Prestigious United States Forest Service Eastern Region Honor Award for Volunteerism and Service bestowed on the Ice Age Trail Alliance
The United States Forest Service recently recognized the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s commitment to creating and delivering an outstanding volunteer experience as part of its Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) program.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance forges strong relationships with a wide-range of partners as a means to engaging a diverse population with the vision of creating, maintaining and protecting a thousand-mile footpath through Wisconsin. A popular mantra of the Alliance, “Trailbuilding is people building”, ensures quality skill-building and service-learning components go hand-in-hand with the trail work that must be accomplished during an MSC event.
The dedication to these ideals were evidenced in the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Infrastructure Overhaul project. This collaborative, multi-year effort spanning 2012 – 2016, addressed infrastructure upgrades to popular segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail where it traverses the Chequamagon National Forest.
The concept of people-building came to life as trail enthusiasts, Ice Age Trail Alliance staff, local members of the Ice Age Trail Alliance High Point Chapter, and Forest Service personnel worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the next generation of trail stewards. This included both students from the Medford Area Middle and High School and youth from New Vision Wilderness, a Medford area business which provides a residential, wilderness based Intensive Level of Care Program for those who require an immediate intervention and treatment.
As Tim Vetter, USFS Assistant Ranger for Recreation in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, Medford-Park Falls District, who nominated the Alliance for this award, noted, “These future trail stewards connected to nature, their local community and their National Forest in ways they may not have known existed. This experience of incorporating volunteer work into their curriculum provided them with unmatched experiences in teamwork, conservation, and stewardship.”
Key partners recognized for this award included:
· Tim Malzhan, Director of Trail Operations, Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA)
· Buzz Meyer, Chapter President, High Point Chapter of the IATA
· Kaci Sapinski, Program Coordinator, New Vision Wilderness
· Charlie Heckel, Assistant Principal, Medford Area Middle School.
This diverse group of leaders and citizen partners came together to achieve a remarkable amount of conservation in the Chequagmegon National Forest. These efforts included replacement and construction of over 700 feet of elevated boardwalk, a 67-foot and 20-foot clear span bridge and 4 miles of trail tread construction and trail signage upgrades. Extending these achievements into the Rib Lake area and on Taylor County Forest lands, a staggering 1,110 volunteers contributed a whopping 23,087 hours toward improving the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Taylor County. Lumber, hardware, food, fuel and other purchases made locally positively impacted numerous area businesses.
“We are honored to receive this competitive award,” said Tim Malzhan, Director of Trail Operations for the IATA. “Whether it was a neighbor who provided water to drink or a tractor to move rock, the selflessness and shared-spirit of the hundreds of volunteers who gave time, talent and service to these efforts is truly humbling.”
The Ice Age Trail, one of only eleven National Scenic Trails in the country, is a thousand-mile footpath highlighting Wisconsin’s world-renowned Ice Age heritage and natural resources.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance is a non-profit volunteer- and member-based organization established in 1958 that works to create, support and protect the Ice Age Trail. Visit www.iceagetrail.org for hiking information and volunteer opportunities.