Past Award Winners

Each year, the NCTA honors volunteers from across the Trail for their hard work on the North Country National Scenic Trail. The awards ceremony is held each year during the annual NCTA Celebration. These individuals have given exceptional service, many of them for years, to the North Country National Scenic Trail and the North Country Trail Association.

VANGUARD AWARD

Theme: Legislator or public servant

Criteria: 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.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2000 – Senator Herb Kohl, Representative David Obey

2001 – Senator Carl Levin, Representative Ralph Regula

2002 – Representative Vern Ehlers

2003 – Steve Peterson

2004- Representative Phil English

2005 – Gaylord Nelson

2006 – Robert Hoffman, Ray Vlasak

2007 – MN DNR, Representative Oberstar

2008 – no nominations received

2009 – Senator Amy Kobuchar, Hank Ludtke

2010 – Steve Bade, Tom Schackman & Mitch Bouchonville

2011 – no nominations received

2012 – Representative Tom Petri, Gretchen Cicora

2013 – none

2014 – Representative Richard M Nolan, Carolyn Upton & Ray Burpo

2015 – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Dan Watson

2016 – Matthew Gardner

2017 – Senator Debbie Stabenow

FRIEND OF THE TRAIL AWARD

Theme: Employee of a partner agency or organization

Criteria: An employee of a unit of governance, organization or school or the unit of governance, organization or school 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.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2004 – Ramona Venegas, Scott Tichy

2005 – Dorian Grilley, Mark Carlstrom

2006 – Wally Chappel, Ron Kantola

2007 – Kent Goeckermann, Harvey Tjader

2008 – Peter Frank, Jim Sessions – US Forest Service in Allegheny National Forest

2009 – Kevin Stankiewicz, John Kwapinski

2010 – Barbara Boyle, Karen Larsen

2011 – Bob Christensen, Scott Peterson

2012 – Melanie Fullman, Andru Jevicks

2013 – Butler County Tourism Convention Bureau, Dan Bickel

2014 – Grand Marais, MI Chamber of Commerce, Cindy Schwehr

2015 – Dave Jaunese, Neil Woodworth

2016 – Matt Rowbotham, Gary Werner

2017 – Craig Krepps, Mary Lee Nielson, Greg Owens

TOM GILBERT LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Theme: Significant commitment and accomplishments over fifteen or more years

Criteria: An individual, in recognition of fifteen (15 ) years or more of true dedication, exceptional service and outstanding contributions towards the dream of the North Country Trail or the success and growth of the NCTA, not just local service. Service may be performed in a voluntary or paid capacity.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

1997 – Tom Gilbert

1998 – Derek Blount

1999 – Emily Gregor

2000 – Wes Boyd

2001 – Howard Beye

2002 – Rod MacRae

2003 – Jim Sprague

2004 – Gene Elzinga

2005 – Gaylord Yost

2006 – Dave Cornell

2007 – John Leinen

2008 – Bill Menke

2009 – Al Larmann

2010 – Ed Sidote

2011 – Arlen Matson

2012 – Irene Szabo

2013  – Mary Coffin, Joan Young

2014 – Harlan Liljequist

2015 – Doug Welker

2016  – Ray Vlasak

2017 – Bobby Koepplin, Larry Hawkins, Jerry Trout

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Theme: Significant commitment and accomplishments over eight or more years

Criteria: 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 (8) or more years. 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.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

1988 – Wallace Doan

1989 – Barbara A. Smith, John G. Hipps

1990 – Ken Gackler, Ginny Wunsch

1991 – Derek Blount, Tom Reimers

1992 – Art Holland, Vince Smith

1993 – Linda Mieke

1994 – Rod MacRae, Gene Elzinga

1995 – Baird Stewart

1996 – Merrill C. Gilfillan, Wes Boyd

1997 – Arden Johnson, Jim Sprague, Gaylord Yost

1998 – Howard Beye, Pat Allen

1999 – Bob Tait, Dave Cornell

2000 – Martha Jones, Doug Welker

2001 – John Leinen, Joan Young

200 – Werner Veit

2003 – Al Larmann, Mary Kunzler Larmann

2004- Irene Szabo, Bill Menke, Arlen Matson

2005 -Bill Coffin, Jim Burow, Pat Leinen

2006- Garry Dill, Dick Lightcap, Ron Rice

2007 – Alicia Hoffarth, Bob Norlin

2008 – Bobby Koepplin, Rick Adamson, Herb and Suzie Hulls

2009 – Tim Calloway,  Tana Turonie, Mary Coffin

2010 – Kathy Eisele, Stan Kujawa, Lynne Nason

2011 – Pat & Mary Hayes, Ed Solstad, Marty Swank

2012 – Mick Hawkins, Lorana Jinkerson, Ron Sootsman

2013 – Mike Stafford, Joe Smith, Dick Naperala

2014 – Joyce Appel, Peter Nordgren, Larry Hawkins

2015 – Ed Chappel, Deb Koepplin, Lynda Rummel

2016 – Jerry Allen, Tom Moberg, Chuck Zosel (deceased)

2017 – Becky Heise, Chuck Vannette, Dave Brewer

TRAILBLAZER AWARD

Theme: Corporation or Foundation contributor

Criteria: A business or foundation for far-sighted vision and support, demonstrated by significant contribution(s) to the NCT or the NCTA.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2000 – R.E.I.

