North Country Trail Association

Volunteer Awards

The NCTA honors volunteers for their service on and for the North Country Trail.

The awards ceremony is held each year during the annual NCTA Celebration. Those who receive these awards have given exceptional service, often many years’ worth, to the North Country Trail and the North Country Trail Association. There are diverse award categories to represent the myriad of efforts put forth for the Trail.

Nominations for 2024 awards will open in the early spring of 2024.

Award Categories

2023 Awards Presentation (PDF)

View All Past Recipients

Thomas L. Gilbert Lifetime Achievement
An individual, in recognition of 15+ years of true dedication, exceptional service and outstanding contributions toward the dream of the North Country Trail, or the success and growth of the NCTA. Service may be performed in a voluntary or paid capacity.
Distinguished Service
An individual, in recognition of exceptional volunteer service in furthering the goals of the NCTA, and outstanding contributions toward the dream of the North Country Trail. Individual should have made a significant commitment and accomplishments over eight years or more. Not more than one of these awards may be granted each year to an individual who is not a member of the NCTA or an Affiliate.
A volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional leadership over a three-year period or more leading to significant local achievements or highly successful events.
Rising Star
An NCTA member between the ages of 8 and 25 who has made significant contributions to the Trail and seems likely to continue, and whose dedication to the Trail and the NCTA sets an example to other youths and shows exceptional promise.
Blue Blazes Benefactor
An individual or household demonstrating vision and generosity through significant monetary or in-kind contribution(s) to the North Country Trail or the NCTA.
Outstanding Private Landowner
A private landowner whose leadership, accommodation and active collaboration have substantially benefited the North Country Trail.
A legislator or other public official whose leadership, actions and advocacy have substantially benefited the North Country Trail over a Chapter/Affiliate/Partner’s area or larger, not just a short segment.
Friend of the Trail
An employee of a unit of governance or organization whose leadership, accommodations and active collaboration have substantially benefited the North Country Trail or the NCTA, not working solely in the capacity of an NCTA member.
Trail Protector
A volunteer working to protect the Trail by gaining permission to build Trail, and additionally, gaining easements to protect our Trail, over a three-year period or more.
A business or foundation for far-sighted vision and support, demonstrated by significant contributions to the Trail or the NCTA.
A volunteer, for exemplary work in promoting the Trail or the NCTA through a communications medium (newsletter, web site, brochure, etc.) or personal contacts over a three-year period or more.
A volunteer whose efforts to build coalitions, partnerships or other forms of local support have contributed significantly to the ongoing success of the Trail.
Boots on the Trail
A volunteer who regularly leads hikes that are well advertised and promoted to the public (non-NCTA members) as a way of building NCTA membership and support for the Trail. A nominee would typically lead more than one hike per year, and make them interesting by sharing their knowledge with groups or being helpful to new hikers, or organize and lead a whole series of hikes like cross-county or even cross-state events, over a three-year period or more.
A volunteer, for tireless work and achievements behind the scenes on behalf of the Trail or the NCTA over a three-year period or more.
Trail Builder
A volunteer whose work in trail planning, landowner negotiations, layout and design, and/or construction, have resulted in the development of outstanding new Trail or facilities over a three-year period or more.
Trail Maintainer
A volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional dedication or achievements over a three-year period or more in maintaining or restoring preexisting Trail segment(s).

Download a PDF of the NCTA Volunteer Award categories

NCTA Honor Awards

NCTA Chapter, Affiliate, and Partner leaders can also select local volunteers to receive an Honor Award. This award is different in that there is no nomination: The award is guaranteed. If a Chapter or Affiliate manages more than 200 miles, they shall be entitled to one Honor Award recipient for every 100 miles the Chapter/Affiliate maintains. The criteria is as follows: “Chapter or Affiliate volunteers who demonstrate loyalty, commitment, and hard work annually to the local organization’s chosen activities.”

As local leaders, it is your choice to select one name (or if a married couple, two names) for this award and submit it to the NCTA no later than October 16, 2023. The NCTA Annual Events Coordinator, will order a physical award that you can present to your honoree at a local event after mid-December. Please nominate only one individual or couple per Chapter/Affiliate/Partner. One extra will be allowed if your Chapter or organization didn’t submit any names in 2022.

Please note a few changes for the 2023 Honor Awards: Any Chapter, Affiliate, or Partner who manages more than 200 miles of NCNST is entitled to one (1) honor awardee per 100 miles they maintain. For example, the Superior Hiking Trail Association (Minn.) can now select up to three (3) Honor Award recipients; the Buckeye Trail Association (Ohio) can now select up to eight (8); and the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (New York) can select up to three (3).

2023 Honor Award submissions are being accepted through October 16. Send your submissions to The list of 2023 award recipients will be featured in an upcoming issue of the North Star magazine, and announced at the 2024 Celebration during the NCTA Annual Awards presentation.

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National Park Service Awards

In 1970, Congress passed the Volunteers-In-Parks Act to allow national parks to use “volunteers for or in aid of interpretive functions, or visitor services or activities.” Since then, volunteers have supported National Park units in many aspects, such as natural and cultural resources, interpretation and maintenance. In turn, volunteers have been able to give back to communities in some of the most visually captivating, historically rich, and ecologically vital locations our nation has to offer. Volunteers with the North Country National Scenic Trail are included as part of that National Park legacy. Thanks to all the North Country Trail volunteers for your hard work and dedication throughout the years!

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