North Country Trail Association

Board of Directors

President

Jaron Nyhof

Jaron practices real estate law as a partner in the Grand Rapids firm of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge. He is the partner in charge of the firm’s office in Holland, Michigan. He’s licensed to practice law in both Michigan and Ohio. As a real estate attorney, he has been involved with land acquisitions, leases, licenses, easements, and land use agreements, and has helped the NCTA with a number of real estate issues on a pro bono basis over the last several years. Additionally, Jaron has had quite a bit of experience on nonprofit boards and committees and formed several non-profit corporations. He has been heavily involved in his community’s various organizations during his tenure in Holland. On the personal side of things, he’s been a hiker for almost 20 years and has enjoyed hiking many parts of the NCT.

Vice President

Mike Chapple

Mike is Teaching Professor of information technology, analytics, and operations at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business. He earned both B.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from Notre Dame, and holds an MBA from Auburn University. He’s been an avid hiker for over 30 years, starting when he was growing up in New York. Mike tries to get on the Trail as much as possible. Mike and his wife Renee live in Granger, Indiana with their three boys, and one of the family’s favorite pastimes is taking backpacking vacations together. There isn’t much elevation change in Northern Indiana, so he escapes the flat cornfields to the relative heights of the North Country Trail in nearby Michigan for both day hikes and extended backpacking trips. Mike also serves on the boards of South Bend Venues, Parks, and Arts, as well as CampFire River Bend.

Treasurer

Mark VanHornweder

Mark VanHornweder is president of the NCTA’s Brule-St. Croix Chapter, where he’s served on the Wisconsin Roving Trail Crew since 2004. Mark is active with the Superior Hiking Trail Association and has volunteered with the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Mobile Skills Crew. He also serves as President of the Friends of Amnicon and Pattison State Parks, and is engaged with land conservation in the Lake Superior watershed. His interests include increasing trail use by younger generations. Mark grew up in northwestern rural Wisconsin and graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He is a CPA. Mark, his wife Rachel, their son Jasper and daughter Acadia reside in South Range – within an hour’s drive of 200 miles of completed NCT.

Secretary

Dennis Garrett

Married to Catherine Ann for 47 years and the parents of two sons, Bill and Steve, Dennis is now partially retired from his business as a manufacturer of industrial process equipment. He has been a member of the NCTA, originally as a landowner, for eight years, and is currently President of the Wampum Chapter (Pennsylvania and Ohio). He is actively involved in several ministries of the St. Monica Catholic Church of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and the Knights of Columbus.

Immediate Past President

Tim Mowbray

Tim has been trying to retire from 30+ years of healthcare administration since 2008, but keeps finding too many interesting work projects that just need a little more time. Currently, Tim is the President/CEO of a small medical research organization in Minneapolis: Excelen – Center for Bone & Joint Research and Education. Tim has a Doctorate in Management specializing in Organizational Leadership, and is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. He has been in senior leadership positions in healthcare for 30+ years, served on and participated in leadership of a number of community organizations, and is still an active Rotarian in the City of Lakes Rotary in Minneapolis. Tim, his wife Sue, and golden retriever Max live just about a mile off the North Country Trail on Upper St. Croix Lake in Solon Springs, Wisconsin and use the Trail many times each year.

At-Large

Mel Baughman

Mel began designing and constructing hiking trails in the mid-70s. He later wrote publications and taught numerous trail classes for family forest owners and a credit class for undergraduate college students. He also provided trail consultations for many government and nonprofit organizations, and private landowners, including trips to Dominica and Costa Rica. Mel is Vice President of the NCTA Chequamegon Chapter and active in the Wisconsin Roving Trail Crew. When not engaged in trail work, he is a hiker, backpacker, wilderness canoeist, angler, hunter, and world traveler, periodically giving travel lectures to nonprofit groups. He also serves on the Sawyer County Wisconsin Search and Rescue Team, and is certified as a Wilderness First Responder. Mel is a retired Extension Forester and university administrator.

At-Large

Josh Berlo

Josh is a native of Rhode Island and discovered the many benefits of hiking while attending summer camps in New Hampshire as a youth. Now an avid and accomplished hiker, he is excited and interested in growing the NCT both in the quality of the Trail itself, as well as the awareness and recognition of it. Josh has been a long-time board member of the Jordan Valley 45° Chapter of the NCT and got involved after hiking the Jordan River Pathway one spring. Some of his fondest memories are from the peaks, woods, and boardwalks with family, friends, and the Alaskan husky named Skip that he and his wife Meg have adopted following a dog sledding career (including the 2006 Iditarod). Josh has had the pleasure of hiking all over the country including all 48 peaks above 4,000 feet in the state of New Hampshire, as well as almost 400 miles (some many times over) of the NCT. Professionally, Josh is a seasoned collegiate athletic administrator now serving as the Director of Athletics at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, following experience and degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Notre Dame.

