Our Stories

Inaugural Next Generation Coalition Summit

Categories: Advocacy, Next Generation Coalition, Northern Michigan, Trail Maintenance

Post and photos by Emily Rodriguez


August 15-18, 2019, members of the NCTA’s Next Generation Coalition met in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park for the first-ever Next Generation Coalition (“Next Gen”) Summit.


Led by Kenny Wawsczyk, NCTA’s Regional Trail Coordinator for Michigan, and Emily Rodriguez, NCTA’s Next Generation Outreach Intern, members spent two days building a section of trail as part of the new reroute within the park, and an evening discussing the future of the Coalition and the Trail as a whole. In their free time, the group visited Lake Superior, Lake of the Clouds, and of course, hiked the Trail.“I really enjoyed actually building the trail and using the tools,” commented Dennis Olson, who traveled to the Summit from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. Coalition members not only built nearly one mile of new trail, but also cultivated a deep appreciation for the vast network of volunteers who build and maintain the NCT. “I’ve hiked a lot of miles in my area and didn’t know how much work it really was to make a trail this long,” Dennis added.

To cap off the event, the Next Gen cohort gathered around the campfire on Saturday to examine the future of the Coalition and the NCTA and to share ideas on how to get more young people involved. When asked about the resources provided by the NCTA, Lynnae Branham from Marquette, Michigan, suggested more guidance on projects young people can do in collaboration with the Chapters. “We should encourage Next Gen “reps” at Chapter meetings throughout the Trail,” added Lacie Tryan from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Overall, the general consensus was to “bridge the gap” within the Chapters and increase involvement from more diverse groups. Equipped with the knowledge of trail building techniques and how to properly use the tools necessary to build and maintain trail, many members expressed their eagerness to return home and adopt a section of trail. Other members left the event inspired to reach out to their local Chapter and do more outreach.

The NCTA would like to thank the National Park Foundation for their financial support and Michigan DNR for their collaboration. Additionally, we would like to extend a special thank you to the Friends of the Porkies, a local nonprofit dedicated to the support and enhancement of Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, for generously providing wholesome meals for the crew each night. And finally, a huge thank you to our Coalition members for participating in the first of many Next Gen Summits: Anna Johnson (23, Lowell, Michigan); Avantika D’Cruz-Wigren (18, Ashland, Wisconsin); Chase Gregory (24, Buffalo, New York); Dennis Olson (29, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota); Emily Rodriguez (26, Grand Rapids, Michigan); Keeley Sisson (26, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota); Lacie Tryan (23, Grand Rapids, Michigan); Lynnae Branham (22, Marquette, Michigan); and Matt Scheffler (25, Grand Rapids, Michigan).