Praise Be The Volunteers


Praise Be The Volunteers

April 4, 2019 (Originally published in the 2019 Winter Ridgeline Newsletter)

We all know the quote from Margaret Mead, her paean to people who make things happen:  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In that same vein, there’s a quote much less known (and seemingly not attributable) that I really like and drop into conversations to encourage people to get involved somehow, somewhere. That adage? “The world is run by those who show up.”  

Both observations aptly apply to how the Superior Hiking Trail Association got started and how the SHT itself has been built and maintained for 30+ years.

Since the early days, volunteers of all ages and skill levels have contributed to keeping the SHT a premier footpath.

In 1986, a “small group of thoughtful committed citizens” in the Tofte area did indeed “show up,” and kept showing up, to launch the Superior Hiking Trail Association, with the considerable ambition of creating a hiking trail from the Canadian border to Two Harbors (the original goal). The Trail was built with a large infusion of state funding (the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund) in the Association’s first six years that allowed the Association to hire trail building coordinators and work crews to create the Trail.

Unskilled and highly skilled, small and large in stature, suburbanite and North Shore denizen, Republican, libertarian and socialist, teenage, middle age and octogenarian – volunteers in their many guises are not just who made the Superior Hiking Trail, they ARE the Superior Hiking Trail Association.


Volunteers and the Trail Renewal Program

If you’ve been following these pages and other SHTA communiques, you’ll see we refer to the “Trail Renewal Program,” our concerted effort to improve, renew and rebuild the SHT. By making the SHT more resilient, we will make use of  the Trail less damaging to the land and water over which the Trail passes. Some of this is simple – directing water off the tread of the Trail. Some of it will be more complicated: rerouting itl because the current route is beyond repair or was put in the wrong place to begin with.

Critical to this renewed and more-resilient SHT will be the volunteers who will carry out the hundreds of projects over the coming years. While bigger renewal projects will be led by our Volunteer Crew Leaders, SHTA staff and contractors, we’ll need the heft, brain power and good humor of volunteers to fulfill our ambitious plans.

We can count on our volunteers to nail it every time. Photo from the 2018 Crow Creek bridge project by Josh Houdek.

Here’s what we pledge to make happen for, with and by volunteers, all for the sake of a more resilient Superior Hiking Trail, in the years to come:

  • Volunteers will have adequate safety equipment and thoughtful training for using tools and doing work on the ground.
  • We will have the right tools for the right jobs.
  • Projects will be carefully planned and scheduled, including considering how many volunteers we need and with what skills and capacities.
  • Create more opportunity for small groups of volunteers to take on finite, discrete tasks. This year, for example, we are creating “cadres” of volunteers for renewing our trailhead signs and for improving our campsite “furniture.”
  • All SHT renewal projects will be driven by managing water on and around the Trail that so we don’t damage land and water resources.
  • Volunteering for the SHTA won’t only be defined by trail work. For instance, we’ve hugely benefited from the gifts of three media professionals in recent months who have donated their graphic design and video production assistance. We’d love to see more of those “no need to get dirty” services from volunteers.

Sue and Liz share the joy of a day spent working on the Red River Bridge in 2017.

Nothing has been more gratifying for me in my SHTA work than swinging a hammer, slogging through the brush, or working through video edits with SHTA volunteers. You, the volunteers, are fun, hard-working, passionate about the Trail, and committed to the improvement of the Trail and of the Association.

I love you and thank you for that.

by Denny Caneff

This article was originally published in the 2019 Winter Ridgeline newsletter. Join SHTA to support the Trail and receive your copy of the Ridgeline.

A glimpse at 2019 volunteer opportunities from the Winter Ridgeline newsletter.