Duane Lawton_BOD
At-Large

Duane Lawton

Since 2006 Duane has lived in active retirement in Charlevoix, Michigan. With degrees from Michigan State and the University of Michigan, he worked in information technology management in the automotive industry in southeast Michigan for 36 years. He got involved with the NCT through happenstance in 2008, and was the NCTA Jordan Valley 45° Chapter President from 2012-2017. Duane is now the Chapter's Projects Coordinator, continuing to build Trail. He is active in the local Lions Club and likes to travel, build stuff, play at golf and hike - not exclusively on the NCT. Duane finished hiking the 1,150 miles of Michigan NCT in 2019. On the NCTA Board of Directors, he strives to strengthen support for continuing expansion of the finished Trail on the ground.

Minnesota

Derrick Passe

Derrick works as the District Engineer for Lake County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) in Two Harbors, Minnesota. Using his Civil Engineering and Water Resource Science degrees, he helps private landowners monitor, protect, and enhance their natural resources. Derrick first began working on wilderness hiking trails in 1996. The first trip he led was on the Pow Wow Trail, a Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) trail that had not been maintained for 10 years. He volunteered to lead this trip, and has since led hundreds of volunteers into the BWCAW every year to maintain, map, and protect wilderness hiking trails. In May 2017, Derrick took a leave of absence from his job to spend the entire month leading crews on the Kekekabic Trail to reopen it after extensive storm damage. He was an active member, president, and member of the Board of Directors of the Kekekabic Trail Club. He has also been a member of the Superior Hiking Trail Association and American Hiking Society. Even though he is certified to maintain trails using a chainsaw, Derrick prefers to maintain trails in wilderness areas using only hand tools. When Derrick isn’t volunteering in Minnesota’s BWCAW or Wisconsin’s Rainbow Lakes Wilderness, you may find him sampling water quality or educating about invasive species in his job as the Rainy Basin Coordinator for the Lake County SWCD.

At-Large

Larry Pio

Larry moved to Michigan from Wisconsin to attend Western Michigan University, where he earned his B.S. in Chemistry and Paper Science, and MBA, and met his wife Sue. He worked in operations management and sales in the paper industry, and currently works for a small airlaid nonwovens (type of paper) research and development facility in Kalamazoo. He has been a member of the NCTA since 2001, and began serving as President of the Chief Noonday Chapter in August 2011. He has edited the Chapter newsletter for many years and is also a trail adopter.

At-Large

Sharon Ray

Coming soon!

At-Large

Kevin Russell

Kevin resides in Waitsfield, Vermont and is actively semi-retired. Over the past 25 years, Kevin has worked to improve active transportation opportunities within his community and around the state as a planning consultant and project manager. He now enjoys the fruits of his labor walking, running, biking and hiking many new sidewalks, bike paths, trails and greenways. Kevin remains active as a ski instructor and backcountry guide in the winter. He is assistant golf coach and substitute teacher in the local school. He also serves on the board of the Mad River Valley Backcountry Coalition and the MRV Planning District Transportation Advisory Committee. Upon discovering the North Country National Scenic Trail, Kevin has been very proactive in promoting the newly authorized trail in Vermont and working with Chapter members in the neighboring state of New York, where he originally hails from. Kevin enjoys writing and sharing his experiences on his blog: alongthemillbrook.com.

At-Large

Brad Slagle

Brad joined the NCTA in 2014 after partnering with the North Country Trail Hikers Chapter in Marquette, Mich. to get elderly and disabled veterans out on the Trail. He retired as CEO of the Michigan Veterans Health System and is a Past President of the National Association of State Veterans Homes. Upon his retirement he was looking for an active outdoor volunteer opportunity and eagerly joined a trail crew for the NCT. His experience with advocacy for State Veterans Homes let him to the NCTA Advocacy Committee and he became Chair and joined the NCTA Board of Directors. Backcountry trout fishing led him to backpacking and in addition to the NCT, he has backpacked a small segment of the Appalachian Trail, part of the Arizona Trail in the Grand Canyon, and multiple trails in Yellowstone National Park (trout!). When he first encountered the NCT, he was fascinated with the idea of walking on a trail in his hometown that continued over 2,000 miles in either direction. Brad lives in Marquette, Michigan with his wife Lynne and they have four children.

