Leading with Love on the North Country Trail

Green, orange, red, and yellow trees in the hills of North Country National Scenic Trail
— North Country Trail Association

The spectacular North Country National Scenic Trail (NCT) stretches 4,600 miles over seven states from the middle of North Dakota to the Vermont border of New York. Longer than the famed Appalachian, Pacific Crest, or Continental Divide trails, NCT travels through grassland, forests, cities, and farmland. It traverses more than 150 federal, state, and local public lands and across the rugged six million-acre Adirondack Park, the largest protected natural area in the contiguous United States.

NCT offers incredible scenery, topography, and wildlife, and its visitors use the trail in countless ways from long backpacking trips to Sunday afternoon picnics to birdwatching and marathon training. With all of this activity, managing this massive trail across many jurisdictions can be incredibly complicated and expensive. Fortunately, the North Country Trail Association (NCTA), NCT’s official philanthropic partner, recruits, organizes, trains, and manages volunteers to take on some of this important work. NCTA volunteers carry out maintenance work on behalf of the National Park Service (NPS), and this work has been wildly successful.

NCTA is constantly seeking ways to raise additional funding, maintain the trail, and improve the visitor experience. As such, NCTA joined the National Park Foundation’s pilot for Love Your Park, a network that will help park partners mobilize volunteers and service corps and increase financial contributions for sites across the National Park System.

A line of guys with chainsaws, axes, and other trail work gear walking through shrubbery and trees on North Country National Scenic Trail

Through Love Your Park, NCTA received funding to strengthen its training programs and has trained over 50 new crew leaders in Minnesota and Michigan and brought in a range of volunteers from college students to retirees. Additionally, NCTA is revamping a chainsaw training program and teaching the veteran volunteer group, Team Rubicon, chainsaw skills so they can respond to trail emergencies after tornadoes, floods, and other disasters. NCTA is also updating the NPS trail maintenance handbook to include the latest and best practices.

NCTA’s leaders are seeking ways to further expand their trainings, increase the quality and consistency of their trail work, and engage volunteers of diverse backgrounds to become life-long stewards of the trail.

As part of Love Your Park, the National Park Foundation paired NCTA with volunteer technical assistance providers from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, a sophisticated trails organization with a long history of successful volunteer programing. The Love Your Park network connects park partners to a cohort of organizations that can share best practices and lessons learned.

We hope you will engage with us in the Love Your Park network and reach out with any questions or suggestions.

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