Richard Smith 2020 Spirit Stick Award Winner

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Spirit Stick Award, Richard Smith, Cornell

The 2020 Spirit Stick award was presented to Richard Smith for his long-term dedication and service to the Trail. Photo by Ice Age Trail Alliance staff.

Mr. Richard Smith of New Auburn, Wisconsin was surprised with the Spirit Stick award on Wednesday, July 15 during a socially-distanced membership gathering of the Chippewa Moraine Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

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 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.

These lofty criteria found their match in Mr. Smith who, as Chapter Coordinator since 2001, has worked hard to create a community of Ice Age Trail supporters in Chippewa County. In addition to managing a highly functional team of volunteers, his own volunteering work extends to many hours spent mowing and managing brush along trailways and monitoring the conditions of the Ice Age Trail though the Chippewa Moraine Chapter territory.

Smith has also contributed to coordinating larger projects through the Alliance’s Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) program. There have been nine MSC events in Chippewa County and Smith dedicated himself to providing a good experience at these events for both local participants and those coming from farther afield.

As Eric Sherman, Membership Coordinator for the Ice Age Trail Alliance stated in his nomination of Smith, “He is a top-flight communicator who very much understands the need to broadcast timely, helpful information to both current and potential volunteers AND hikers. Volunteer leaders in our organization who can relate to and advocate for both volunteers and Ice Age Trail users are worth their weight in gold.”

Along with his work promoting the Trail to volunteers and hikers, and his efforts to build and maintain the Trail, Smith has also engaged in the kind of partnership-building central to success at the local, regional, and state level. As both an Alliance chapter leader and a board member with Chippewa County Land Conservancy, he worked with local landowners and has been a helpful advocate for land protection for the Ice Age Trail.

Smith has established a solid partnership with the local county forest administrator – a key connection in an area where so much of the Trail passes through county-managed lands. He has been an engaged and positive leader throughout the multiyear National Park Service Chippewa County corridor-planning process.

Beyond his well-documented efforts in Chippewa County, Smith has stepped up to assume a leadership role as an Alliance board member. Not surprisingly, Smith took his work as a board member seriously and made important contributions during his 7 years (2003 – 2009) on the board. His keen interest in learning from and helping other chapter leaders was evidenced as he volunteered for various communications committees and was an important member of the planning team for multiple Chapter Leadership Summits held at recent Alliance annual conferences.

Spirit Stick criteria state that recipients should “carry out their service with a spirit of optimism, cooperation and enthusiasm,” and during his many years of service on behalf of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Mr. Richard Smith has demonstrated all three qualities at their highest levels. As his own chapter members wrote in their nomination of him, “Richard’s many years of commitment to the organization and his years of working on and caring for the Trail make him very qualified to receive this Award. We feel he will care for the Spirit Stick with the same reverence and respect that he has for the Ice Age Trail.”