We are happy to announce that Mary Coffin has won the 2015 Midwest Region Enduring Service award for the George and Helen Hartzog Volunteer Awards with the National Park Service.
Mary’s work in New York was crucial in the years-long process of gaining approval to route the North Country National Scenic Trail through the Adirondack Park.
For nearly 20 years, the National Park Service and its major partner group, the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), had been in seemingly endless negotiations with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to come to agreement on a suitable route for the North Country NST to cross the Adirondack Park.
To put this daunting task in perspective, consider that the Adirondack Park encompasses about 6 million acres, an area greater in size than Yellowstone. Nearly half of it is State Forest Preserve lands which are protected by the New York Constitution as “Forever Wild,” while the other half is privately owned parcels of various sizes.
The DEC spent years contemplating how best to integrate various alternative routes for the North Country NST within eight distinct Unit Management Plans to traverse the Adirondack Park, seeking to avoid heavily used areas while simultaneously using existing trails when possible. Predictably, the process was agonizingly slow and mired in bureaucratic red tape. It’s not an exaggeration to say that managers from all involved parties were becoming skeptical about a successful solution for the North Country NST through the Adirondacks.
Enter Mary Coffin, North Country NST volunteer. Mary understood that the only path to success was for someone to step up and personally see things through.
She, and a number of other invaluable volunteers who played essential roles, made it their mission to literally scout out, hike, GPS, photograph, evaluate, document, and report on each and every mile of all proposed alternative routes in order to provide the NPS, NCTA, DEC and the Adirondack Park Agency officials the solid and timely data they needed to eventually come to agreement on an approved route for the North Country NST.
After eight years and approximately 100 work trips into the wilds of the Adirondack Mountains, Mary’s herculean dedication came to fruition.
On September 25, 2015, the New York State DEC approved the Adirondack Park Trail Plan for the North Country NST, providing for 158 miles of trail route through five Wild Forests and four Wilderness Areas of the central Adirondacks.
Mary Coffin has been meeting the NPS Mission for the past 34 years. Her most recent accomplishment of helping secure the 158-mile route for the North Country NST through the Adirondack Park is in itself worthy of the Hartzog Enduring Service Award.
However, Mary’s stunning accomplishments, leadership, and dedication to volunteerism goes a great deal further.
Mary is one of those rarest of volunteers, rising to all aspects of trail stewardship with equal aplomb. From personally crafting quality trail tread with hazel-hoe in hand, to chairing committees and work groups at the local, state, and national levels—Mary does it all. A small sampling of her extensive North Country NST volunteer accomplishments includes:
- Secured seven permanent trail easements in the NY Finger Lakes region
- 12-year chairperson of special work team to connect trail segments throughout the Onondaga, NY area
- Served nine years on the NCTA Board of Directors
- Chairs the NY-NCTA Volunteer Council
- 5-Year Chairperson for NCTA Volunteer Membership Committee
- Conducts trail design and maintenance workshops for youth and adults
- Secured several grants for trail kiosks
- Serves on NCTA Trail Protection Committee
- Personally leads trail construction work crews for past 14 years.
Mary also initiated the “Extended Outings” program, where she coordinates all logistics and personally leads multi-day backpacking trips into various reaches of the North Country NST, sometimes within her nearby and beloved Adirondack wilderness, and sometimes as far away as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where the North Country NST winds its way through other parks such as Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Mary has led five such trips and has been the Chairperson for the “Outings Committee” for six years, sharing her passion for wild locales and her vast knowledge of remote backpacking skills with other volunteers and outdoor enthusiasts. Mary has more than 4,000 hours of recorded volunteer service.
The Midwest Region of the National Park Service encompasses 13 states and more than 60 parks and trails. Mary’s accomplishments were recognized as the most outstanding among all nominations submitted from this region in the Enduring Service category.
Congratulations, Mary! We are so thankful for your years of service and dedication to the North Country NST and the North Country Trail Association. This honor is well-deserved.