From left to right: David Lonsdorf, Spirit Stick winner, Dave Caliebe, Trail Program Manager, Luke Kloberdanz, Director of Philanthropy, and Kevin Thusius, Director of Land Conservation. Photo by Marilyn Chohaney.

Dave also brings civic-mindedness to his volunteer work with the Ice Age Trail, having helped the City of Verona obtain Trail Community status. Dave’s been quick to raise his hand, offering to lead teams of volunteers – the annual United Way Season of Caring events and Love Madison events through the Blackhawk Church – engage in trail improvement. He has sponsored many workdays for Operation Fresh Start, a program for disconnected youth, on county lands hosting the Trail.

Dave motivates his crews with his spirit. His chapter members note that whenever Dave leads an event, he will stop on the way to the worksite and talk about the land, the Trail, and the purpose of putting Trail in a particular area. His intimate involvement, at all levels, makes David a fluent ambassador for the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

“He is a pleasure to work with,” says Bob Kasper, “and his enthusiasm for the Trail is infectious.”

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Spirit Stick Award
The Spirit Stick (pictured above) is inscribed with each award winner's name.

We can’t predict what will encourage someone to become an Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteer. To escape plodding crowds and piles of vegetables at the Dane County Farmers Market was incentive enough for Dave Lonsdorf. The week prior, a Dane County Chapter member, staffing an information table at the market, had told him about the Ice Age Trail and the chapter trail improvement day. The following Saturday, he opted to attend.

“I decided to go do that instead so I wouldn’t have to go to the farmers market,” remembers Dave. “The first event was a trail signage post-installation at Prairie Moraine Park in mid-July, led by Gary Werner. I recall carrying a 4×4 post up the Moraine from the parking lot and then digging it in. It was so hot. I got pretty dehydrated and had to quit after one post!”

Thank you, Dave!