2019 Trail Conference Awards: Celebrating Our Volunteers and Partners

March 16, 2019
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


2019 Trail Conference Awards: Celebrating Our Volunteers and Partners
2019 Trail Conference Volunteer Awards. Photo by Heather Darley.


Volunteers are our superheroes. Every day, we celebrate their passion, dedication, and leadership that make the trails we all love possible.

Trail Conference volunteers make incredible commitments to the trails and lands they love. Our success as an organization comes from the hard work, dedication, and support of the many volunteers who selflessly share their time. On March 16 at Ramapo College of New Jersey we held our annual Volunteer Appreciation event, where we recognized a number of outstanding individuals and organizations that exemplify the Trail Conference mission.

This year we introduced a new awards structure and updated categories that reflect our organization’s values and programs. We also honored those volunteers who responded quickly and courageously after last spring’s storms to ensure trails could once again be passable and safe. Congratulations to all honorees—and thank you!


The Major William A. Welch Award for Outstanding Partner

Honors partners who have been strong advocates for and provided significant assistance to Trail Conference volunteers.

Terrence Nolan
Terrence Nolan, senior vice president for conservation transactions at the Open Space Institute, has been a valued partner for much of the land preservation initiatives for long-distance trails at the Trail Conference. He brings key people and partnerships together to achieve successes such as greenways and new parks created for the Long Path and Shawangunk Ridge Trail.


Dedicated Service Award

Honors long-time, dedicated volunteers who have demonstrated exemplary service to the trails and natural areas that surround them.

Jill Arbuckle
Maintainer: New Jersey Appalachian Trail
Jill has dedicated herself to the Appalachian Trail since 1991. Over the decades she’s held a variety of positions with the Trail Conference including trail maintainer, trail vice chair, Board secretary, and club trail chair.   

Paul Kienker  
Maintainer: West Hudson—Long Path South
Each year Paul spends an inordinate number of hours keeping his section of the Long Path at Sam's Point in Minnewaska State Park Preserve in pristine condition. This is no easy feat; but since 2011 he’s been successfully battling the mile-long blueberry field that tries to take over the trail. 

Richard Lynch  
Crew Member: West Hudson
Richard has been a member of the West Hudson South Trail Crew for over 15 years and has become a reliable and key member of the group. His consistent efforts have enabled him to learn the ins and outs of trail work, whether as one of the crew or giving instruction to a group. Richard always shows up with a smile and is great at making a new person feel welcome.

RPH Cabin Volunteers, represented by Tim Messerich  
Maintainers: East Hudson Appalachian Trail
The RPH Cabin Volunteers have been a force of nature since 2007. In addition to all the trail projects they tackle, each year they organize a Work Weekend focused on improving the Appalachian Trail RPH Shelter in Dutchess County—an event that attracts upwards of 100 volunteers annually. There are many dedicated club members who volunteer throughout the year. The driving force behind their many accomplishments is Tim Messerich, who is the past president and current crew leader.

Jerry Ruocco 
Corridor Monitor: West Hudson Appalachian Trail
Jerry recently retired from his 7-year tenure as an Appalachian Trail corridor monitor. Throughout those years, Jerry was uncompromising in ensuring the protection of his boundary on Bellvale Mountain, which traverses steep cliffs and difficult terrain.

Elaine Silverstein & Bruce Thaler 
Elaine: Invasive Plant Surveyor; Appalachian Trail Natural Heritage Monitor; Crew Member
Bruce: Invasive Plant Surveyor; Appalachian Trail Natural Heritage Monitor; Maintainer: New Jersey—Ramapo Mountain State Forest

For nearly a decade, Elaine and Bruce have dedicated themselves to natural lands. They have been Invasives Strike Force surveyors since 2011 and A.T. rare and endangered plant monitors since 2013. Additionally, Elaine has been a key member and leader of the Habitat Helpers Crew; the knowledge and kindness that she passes onto fellow volunteers strengthens the crew. Bruce is also a dedicated trail maintainer in Ramapo Mountain State Forest.

