Early in November, a delegation from the North Country National Scenic Trail attended the Partnership for the National Trails System’s (PNTS) National Scenic Trails workshop at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. The NCT delegation included NPS’ Superintendent Mark Weaver, NPS’ Trail Manager Jeff McCusker, NCTA’s Director of Trail Development Andrea Ketchmark, and NCTA’s MN/ND Regional Trail Coordinator Matt Davis.
The National Scenic Trails workshop is a gathering that brings together staff, volunteer leaders, and agency partners from all (or most all) eleven of the National Scenic Trails to discuss common issues and allow time for sharing and networking. Held every two years, they are scheduled between successive National Scenic and Historic Trails Conferences – the last of which was held in Abingdon, VA in May of 2011. For the last two workshops, a modified open space meeting format has been utilized which allows more flexibility for workshop attendees to gather around particular issues they’re interested in rather than a set agenda with specific speakers. You can actually read the notes from the October 2010 workshop online.
- One of the highlights for Andrea was the opportunity to discuss further the Collaborative Landscape Planning proposal for which many of the National Scenic Trails collaborated on a Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) funding request for land acquisition to benefit the Trails. If funded in the 2014 federal budget, this would provide significant funding for land acquisition to benefit the NCT in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania along with high priority acquisition projects for other National Scenic and Historic Trails.
- One of Matt’s “take a ways” was a concept shared by Mike Dawson, Trail Operations Director for the Pacific Crest Trail Association who said that the “experience provided by the National Scenic Trails is 10% about the infrastructure (the trail tread) and 90% the setting through which the trails pass.” This illustrates one of the challenges we face on the North Country Trail where many local partners only consider direct impacts to the trail tread from projects and ignore the often serious visual impacts to the setting through which the trail passes.
- Jeff had a chance to meet some high level National Park Service staff from Washington for the first time, and share some ideas and get some guidance on planning and land acquisition. He also learned about the “Optimum Location Review” process on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails which involves documenting and getting agreement from landowners, volunteers, and the National Park Service for where trail will be located before lands are acquired.
- Mark appreciated the opportunity to meet with other trail leaders from across the country in order to put the issues of the North Country Trail in perspective.