Our Stories

North Country Trail Association is 35 years old!

Categories: News


So today is our birthday!! The North Country Trail Association is 35 years old!

by Bruce Matthews, North Country Trail Association Executive Director

We’re youngsters compared to some, but that won’t keep us from celebrating.

It was on this day in 1981 that the first gathering of about 12 volunteers, including Lance Feild, Ginny Wunsch, and Ken Gackler, gathered at the bank in White Cloud, MI to discuss forming an organization to become the major non-profit partner with the National Park Service in building the North Country National Scenic Trail (signed into existence on March 5, 1980 by President Jimmy Carter as part of PL 96-199). Ginny is well-remembered for her service in acquiring the Birch Grove Schoolhouse for the NCTA, and faithfully managing it for many years.

Dues were set at $20, and Lance Feild, now the newly appointed President of the NCTA, was the first to make his payment as member # 1.

Early records are a bit sketchy (we don’t have meeting minutes from that first meeting) but among our list of current 30 year NCTA members are a few who joined in 1981 along with Ken Gackler—Don Beattie, Cecil and Joanne Dobbins, Milton Jones and Barbara Smith.

As we celebrate our birthday we recognize these pioneers whose faith in the legacy effort that will become a completed NCNST is the foundation of our organization. Their hard work has enabled us to be where we are today, and as we survey our landscape through the light of these 35 candles, we can see a LOT to be grateful for!

We're so thankful for all our volunteers over the past 35 years!
We’re so thankful for all our volunteers over the past 35 years!

So we should also list our 30-year members not already mentioned:

  • Pat Allen and Mark Miller (1983)
  • Joseph Brennan (1985)
  • Buckeye Trail Association (1985)
  • James Davis (1983)
  • Tom and Jan Gilbert (1982)
  • Anthony Haswell (1984)
  • Margaret Hutchins (1982)
  • James Kenning (1984)
  • Robert Krzewinski and Sally Allen Lund (1984)
  • Kalista Lehrer (1982)
  • Harlan Liljequist (1983)
  • Glenn Oster (1983)
  • James and Mary Richards/Maplelag (1983)
  • Dewey and Kay Wobma (1984)

So, step outside and join us in a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday, to US! The North Country Trail Association!

Group hike with our Western Michigan Volunteers

Some highlights from the North Country Trail history:

1963—the national Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission (ORRC) issues recommendation that a national system of trails be developed.

1968—National Trails System Act passed by Congress.

1971—Feasibility study begins for the establishment of he North Country National Scenic Trail.

1980—North Country NST authorized by Congress

1981—North Country Trail Association established.

Aber---Sign-on-CR81--web1982—First issue of “The North Country Trailblazer” newsletter published and edited by Dr. John Hipps from Pennsylvania.

1989—Wes Boyd’s “Following the NCNST” becomes the first book published about the Trail.

1990—NPS locates administrative offices for the North Country and Ice Age National Scenic Trails, and the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail to Madison WI, and selects Tom Gilbert as superintendent.

1991—Byron and Margaret Hutchins publish their guide to “Certified Sections of the NCNST.”

1992—More than 1000 miles of NCNST now certified.

1995—The NCTA newsletter becomes the “North Star.”

1998—More than 1500 miles now certified.

1999—First hiking maps published by NCTA.

2000—NCNST named as one of only 16 National Millenium Trails by the White House. The only other National Scenic Trail so named is the AT.

2011—NPS Superintendent Tom Gilbert retires.

2012—NPS hires Mark Weaver as superintendent.

2015—NCNST grows to 2880 completed miles. Over $1.5 million in sweat equity spent by 1095 volunteers, almost $5 for every federal dollar supporting NCTA’s base operations.