At-Large

Jo Swanson

Jo has been fascinated by long-distance hiking trails since third grade and looks forward to contributing to the North Country Trail Association. Her first backpacking experience was equal parts disaster and learning experience, and took place on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT). She has since backpacked 20 long trails and has spent over 100 nights on the SHT. In 2015 she became an employee of the Superior Hiking Trail Association and is now their Trail Development Director. She loves working to protect and improve the SHT and is excited that the Arrowhead Reroute is finally official. Jo has explored short sections of the NCT in six states and is always planning future adventures. She has also been involved with the Great Eastern Trail Association and Minnesota Recreational Trail Users Association. Jo lives in Two Harbors, Minnesota.

At-Large

Tina Toole

Tina fell in love with the North Country Trail when she and her husband Mike challenged themselves to hike the Allegheny National Forest’s 95.7 miles of NCT in 2004. As they hiked over the next few years, they saw the work that went into keeping the Trail open. Once they completed their quest, they became Trail Adopters and then took on more responsibility with the Chapter. Tina is currently the Allegheny National Forest Chapter President after serving as the Trail Coordinator for seven years. She looks forward to serving on the NCTA Board to help grow awareness of and improve the quality of the NCNST. Besides hiking, Tina and her husband are avid mountain climbers and paddleboarders. In 2021, they completed the challenge of climbing the highest point in each of the lower 48 states. Tina retired from teaching high school sciences several years ago. Living in Warren, Pennsylvania, she enjoys spending time on the Allegheny River and in the forest with her husband, children and their spouses, and her grandchildren.

North Dakota

Jan Ulferts Stewart

Jan is active in civic and charitable organizations in the Fargo and Moorhead communities of North Dakota and Minnesota. She has been a member of the NCTA since 2001 and after moderate success in hauling lumber for puncheons, lifting a Pulaski, getting the blue blaze on the tree rather than herself, and clearing brush, she enjoys serving on the NCTA Board. A past director of the local community foundation and former chair of the planning commission, she has confidence in the leadership team of staff members and board to carry on the vision of the NCTA. Jan and her husband have two daughters and three amazing grandchildren.

Michigan

Jeff VanWinkle

A long time member of the NCTA, Jeff brings to the Association a wealth of experience in management of nonprofit organizations. Jeff is a business attorney for McDonald Hopkins, working primarily in Chicago, as well as continuing his active community engagement and work in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, he provides general counsel services, securities counseling, private company law guidance and transactional legal services to clients throughout the Midwest. He has been a board member of seven international, national, and local nonprofit organizations. He and his family have hiked the NCT in both Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas, as well as segments in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New York. Jeff says he is "most interested in helping to continue the effort to strengthen the sustainability of the NCTA as the steward of the Trail."

Ohio

Stephen Walker

Steve is a fourth generation commercial printer and purchased Niles Printing in Niles, Ohio in 1988. He’s been a member of the Buckeye Trail Association since 2012 and was active in the formation and development of the Muskingum Lakes Chapter. He is also currently Vice President of the Buckeye Trail Association. Steve has also been a member of the NCTA’s Policy and Advocacy Committee since June of 2015 and traveled to Washington DC in July of 2015 to advocate on behalf of LWCF Reauthorization and the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment Act with members of Congress. He is currently spearheading efforts to develop a legislative trails caucus in the state of Ohio to advocate on behalf of trails. Steve and his wife Karen operate a food pantry that helps 120 households per month and in 2015 provided 36,000 meals for disadvantaged families in Stark and Tuscarawas counties. Steve is also a sitting member of the Stark County Area Broadband Task Team. They have four children and eight grandchildren and reside in Navarre, Ohio.

New York

Quinn Wright

Quinn has been involved with the Finger Lakes Trail Conference since 2009, as the Director of Crews and Construction, Treasurer, and in 2015 assumed the role of Executive Director. He has represented the NCT/FLT at Hike the Hill in Washington DC and is an active member of the Advocacy Committee. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Quinn also founded a company that sold abrasive finishing supplies and equipment, and grew into a statewide endeavor. He also taught technology for the City of Buffalo for 13 years. Quinn lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife Jewell. He relaxes by walking in the woods and fields almost daily for about four to five miles with his faithful dog, Shoki. He also greatly enjoys reading, tasting good beers and fine dining, and attending the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

Header photo by Dove Day.