Our Stories

2023 Volunteer Awards: Friend of the Trail

Categories: Volunteer Stories


Constance Cox

Connie has been the Lead Naturalist at Itasca State Park in Minnesota for over 20 years, and is a great trail advocate. In 2016, when we celebrated 100 years of the National Park Service and 125 years of Minnesota State Parks and Trails, Connie was the main organizer of commemorative monthly hikes and often led them. She has been instrumental in helping local NCTA Chapters plan events, including the 2022 Celebration in Walker, Minnesota, and in recruiting volunteers for trail work. Her enthusiasm for history and natural phenomena along the Trail is truly contagious. She has the unique ability to connect park users to the outdoors, and encourages and informs visitors of the treasures of the NCNST. 

Josh Clague

Josh is the Adirondacks Coordinator for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), and was involved in the initial planning for the 170-mile route of the NCNST through the Adirondack Park. NCTA and Adirondack Mountain Club volunteers “ground truthed” the proposed route and sent their data and evaluations to the DEC, where they were received by Josh. He and his colleagues published and obtained various levels of approvals required for the final route. No trail work could have been started without this assistance. Thanks to Josh and his team building this foundation, there is now a strong, collaborative partnership between those who build and maintain the Trail through the Adirondack Park.

Kenneth Kettler

Ken, or KJ, is the Manager and Forester of the W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest in Michigan – a research facility property of Michigan State University that the NCNST traverses. KJ has been extremely supportive and cooperative through route changes, logging activities, trail maintenance, bridge building, kiosk and signage installation, and more. When the facility no longer needed a dozen picnic tables, KJ offered them to the NCTA Chief Noonday Chapter at no expense. These were then refinished by volunteers and, with permission of landowners, placed along the Trail across the Chapter’s three counties.

Lenny Krueger

Lenny is supervisor of the Fort Abercrombie State Historic Site in North Dakota, and has been instrumental in getting the NCNST here. Hikers can now experience the site, and its historic structures and interpretive exhibits without leaving the Trail. Lenny helps maintain a city park that the Trail winds through, and has helped many long-distance hikers by ensuring quality campsites and access to facilities. Lenny provides event space to the NCTA Dakota Prairie Chapter and actively helps with trail promotion.

Renee Penny

Renee became a critical partner of the NCTA Grand Traverse Chapter in Michigan when she began working for the Kalkaska Conservation District over five years ago. She has written grants for a variety of projects, including an important trail reroute. During that same project, she secured and led an AmeriCorps work group to replace fencing along the Trail. Renee helps install signage and design outreach materials for the Chapter, and she leads hikes. She has passed on her knowledge of invasive species to the Chapter trail crew and adopters, and allows the Chapter to store its tool trailers and maintenance equipment at her property.

Learn more about how the you can honor NCTA volunteers for their service on and for the North Country National Scenic Trail, and submit a nomination by April 8 at northcountrytrail.org/volunteer-awards.