Fred Smith  
Maintainer: New Jersey—Palisades Interstate Park
Fred has been a steady, dependable, and conscientious trail maintainer who's maintained the Englewood Cliffs section of Shore Trail since 2000. He's also reliably assisted his trail supervisor in clearing blowdowns and making trail tread repairs.

Robert (Bob) Ward   
Supervisor: East Hudson—Rockaways
Since 1950 Bob has served the Trail Conference in a variety of roles, including: delegate, club liaison, life member, trail supervisor, and trail chair. In particular, Bob has served as the Queens Trails Council Chair for many years. Through that position he has played a key role in connecting urban dwellers with walking, trails, and the outdoors.

Roy Williams  
Maintainer: New Jersey—High Point State Park
Roy has been a trail maintainer at High Point State Park for 18 years and looks after five trails. He is the “go-to guy” in High Point who is always lending a hand and steps up to help. For instance, without being asked, Roy added 120 blazes to a 4.2-mile-long trail when he discovered a fellow maintainer was unable to mark the path.


The Next Generation Award

Honors volunteers under 25 years of age who have enthusiastically and passionately made contributions serving the Trail Conference's mission.

Forrest Becker
Crew Volunteer: New Jersey—Ramapo Valley County Reservation 
Forrest was among the 2018 Ramapo Crew’s most consistent—not to mention youngest—volunteers. During his high school summer break he prioritized volunteering with the crew to build a new trail. Even after he returned to school, he often came out to work on his weekends. Forrest is an enthusiastic, engaged, and hard-working volunteer who also knows the value of a safe work environment.

Lucas Petruzzo and Nikhil Singh
Crew Member: East Hudson—Yorktown 
Lucas Petruzzo and Nikhil Singh spent a portion of their summer off from high school helping to build a boardwalk that’s part of the Mohansic Trailway project. They were a fantastic team whose skill and confidence grew exponentially over the months—from waiting to be given instruction to becoming proactive and knowing how/where to pitch in.


Hit the Ground Running Award

Honors volunteers who have “hit the ground running” and made a strong impact within their first two years of service.

Mike Bousquet and Tara Spear
Mike: West Hudson Appalachian Trail Corridor Manager, Supervisor, and Maintainer
Tara: West Hudson Appalachian Trail Corridor Manager and Maintainer

Tara and Mike first attended an Introduction to Trail Maintenance workshop, and their involvement with the Trail Conference exploded shortly afterwards. They are avid hikers (and an A.T. thru-hiker, in Tara's case) who care deeply about trails and stewardship. In addition to taking on several formal volunteer roles, they're always ready to jump in and help when a need presents itself.

Jenny Carel  
Invasives Strike Force Surveyor and Crew Member; Data Volunteer
Jenny wowed us in her first year as a Trail Conference volunteer. In just one season she took two invasive species surveying workshops; completed Invasives Strike Force trail surveys for Granite Hills and Rockefeller State Park; helped remove invasives on three work days; and organized and input data at the office to provide statistics for critical reporting deadlines.

Laurie and Frank Galdun  
Supervisors and Maintainers: New Jersey—Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area
Laurie and Frank became supervisors at Pyramid Mountain in the beginning of 2018 and made an immediate impression as grateful, experienced, and committed fellow maintainers. Early on they clearly communicated their love for the park, as well as a sense of community—particularly that we are all taking care of this mountain together.

CommSAR, represented by Stephen (Yaakov) Geis
CommSAR: Maintaining Club – West Hudson—Bear Mountain State Park
Stephen: Supervisor and Maintainer for COMMSAR: West Hudson—Bear Mountain State Park

CommSAR is a true friend to the trails. They perform education, training, search and rescue services, and maintain 8 miles of trails. They have completely rehabilitated their miles of trail and redirected major blowdowns. As the trails supervisor for the club, Yaakov is dedicated, tireless, and effective. He can frequently be found caring for the trails three or more days a week; has recruited maintainers; gone out of his way to remove litter; and surveyed new county trails for maintenance.

