Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA)
Membership — The Ice Age Trail Alliance witnessed an unprecedented number of Trail enthusiasts joining in 2020 with 1,716 new members, while renewal rate remains healthy. The Alliance currently sits at 5,560 members, a 42% increase from January 2020
Social Media — The Ice Age Trail Alliance social media channels have seen impressive growth and increased usage with over 51,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The Ice Age Trail Facebook group had a 75% increase in members during 2020.
Program — In partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, the Ice Age Trail Alliance held the Mammoth Hike Challenge in October 2020. The Mammoth Hike Challenge encouraged the growing number of new Ice Age Trail users, long-time users, and out of state tourists to hike, run, or walk 40 miles as they visited the 13 designated Ice Age Trail Communities spread throughout Wisconsin. This challenge was designed to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ice Age Trail becoming a National Scenic Trail, increase tourism in Ice Age Trail Communities, and extend the fall hiking season. The Challenge had 7,242 registered with over 3,600 participants finish and receive a certificate and commemorative patch.
Acquisition — IATA was able to acquire five separate parcels, and develop trail sections, through three fundraising campaigns. Most funding was private and raised at the local, grass roots level and supplemented by foundations or grants.
Restoration — NPS handled prairie restoration on NPS property at Cross Plains, WI, converting a three-acre agricultural field from last season’s corn, to oats in the spring and finally to planted prairie seed in the winter, hand sown by volunteers.
Covid-19 — In response to the ever-developing Covid 19 pandemic, Ice Age Trail Alliance quickly dedicated its resources to a plan for recovery and re-engagement of volunteers and field work with its “Reconnect!” initiative. The plan was designed to gradually reconnect with volunteers that were beyond anxious to get back on the Trail in response to the incredible increase in trail user-ship, winter and spring maintenance and weather issues. By mid-late summer, staff was able to reengage extremely productive trail improvement projects all within local, state and Federal safety guidelines.
Trail Office — The official location for the Ice Age NST Administrative Offices moved from our Madison, WI location of thirty years to a newly renovated farmstead (circa 1860’s) in Cross Pains, WI adjacent to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Volunteer Safety — NPS adapted their volunteer program at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic to ensure the safety of volunteers working to keep the trail open for public use. They re-worked individual volunteer agreements and JHA documents to incorporate Covid-19 mitigations. They also created a risk assessment tool to assess the Covid-19 threat to volunteers working along different areas of the 1,200-mile trail.
Training — NPS and USFS adapted the Ice Age Trail’s current chainsaw training for trail volunteers to an improved chainsaw training curriculum overall. The on-line, self-study Trail Safe! program that was originated by IATR staff has been approved as a substitute for the NPS Operational Leadership requirement specifically for volunteers working at National Scenic and Historic Trails only. IATR’s change was to ensure conformity with the coming new NPS chainsaw policy in a way where NPS is best able to deliver training to our more than 100 volunteers stationed over 1,200 miles of trail. The first classes began this summer which were warmly received and should improve both skill and safety of sawyers as well as improve safety for crews working in and around saw operations.