2001 – Haworth, Inc.

2002 –  No nominees received

2003 – No nominees received

2004 -No nominees received

2005 – Lowell Area Community Foundation

2006 – Cemex, Inc

2007 – Superior Publishing Corporation

2008 – Scheel Sports

2009 – Chuck McCready

2010 – Itasca County Trails Task Force & Blandin Foundation

2011 – Midwest Mountaineering

2012 – W.K. Kellogg Biological Station & W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest

2013 – Colcom Foundation

2014 – Plum Creek Timber Co.

2015  – Consumers Energy

2016 – Doosan Bobcat

2017 – John Woollam Foundation

TRAIL BUILDER OF THE YEAR

Theme:  Trail or facilities construction

Criteria:  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 (3) or more year period.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001- Al Larmann and Mary Kunzler-Larmann (as a team)

2002 – Ron Rice

2003 – Paul Haan

2004 – Richard Naperala

2005 – Carter Hedeen

2006  – Rick Adamson

2007 – Lynda Rummel

2008 – Scott Bowman

2009 – Charlie Krammin

2010 – Daryl Heise

2011 – Chris Hoffarth, Bruce Johnson, Keith Klos

2012 – Dave Brewer, Dick Kroener, Ed Morse

2013 – Tom Moberg, Joe Hardisky

2014 – Bobby Koepplin, Dennis Garrett, Ron Navik

2015 – Marty Howden, Larry Meyer, Ron Sootsman

2016 – Matt Branneman, Jeff Fleming, Gary Narum

2017 – Tony Orsini, Bob McNamara, Jim Charvat

TRAIL MAINTAINER OF THE YEAR

Theme: Trail or facilities maintenance

Criteria: A volunteer, who has demonstrated exceptional dedication or achievements over a three (3) or more year period in maintaining or restoring pre-existing Trail segment(s).

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001- Rolf Swanson

2002 – Al Mitton

2003 – Tom Learmont

2004 – Eric Doyle

2005 – Richard Krieger

2006 – Keith Klos

2007 – Mikie Kuhman

2008 – Jerry Werner

2009 – Ed Chappel

2010 – Cliff Stammer

2011 – Clyde Anderson, Steve Kinne, John Pearson

2012 – Katie Jo Blau, Ed Bowen, Lynda Rummel

2013 – Dave Galbreath, Tony Rodriguez, Ronald Lyndquist, Ed Scurry

2014 – Rich & Judy Ferguson, Phil Anderson, Warren Irle

2015 – Jim Belote, Connie Julien, Dave Potzler

2016 – Dave Adams, Dick Kroener, Jerry McCarty

2017 – Chris Hoffarth, Reginald & Lucia Krueger, Phil Nimps

LEADERSHIP AWARD

Theme:  Leadership

Criteria: A volunteer, who has demonstrated exceptional leadership over a three (3) or more year  period leading to significant local achievements or highly successful events.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001 – Peter Nordgren

2002 – No nominees received

2003 – Gail Blakeley

2004 – Jerry Trout

2005 – Peggy Jones

2006 – Greg Wisniewski

2007 – John Heiam

2008 – Marty Swank

2009 – Ray Vlasak

2010 – Annette Brzezicki

2011- Lee Fairbanks

2012 – Joyce Appel

2013 – Tim Hass

2014 – Charlene DeWitt

2015 – Florence Hedeen

2016 – Duane Lawton

2017 – Dennis Garrett, Mike Stafford, Sara Cockrell

OUTREACH AWARD

Theme:  Building support and partnerships

Criteria:  A volunteer, whose efforts to build coalitions, partnerships or other forms of local support have contributed significantly to the ongoing success of the North Country Trail.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001 – Paula Wilbur

2002 – Richard Lutz

2003 – Dave Cornell

2004 – Al Larmann

2005 – Andrew Skurka

2006 – Bob McCafferty

2007 – Kay Kujawa

2008 – Pat Monahan

2009 – Tom Garnett

2010 – Brian Pavek

2011 – John Stehle

2012 – Larry Pio

2013 – Todd McMahon

2014 – Phil Nimps

2015 – Mary Rebert

2016 – Bruce Johnson

2017 – Jane Norton, Jerry Warner, John & Dove Day

COMMUNICATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Theme:  Communications or Promotion