Philip Heidelberger
Maintainer: East Hudson—Fahnestock State Park; Policy Committee Member; Action Team Member
Phil first became a trail maintainer in 2017 and was soon co-teaching Trail Maintenance 101 workshops. He joined the Policy Council, where he led an extensive revision of the Trail Maintenance Manual, and has become an active member of a task force to design the hour and accomplishment reporting for nynjtc.org.

Sam Lee
Trail Volunteer: East Hudson—Highlands Trail East
It is Sam's initiative that is driving the entire East Fahnestock Mountain Bike Trail Network project. After becoming oriented to trail building and rehabilitation strategies, Sam scouted the extensive wood road network, identified desirable routes, and led very productive work trips. Sam is a motivated achiever working hard and getting results.

Jim LeMaire  
Supervisor and Maintainer: New Jersey—Southern Wyanokies; Policy Committee Member
Jim started off as a trail maintainer. When the opportunity to become a trail supervisor presented itself, he enthusiastically took on the new role. He has made a significant effort to improve the trails in Norvin Green State Forest by working closely with maintainers, training new volunteers, and identifying blowdowns in a timely manner. In addition, he joined the Policy Council where he’s been working on several important organization-wide projects.

Chuck Mattes  
Maintainer: West Hudson—Sterling Forest
Chuck is a self-starter with bottomless energy, a terrific work ethic, and pride in keeping "his trail"—the McKeags Meadow Loop—in first-rate condition. In 2018, Chuck accelerated his efforts, tripling his trail assignment mileage and putting in more hours (115.5) than any other Sterling Forest individual maintainer. His is a cheery personality who is always asking how he can help and what more he can do.

Kaitlin and Patrick Messmer  
Kaitlin: Supervisor: New Jersey—Pequannock Watershed
Pat: Supervisor and Maintainer: New Jersey—Pequannock Watershed
As trail supervisors of the Pequannock Watershed, Kait and Pat have fostered a fun and positive experience for their maintainers (such as hosting coffee and doughnut work trips) while simultaneously ensuring their trails stay safe and enjoyable for all by regularly scouting and resolving trail issues.

David Miller  
Maintainer: West Hudson—Southern Shawangunks
David is a great example of how working on a trail is one way that people can find their passion in nature and make a contribution to the community. David dived into his new trail maintainer position in the southern Gunks, logging 112 hours over 17 trips. Not only has he taken one of the more difficult sections of trail on the Long Path (abundant fire-damaged trees letting in lots of light), but he's transformed it into a picture perfect example of the Trail Conference standard.

Andre Nizzari  
Maintainer: West Hudson and Catskills; Corridor Monitor—East Hudson Appalachian Trail; Trail Steward
Andre joined the Trail Conference as a member in January of 2018. Since then, he’s become an Appalachian Trail corridor monitor, a trail maintainer for five different trails in three parks throughout the region, and one of our first volunteer Trail Stewards at Breakneck Ridge. Andre’s passion for the outdoors and excitement for the organization is contagious, which makes him a perfect role model for getting outside and giving back.

Adrienne Popko  
Lower Hudson PRISM Volunteer
Adrienne has consistently been the top Invasives Strike Force Blockbuster volunteer in the number of surveys she has completed. In three seasons, she has done 67 surveys over 111 hours, almost single-handedly filling in large swaths of data gaps in Dutchess County.

Cindy Wagner  
Maintainer: West Hudson—Southern Shawangunks
Cindy maintains one of the most challenging pieces of the Long Path in the Southern Gunks and does the job with an infectious positivity. Whether it's whacking scrub oak on scorching hot days, coming out in the winter to assist a chain sawyer, or completing the challenging Shawangunk Trail Run half marathon, she doesn't quit.

