North Country Trail Association

Board of Directors


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.

Vice President

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.


Brad Slagle

Brad joined the NCTA in 2014 after partnering with the Marquette Area 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 NCNST. 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 NCNST, 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 NCNST, 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.


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 von Briesen & Roper, s.c., 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 NCNST 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."

Immediate Past 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 NCNST.


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.


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 NCNST both in the quality of the Trail itself, as well as the awareness and recognition of it. Josh was a long-time board member of the NCTA Jordan Valley 45° Chapter (Mich.) 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 and friends, much of which was on the Superior Hiking Trail segment in Northern Minnesota in recent years. 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 NCNST in Minnesota and Michigan. Professionally, Josh is a seasoned collegiate athletic administrator now serving as the Vice Chancellor for Athletics at the University of Denver, following eight years as Director of Athletics at the University of Minnesota Duluth (located on the NCNST), preceded by experience and degrees from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Notre Dame.


Sue Harvey Brown


Dennis Garrett

Dennis and his wife Cathy have been married 55 years and are the parents of two sons, Bill and Steve. Dennis is a retired business owner in the steel fabrication/machine shop business. Dennis and Cathy are members of the St. Monica Catholic Church in Beaver Falls, where they are much involved in the parish. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, being a past Grand Knight of Council 604 and a member of the NCTA Wampum Chapter, where he is the current Chapter President.

New York

Max Heitner

Max joined the NCTA Board of Directors in 2022. He is the Director of Conservation for the Finger Lakes Land Trust where he focuses on land acquisition and restoration projects throughout the Finger Lakes region. He also serves on the board of the Cayuga Trails Club, a local trails group that stewards part of the North Country National Scenic Trail in central New York. In his free time, Max enjoys outdoor recreation, college sports, and puttering around his backyard with its goats and chickens. Max holds an M.S. from the University of Illinois and a B.S. from the University of Michigan. He resides in Ithaca, New York with his wife Alexandra and daughter, Marigold.


Cheryl Kreindler

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST) is important to Cheryl and to prove it, she rejoined the NCTA Board of Directors in 2023. Professionally, Cheryl is a Senior Vice President and strategic management consultant at WSP USA, based in Cincinnati, Ohio. She brings her passion for optimizing organization performance and business development to her role as an NCTA board member. When not working, Cheryl is out on the Trail. She has completed more than 2,000 miles of the NCNST, and each year she takes the opportunity to hike another 200+ unique miles. As a result, the importance and beauty of our NCNST is regularly reaffirmed for her. Cheryl looks forward to working with our Chapters and volunteers to support (and hike) our NCNST for years to come.

Duane Lawton_BOD

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 NCNST 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 NCNST. Duane finished hiking the 1,150 miles of Michigan NCNST in 2019. On the NCTA Board of Directors, he strives to strengthen support for continuing expansion of the finished Trail on the ground.


Jane Norton

Jane has been in the National Ski Patrol as a patroller at Bittersweet Ski Area (yes, there are ski areas in West Michigan) for many years, and active in her church activities. She has been a member of NCTA since 2010. She began her membership by attending the Dayton Celebration, then volunteering for the Chief Noonday Chapter's Celebration the following year. She got the "Blue Blaze Fever," and has served as Chapter Secretary and President, and continues to be Chair of the Hike Committee, a Trail Adopter, on the Trail Protection Committee, and attends workdays. She has completed hiking the NCNST in Wisconsin, Michigan's lower peninsula, and is working on completing the Upper Peninsula and Ohio. She hopes her "boots on the ground" will help further the vision of the NCTA and looks forward to work with the talented Board of Directors to further the NCTA vision. Jane and her husband have two children (one active on the North Country Trail) and two energetic granddaughters.


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.

New York

Sharon Ray

Sharon Ray has been Acting Director of the Seneca Nation’s Department of Transportation (DOT) since 2019. In this capacity, she oversees all aspects of the DOT and the Seneca Transit System (STS), the bus service of the Seneca Nation. In addition, she provides staff oversight, performs administrative duties, and sets up staff training opportunities. Prior to that, she served from 2009 to 2019 as Transportation Project Manager, coordinating projects and developing agreements with tribal, federal, state, county, and local officials and their agents and contractors. She also assisted in developing policies and procedures for road and bridge construction projects in accordance with tribal, federal, and state regulatory authorities. She has earned certifications in Federal Information Systems Security Awareness, Road Inventory Field Data Systems, and Highway Safety Awareness for First Responders.


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:


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 NCNST 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.


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.

North Dakota

Chris Whitsel

Chris discovered the North Country National Scenic Trail while training for a longer hike on another trail with his husband. They were first introduced to North Country Trail Association through the Dakota Prairie Chapter, which provided many opportunities to participate in organized monthly hikes and hiking seminars. Since then, they’ve been Chapter members. Chris enjoys building new sections of trail, which he’s had the opportunity to do in Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. He has helped maintain a variety of sections in North Dakota (think lots of hours pushing mowers). He is currently serving on both the Leadership and Maintenance Committees for the Dakota Prairie Chapter, and manages maintenance for a 30-mile section of the NCNST in eastern North Dakota.

Header photo by Dove Day