By Sevie Kenyon, volunteer writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
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.
A Better Trail Experience for Everyone
Just as hikers on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail often encounter challenges, so have the people who shaped the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) into what it is today. David Kinnamon is one of the people who became actively engaged in the early challenges. David’s deep involvement over the years helped him earn the Ray Zillmer Award, the highest award given by the Alliance.
The Ray Zillmer Award recognizes individuals whose work exemplifies the ideals that inspired the establishment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Early on, there were two organizations devoted to the betterment of the Ice Age Trail (IAT). One, the Ice Age Trail Council, focused on trailbuilding and maintenance. The second, the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation, concentrated on funding and fundraising efforts.
“One of the partners in the law firm I worked for asked me to join the Foundation,” David says. “He knew I was already involved in conservation organizations and was interested in outdoor activities. He was a hiker and introduced me to segments of the Trail.”
The reason David was asked, in 1985, by his firm to join the Foundation was to see if he could help with the business structure of the two, sometimes conflicting, IAT organizations. The ups and downs over the next several years led to David being appointed as a negotiator to help smooth out the needed transitions between Council and Foundation to complete a business merger of the two fractions.
“As President of the organization from 1990 through 1993, Dave helped steer the course through one of the most fractious periods in Alliance history – the merger of the Foundation and the Ice Age Trail Council. His success during this time can be attributed to his spirit of cooperation, his optimism for the greater good, and his enthusiasm for the Trail’s future.”
— Tim Malzhan, Trailway Director for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
The merger took place in 1990 and as David puts it, “that’s when the real work began.” Happiness wasn’t universal. “It was in my job description as a lawyer to help create NPOs and get them to deal with their problems,” he says. “This was all right out of that playbook; even if the personalities were not.”
The award nomination from Tim Malzhan says this of David: “As President of the organization from 1990 through 1993, Dave helped steer the course through one of the most fractious periods in Alliance history – the merger of the Foundation and the Ice Age Trail Council. His success during this time can be attributed to his spirit of cooperation, his optimism for the greater good, and his enthusiasm for the Trail’s future.”
All of the effort was for one thing: a better trail experience for everyone. For David’s part, hiking is a lifetime interest. He says he has walked a great deal of the IAT including participating in “Hikethons” held by chapters all over the state in October. “The idea of the Hikethons was to promote the Trail,” he says. “As president, I made a point of going to as many as I could.”
Those chapter events were valuable for raising awareness and interest in the IAT, David adds. “We got a fair amount of media coverage from papers and TV stations,” he says. Now, local chapters host a variety of events to engage people in hiking the IAT from Wednesday night walks, art walks, trail runs, candlelight hikes, and weewalks for young children to mention a few. Now, in the midst of a health crisis, more and more people are discovering the work done by the IATA and the hundreds of volunteers throughout the state.
“Things are looking up,” David says, praising the work of everyone involved. “I’m very pleased with the shape we’re in today after such a rocky start.”
The outdoors has always inspired David. As a child growing up in Madison he played in the Eagle Heights Woods and as luck would have it, a neighborhood family included David in their outdoor camping and hiking activities. “They were teachers showing me all about wildflowers, and trees,” David reflects. “And the Eagle Heights Woods was my field laboratory.”
About the Author
Sevie Kenyon is a retired agricultural photographer and writer currently living in Oregon, Wisconsin. He is a member of the Rock County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. When asked about his favorite place on the Ice Age Trail, Sevie will tell you “every step of it.” For more of Kenyon’s work, check out his photography and stories.