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Local trail volunteers win national-level awards

Provided by NCTA Calvin Kangas, who was posthumously awarded both a Trail Maintainer of the Year Award and the Ni-Miikanaake Chapter’s 2020 Honor Award after his death working on the North Country Trail  in 2019.

The North Country Trail Association held its annual awards ceremony in August, and members of local chapters were given two national-level awards, Trail Maintainer of the Year, and Boots on the Trail.

Calvin Kangas of the Ni-Miikanaake Chapter won NCTA Trail Maintainer of the Year, as well as the chapter’s annual Honor Award. Kangas was president of the chapter and very active as a sawyer helping to clear trails until his death in 2019 while working on the trail with a group from the Superior Watershed Partnership.

“He took the initiative to go out and meet with them,” said Karl Jensen, current president and former vice-president of the chapter.

Kangas’ willingness and ability to connect with people is one of the things that people remember most about him.

“He showed a strong interest in actually maintaining the trails, and he had a kind of way of mobilizing people and communicating with people,” Jensen said.

Provided by NCTA Mark Roberts, who was awarded the NCTA Boots on the Trail Award for years of organizing and leading hikes with the Peter Wolfe Chapter.

Jensen said that Kangas’ love for the trail was likely inspired by the trip he took together with his wife down the Appalachian Trail as a young man. He was also involved in maintaining ORV trails with the Gogebic Range Trail Authority.

To the east, Mark Roberts was given the NCTA Boots on the Trail award. This is awarded to someone who has consistently organized, promoted and led hikes for the public on the North Country Trail for at least three years.

Roberts, who retired from Michigan Tech, was leading hikes with friends when he agreed to occasionally run them for the Peter Wolfe Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, too. It has developed into monthly, year-round hikes.

“I really put him to work now that he’s retired,” joked Connie Julien, president of the Peter Wolfe Chapter.

Roberts has also “adopted” a section of trail and is certified to help with chainsawing fallen trees. He is also a volunteer with the Maasto Hiihto and Churning Rapids trail system.

“He’s a really hard trail worker,” Julien said.

Connie Sherry and husband Ralph Horvath won the Peter Wolfe Chapter’s Honor Award for 2020. They work as a chainsaw team to help across the chapter, as well as adopting their own section of trail.

“Connie Shery does the chainsawing and Ralph helps clear the trail after she chainsaws,” Julien said. “On their own adopted section they do a little bit of everything.”

The NCTA promotes the 4,600-mile long North Country Trail and organizes and supports the 37 local chapters that maintain the trail across eight states. The local chapters are the Peter Wolfe Chapter, which maintains 120 miles of trail from just west of Craig Lake into the Ottawa National Forest, where it meets with the Ni-Miikanaake Chapter’s trail section at M-64. The Ni-Miikanaake Chapter maintains 75 miles of trail, from M-64 to the Wisconsin border. Maps and trail descriptions are available at northcountrytrail.org.

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