Our Stories

2022 Outstanding Private Landowner + Trail Protector Awards

Categories: Volunteer Stories


Outstanding Private Landowner Award recipients are private landowners whose leadership, accommodation and active collaboration have substantially benefited the North Country Trail.

Edwards Family. In 2005, as the Wampum Chapter (Pa.) was establishing Trail and relationships with landowners, they met John Edwards. John contacted the Chapter and granted permission to host the NCNST on his half of a farm property he owned with his brother Keith. Since then, he has remained enthusiastic, generous, and supportive. He allowed the Chapter to designate his property as a campsite for thru-hikers, as its location is a great midpoint between two distant shelters. John walked his property often, and reported downed trees and other issues to the Chapter’s Trail Coordinator. He graciously supported the Chapter, and attended many meetings and social functions. In 2018, he was awarded a famous Wampum Chapter carved hiking stick and a Certification of Appreciation. Keith passed away a few years ago and ownership of the full property has since been transferred to their sister Karen, but both John and Karen remain loyal supporters of the Wampum Chapter and the NCNST.

Heath-Kudelka Family. Five generations of this family have owned and operated a 240-acre farm on bluffs overlooking the Big Bend of the Sheyenne River in North Dakota. The Dakota Prairie Chapter was interested in this general area for NCNST route because of extensive natural, cultural, historical, and scenic features. In 2017, during a long process of studying plat books, exploring farm roads, and developing contacts, the Chapter met with several members of the Heath-Kudelka Family. From the beginning, they were welcoming and interested in supporting the Trail. Throughout 2019 and 2020, 1.6 miles of Trail and five fence stiles were built across their farm, with help from several family members. In 2021, a large interpretive kiosk was placed at a trail access point on their farm, for which the family provided information, photos, and funds to cover its construction. In 2022, they signed a 99-year, renewable easement. They continue to help with trail maintenance and landowner relations. Thanks to their commitment and legacy, the NCNST will help showcase the features of this area for many years to come.

Trail Protector Awards are presented to volunteers working to protect the Trail by gaining permission to build Trail, and additionally, gaining easements to protect our Trail, over a three-year period or more.

Tom Podlesny. Tom has been a member of the Heritage Chapter (Wisc.) for close to a decade, at least. He participates in many Chapter activities, but he truly shines on tasks that support others behind the scenes. For the last six years or so, he has generously supported the Wisconsin Roving Trail Crew in a variety of ways, often rearranging his personal schedule for them. He located used power poles needed to construct puncheon, used his own vehicle and trailer to transport them 40 miles to get the hardware removed and have them cut to appropriate lengths, then transported them to the field site. He also uses his flatbed trailer and ATV to transport lumber and other supplies to work sites. Tom often assists NCTA staff on private land negotiations, as he is well known in his community and can provide important insight on effective communications.

See all awards categories, past winners, and nomination information at northcountrytrail.org/volunteer-awards.