Wednesday, October 8, 2008

North Country Trail Annual Triad Kicks off in Lowell

Lowell mayor,Jim Hodges,
welcomes Triad participants

by Joan H. Young

Each October, the three major entities involved in the North Country National Scenic Trail meet to discuss progress, and develop ways to work together to advance the trail toward completion. The triad members include two federal agencies and the non-profit North Country Trail Association. The National Park Service is the agency assigned to manage the trail, and the National Forest Service is the landowner for the more miles of the trail than any other single body.

Approximately 40 people are in attendance this year, including staff of the three organizations, and volunteers with an interest in the trail. Each of the seven states through which the trail passes are represented, and six of the nine National Forests sent delegates.

The day began inside, which was a happy choice since it was pouring outside the walls of the Boy Scout house in Lowell. Even enthusiastic campers would not be overjoyed at sitting in a meeting in the rain. After greetings from the City of Lowell, and the Lowell Foundation the NCTA, NPS, and NFS gave updates on current projects, happenings, and plans concerning the trail from their own perspective.

Bruce Matthews, Executive Director of the NCTA notes the possibility of adding three chapters along the length of the trail, in Ohio, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and New York. Two new affiliate organizations are both from Ohio, the Maumee Valley Heritage Coalition, and the Miami-Erie Canal Corridor Association. He also noted increasing membership.

Tom Gilbert for the Park Service reported a positive reaction to the concept of extending the trail eastward to connect in Vermont to the Appalachian Trail. He also shared an interest in making connections westward as part of the Sea to Sea route.

For the National Forests, John Romanowski was happy to share that the Ottawa National Forest has acquired the Sturgeon River Gorge in the Upper Peninsula from a Wisconsin power company. This beautifully scenic valley is the location of several miles of North Country Trail. John also explained some of the challenges being faced by declining funding for the Forests.

Bruce Matthews organizes hikers
in Lowell State Game Area
After lunch, the rain ended, and participants boarded a chartered bus and were taken to Lowell State Game Area for a short hike on the North Country Trail. Returning to the bus we toured a former rail corridor that may be able to be purchased, south of Lowell, to take hikers under interstate route 96.

The bus then returned the out-of town guests to “The Shack” in Jugville for dinner in the rustic and beautiful lodge.

Both long-time volunteers and several new discoverers of the North Country Trail are in attendance. One of the greatest advantages to the Triad is the ability for members of each group to become acquainted with those from the other groups. Lively conversations about favorite trail locations, recent construction projects, policies, definitions, old issues, and wild ideas could be heard over plates of chicken, potatoes, vegetables and watermelon.

For one more day, the sharing of information about this great National Scenic Trail will continue at Triad 2008.

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