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SHTA Executive Director to Step Down

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SHTA Executive Director to Step Down

March 17, 2020

Denny Caneff, executive director of the Superior Hiking Trail Association, will step down from his position at the SHTA on August 1. Caneff will be moving back to Madison, Wisconsin, where he lived for more than 30 years prior to joining the SHTA team. 

Denny Caneff, enjoying one of the cutest waterfalls on the SHT at McCarthy Creek.


“We are grateful for Denny’s leadership of the Association and his enthusiasm for the Trail these past three years,” said Amy Schwarz, chair of the SHTA Board of Directors. “His depth of experience, passion for the outdoors, his big picture thinking and ability to build partnerships set the Association in a dynamic new direction.” 


Caneff began at the SHTA in June 2017 and quickly took his outdoors experience and leadership from river health to trail renewal and developed plans and processes and raised funds for this major effort. “We set the Trail and the organization on the path to renewal and resiliency,” said Denny Caneff. “As an organization, we are nimbler and more willing to adjust to challenging times.” 


He leaves the Association in a strong position, overseeing an impressive set of achievements: 

  • Trail renewal: In 2018, Caneff established the Trail Renewal Program, a strategic effort aimed at improving the Trail where it is most needed and planning for future pressures. The program has undertaken careful evaluation of trail conditions and focused on projects that reduce environmental impact and improve trail user safety. 
  • Elevated profile: Caneff strengthened SHTA’s partnerships with federal, state, and local agencies with an emphasis on collaboration, while bolstering the organization’s outreach efforts to engage supporters and trail users at large. New business partnerships, events, and increased online communications have expanded SHTA’s ability to reach new and existing supporters. In 2019, the Superior Hiking Trail was officially designated as a part of the North Country National Scenic Trail’s route in Minnesota. 
  • Fundraising: Caneff greatly expanded SHTA’s fundraising efforts by securing over $750,000 in grant funding, launching the organization’s first-ever capital campaign for the Split Rock River Bridge project, and increasing support from individual contributors to record high levels. 
  • Board development and strategic planning: During his tenure, Caneff helped to update and modernize the SHTA’s by-laws and revamped the Board’s committee structure to streamline work. Since 2019, Caneff has helped with the organization’s process to establish a new strategic plan for 2020-2023.
  • Office organization and best practices: Caneff established two new staff positions — trail operations director and development and communications director — to bolster the organization’s capacity to fulfill its mission on the Trail and behind the scenes. He reorganized the SHTA Office and Trail Information Center to improve efficiency. In addition to improving internal processes and policies, he brought the organization into the modern era with new online volunteer and donor management tools, a digital trail database, and other tools that promote productivity and collaboration. 

Caneff will be with the Association through most of the 2020 hiking and trail building season. “There’s work to do this spring and summer, and I look forward to swamping, hauling, blazing and flagging with our volunteer teams,” said Caneff.

The Superior Hiking Trail Association will begin the search for the organization’s next executive director, and a search committee has been formed.

Questions? Contact development and communications director Jaron Cramer at [email protected], (218) 834-2700 x204