Criteria: 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 (3) or more year period.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001 – Werner Veit

2002 – Angela Addington

2003 – No nominees received

2004 – Aaron and Sharon Phipps

2005 – Ginny Ruppe

2006 – Joan Young

2007 – Mick Hawkins

2008 – Jo Taylor

2009 – Lorana Jinkerson

2010 – Irene Szabo

2011 – Eileen Fairbrother

2012 – Mary Rebert

2013 – Becky Heise

2014 – Susan C Hauser & Linda Johnson

2015 – Roger Hopkins

2016 – Beth Keloneva

2017 – Marty Swank, Kevin Smith, Marilyn Hoogstraten

RISING STAR AWARD

Theme: Youth

Criteria:  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.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001 – Ben Mourer

2002 – No nominees received

2003- Gillian Kreft

2004- No nominees received

2005 – Stratton Lucas

2006 – None

2007 –  None

2008 – Lukas Seltzer

2009 – Joseph Bruenjes

2010 – Jessie Rideaux-Crenshaw

2011 – Adam Larson

2012 – Students of Thornapple Kellogg and Maple Valley Schools

2013 – none

2014 – Luke “Strider” Jordan

2015 – Tim, Dan & Ryan Potzler

2016 – Stephanie Hoffarth

2017 – Jessica Bale

SWEEP AWARD

Theme: Working behind the scenes

Criteria: A volunteer, for tireless work and achievements behind the scenes on behalf of the Trail or the NCTA over a three (3) or more year period.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2001 – Brooks Kindel

2002 – Len and JoAnne Baron

2003 – Harlan Liljequist

2004 – Atley Oswald

2005 – Char Chandler

2006 – Peter Edmunds

2007 – Deb Kreiger

2008 – Ed Ronkowski, Becky Heise, Peter Wybron

2009 – Stacy Scheel, Harvey Johnson, Florence Hedeen

2010 – Barb Pavek, Mike Trieschmann

2011 – Marge Forslin, Karen Klos, Don Penly

2012 – Laura DeGolier, Mahlon Hurst, Charles Krammin

2013 – Larry Blumberg, Diane Winston, Paul Henry

2014 – Ken Rugaber, Paul Johnson, Jarret Lobb (deceased)

2015 – Robert Leedle, John Pearson, Jacqui Wensich

2016 – Steve Catherman, Mary Moberg, Gary Johnson

2017 – JoAnn Pearson, Karen Stenberg, Steve Webster

BLUE BLAZES BENEFACTOR AWARD

Theme: Individual or household benefactor

Nominees sought from: Development Committee, NCTA staff

Criteria: An individual or household demonstrating vision and generosity through significant monetary or in-kind contribution(s) to the NCT or the NCTA.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2004 – Werner and Marianne Veit

2005 – Byron and Margaret Hutchins

2006 – None

2007 – Walter Srogi

2008 – Harmon Strong

2009 – Peggy McRae

2010 – Jim Weiske

2011 – Garry Dill

2012 – Jack Cohen

2013 – Dave & Jan Cornell

2014 – William Lynch, Barbara Manger Lynch & Lux Foundation

2015 – Susan Yee

2016 – Bethany Thomas

2017 – Ron Horn, Lorana Jinkerson

OUTSTANDING PRIVATE LANDOWNER AWARD

Theme: Outstanding landowner

Criteria: A private landowner whose leadership, accommodation and active collaboration have substantially benefited the North Country Trail.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2011 – Randy Lehman

2012 – Dennis Garrett

2013 – Scott Holman

2014 – Tom Lakenen, Doug & Pam Boor

2015 – Scott Bowen

2016-  Stone Quarry Hill Art Park

2017 – Joe Dabes

BOOTS ON THE TRAIL 

Theme: Hike Leader

Criteria: 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 3 or more year period.

Past Recipients:

Open Me

2017 – Jennifer Catney, Marge Forslin, Chuck Hayden

CHAPTER/AFFILIATE/PARTNER HONOR AWARD

Theme: Outstanding Chapter/Affiliate/Partner Volunteer

Number presented: 1 per Chapter/Affiliate /Partner

Nominees sought from: Chapter leaders, NCTA members

Criteria: An individual or household who demonstrates loyalty, commitment and hard work annually to the local organization’s chosen activities

Presentation: Announced and presented at Chapter/Affiliate/Partner level event

Note:  Not selected until after the Annual Conference

See all previous Chapter/Affiliate/Partner Honor Award Winners here.