There is no IAT-U without … YOU!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail University, IAT-U

Photo by Michael Maziarka

The secret sauce of our wildly successful and award-winning Mobile Skills Crew program?

Well-trained volunteers. Absolutely.

When the Mobile Skills Crew trailer pulls up to a work site, the flurry of activity that follows is nothing short of astounding. Tents are set up, meals are cooked, trails are built and boardwalks constructed. Much of what is accomplished, over the course of a few days, happens, in part, because the Ice Age Trail Alliance staff is able to rely on knowledgeable, capable volunteers. Individuals who have raised their hands and said “YES” to learning new skills or deepening their existing capabilities in service of the Trail.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, IAT-U 2017, Ice Age Trail University

Isn’t it comforting to know someone on your Trail Crew will know the basics of First Aid/CPR?
Photo by Michael Maziarka

Thank you to all 71 participants who, leading up to and through the event, contributed 1,642 hours building their on-and-off-trail Ice Age Trail tool kits.

Camp Chef: Under the tutelage of a professional chef 14 volunteers learned kitchen efficiencies, knife skills, menu planning, and safe food storage and handling techniques to more easily prepare the nutritious meals enjoyed and appreciated at Mobile Skills Crew events.

Operational Leadership and Building the Team: In total, 13 volunteers learned how to proactively anticipate and prepare for inevitable uncertainties in on-and-off-trail events as they participated in scenarios, discussions, and experiments designed to teach effective decision-making techniques. They also explored helpful communication strategies geared towards engaging more volunteers in the positive purpose of our work.

Smart Tools: Coupled with smartphones and their innate “Trail Eyes”, four volunteers learned how to use free software to map existing trail conditions and share accurate information with staff and partners for planning and executing trail improvement projects.

Three Tiers of Trail Construction: Sustainable trail design, construction and stewardship takes into consideration observable phenomena and, equally so, forces of nature occurring overhead and underground. It also must grapple with human impulses and trail interactions. Using previsualization and science-based measurement techniques, seven volunteers grappled with the chunks of the ice berg we don’t see as they evaluated the merits, or not, of a proposed 475-foot trail reroute.

Chainsaw Safety and First Aid/CPR: When 726 sharpened teeth of chain pass over a given point in space in 60 seconds, you better know how to keep yourself and coworkers free from harm. 26 participants learned the mechanics of sawing and cutting to do just that. And while we can’t plan for every contingency, 21 volunteers learned life-saving First-Aid/CPR techniques to use when the unexpected happens.

Boardwalk Construction: Should rainbows turn black and white, that describes the difference made thanks to 15 or more volunteers working daily, Wednesday through Saturday, battling mud, rain, rock and stumps in crafting two elevated boardwalks totaling 296 feet.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail University, IAT-U

Boardwalk construction training takes on a new dimension in knee-high mud.
Photo by Michael Maziarka

Thank you to all who put the “WE” in IAT-U!

Special Thanks:

  • Rich Prange and the Friends of the Merrill School Forest for carte blanche support, paying for construction materials and getting dirty before and during the event.
  • Dale Bergman and the Merrill Area Public School System for providing uninhibited use of Merrill School Forest facilities.
  • Al Sulzer and Dolly McNulty for tag-teaming Camp Chef duties.
  • Northwood’s Chapter volunteers for pre-event corridor clearing and providing tons of fresh-baked cookies.
  • Engleberry Farms for donating a flat of strawberries.
  • Trainers: Jim Olive and Lee Schauman (Chain Saw Safety Training Specialists); American Red Cross; Jon Reinke (Northcentral Technical College/chef); Dan Watson (NPS-Operational Leadership); Michael Maziarka (Smart Tools); Tim Malzhan (Building the Team) and Luke Kloberdanz (3 Tiers of Trail Construction).
  • Dave Caliebe (IATA) and IATA volunteer Crew Leader Rich Propp for their leadership, skill and grit, teaching boardwalk construction skills.
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, IAT-U, Ice Age Trail University

The rainbow: A freshly constructed board walk awaits in Lincoln County.
Photo by Beth Shimmyo

Next Up:

Put down the pick mattock and grab your kitchen apron – we’re working a food tent and serving as Trail Ambassadors at Farm Technology Days near Algoma July 11-13 to raise money and awareness for the Trail!

The next MSC trailbuilding event takes place July 26-29 in the Chequamegon National Forest. We’re replacing an existing pedestrian bridge and building a new 35-foot-long behemoth. Join us for this MSC Mini event and help spruce up the Lake Eleven Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

NOTE: Thanks to Dave Caliebe for writing this IAT-U summary.

The 2017 Mobile Skills Crew Program was made possible by the financial support of these generous sponsors:

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