Valerie Wargo  
Trail Volunteer: West Hudson Appalachian Trail; New Jersey
Valerie is a 2017 Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who moved to the area after completing the Trail in order to give back to the A.T. as much as possible. She provided trail magic at trail heads, hosted 30 hikers last year alone, helped build steps on Bear Mountain on numerous occasions, assisted with boundary work on multiple days, and helped get trails in Wawayanda State Park passable on long, hot summer work trips. She loves the trail, loves the woods, and is completely devoted to volunteer work. 


Rising Leader Award

Honors volunteers who have taken on additional responsibilities with great enthusiasm over the last two years and demonstrate leadership qualities. It is given to those who selflessly keep dedicating more time and effort and show no signs of slowing down.

Lou Baldanza
Trail Supervisor: West Hudson—Neversink River Unique Area
Lou has truly embodied the "hit the ground running" principle ever since taking up the mantle of trail supervisor at the Neversink River Unique Area a couple of years ago. A champion and ardent advocate for the beautiful Neversink Gorge, he immediately took account of the needs in that remote location, began recruiting new volunteers, and organized group work trips to take care of unmaintained trails.

David DeShazer
Local Trail Committee Chair, Supervisor, and Crew Leader: NJ—Lenape Trail
In addition to filling every vacancy on the long underserved Lenape Trail, David has maintained a list of ad-hoc volunteers to serve as the basis for a Lenape Trail Crew, which he organizes and leads monthly, providing guidance (and doughnuts) for volunteers. Between his overhaul of the region as a supervisor, his engagement of local volunteers as a crew leader, and his close communication with staff in working with land managers on trail approvals and projects, we look forward to seeing where David goes in the years to come!

Roger Dubin
Supervisor and Maintainer: West Hudson—Bear Mountain
Roger took the role of trail supervisor for southwest Harriman State Park in 2018. He's on the trails a couple of times a week, helping volunteers in his area and recruiting new ones. Roger is always cheerful and has constructive suggestions and useful advice, making him a great resource and leader.


The Paul Leiken Award for Going the Extra Mile

Honors volunteers who have recently “gone the extra mile” and made a significant, noteworthy contribution in the last 12 to 18 months.

Lori Baumann, Janelle Heise, David Holtzman, Christine Jackson, and Sharon Wolf
Lori: Darlington Schoolhouse Front Desk
Janelle: Darlington Schoolhouse Front Desk; Maintainer: New Jersey Appalachian Trail; Appalachian Trail Natural Heritage Monitor

David: Darlington Schoolhouse Front Desk; Maintainer: West Hudson—Southern Shawangunks
Christine: Darlington Schoolhouse Front Desk; Invasive Plant Surveyor
Sharon: Darlington Schoolhouse Front Desk

These five volunteers share the duty of being the welcoming face at the front desk at the Trail Conference. Every day a member of this team welcomes people from diverse backgrounds and helps to educate them on the trails, natural lands, and our mission—often turning someone into a volunteer or member. In addition, Lori, Janelle, David, Christine, and Sharon help keep the front of the house running. They provide a calm to the often hectic, fast-paced front office by contributing their various skills and interests to managing data, inventory, store transactions, retail partners, and marketing. No job is too big or small for this team.

Bryan Blackburn
Maintainer: East Hudson Appalachian Trail Corridor Manager and Monitor; Chain Sawyer
Bryan is dedicated to the trails as a trail maintainer, trail supervisor, corridor monitor, and chain sawyer. He had just received his B sawyer certification when the devastating May 2018 storms hit—and he quickly put those skills to use. He was the sole sawyer on seven work trips, recruited six volunteers from his day job to help, and to date has spent over 60 hours opening trails in the Castle Rock area.

Ed DiSalvo
Maintainer: New Jersey Highlands Trail and Northern Wyanokies; Crew Member; Club Delegate; Chain Sawyer
Ed has provided consistent sawyer service for Sterling Forest State Park since the fall of 2017. After struggling to get B sawyers to attend to blowdowns each time the need arose, Ed was referred to the local trail chair and has carried the ball ever since. In 2018 he individually cut 76 blowdowns and submitted 165.3 hours of sawyer and swamper services.

Brian Lanius
Maintainer: West Hudson—Sterling Forest
Since the beginning of the multiuse trail project in Sterling Forest State Park, Brian has jumped in to help build and maintain multiple trails. Rain or shine—and last year mostly rain—one could find Brian working with AmeriCorps crews, raising funds for bridges, coordinating volunteer efforts of Boy Scouts, and maintaining trail. In addition, he has been an ambassador for good trail stewardship, enhancing relationships at all levels, and rallying people to contribute toward a trail project’s success.   

Bob McCormick
Maintainer: West Hudson—Black Rock Forest
In addition to being a long-time maintainer, Bob has always been willing to jump in to help move a project along—and things were no different when it came to the Duggan Trail restoration project. He dedicated his time to eight work sessions to rehabilitate one of the most hiked trails in Black Rock Forest

Mario Medici
Maintainer: New Jersey—Ringwood State Park and West Hudson—Sterling Forest
Mario is a cheery and dedicated trail maintainer in both Sterling Forest and Ringwood state parks. In addition, Mario plans and leads hikes to introduce novices to the art of hiking safely and responsibly and to educate the public on the Trail Conference. His efforts help create an inclusive community by reaching out to diverse members of the public and introducing them to the great outdoors.

Chester Morris
Sawyer: New Jersey
Chet is the Paul Bunyan of chain sawyers for the Northwest New Jersey Local Trail Committee. Over the last year and a half he was instrumental in clearing trees in Stokes State Forest, sometimes averaging 25 to 30 trees a day. He is a tireless worker and truly dedicated volunteer. State park managers have expressed great appreciation for his sawyer work.

The West Jersey Crew   
Led by David and Monica Day, the West Jersey Crew has been improving New Jersey’s trails since 1999. During the last two years they were front and center on several large projects, including the ongoing Pochuck Boardwalk replacement project along the Appalachian Trail; elevating a large chunk of the Cedar Swap Trail; and organizing a larger sawyer response to an overwhelming amount of downfall after the 2018 winter and spring storms. If you’ve ever hiked in the northern part of New Jersey, the West Jersey Crew has likely had a hand in improving your trail experience.


The Elizabeth Levers Award for Engagement and Inclusivity

Honors volunteers who go above and beyond to bring people into the Trail Conference family. It celebrates those who have been strong advocates for ensuring our trails and natural areas are an inclusive environment offering everyone the opportunity to connect with nature. It is given to those who embody our value that the joys of nature belong to everyone.

Rose Bonanno
Local Trail Committee Chair: East Hudson—Westchester; Supervisor: East Hudson—Lewisboro; Crew Member—Trail Tramps
Rose is the model LTC Chair. Not only does she empower all Westchester trail supervisors to achieve their best, she also improves everyone's performance by encouraging frequent and relevant communication. Her ability to work with youth, design custom curriculum, and put it all together in a successful package is unparalleled.


The Joan Ehrenfeld Award for Stewardship

Honors volunteers who have dedicated significant time and effort to the conscientious stewardship of protected natural areas or environmentally responsible trail construction and education. It is given to those who embody our value that the right path is always a responsible one.

Cliff Berchtold
Trail Maintainer: West Hudson—Sterling Forest; Crew Member; Invasive Plant Surveyor, Volunteer Committee Member; At-Large Delegate
Cliff has been a maintainer for more than 20 years and an Invasives Strike Force volunteer for the last six. He has served on several committees, participated in advocacy efforts, helped fundraise, and overall has acted as an exemplary ambassador for the organization. With each role he has stepped into, both on and off the trail, Cliff has approached his duties with balanced judgment and a growing understanding of the importance of being a responsible steward of protected lands.


The Jakob Franke Award for Conservation

Honors volunteers who have advocated for and dedicated significant time and effort to land preservation and trail protection in the face of encroaching development. It is given to those who embody our value that conservation is a shared duty and that we must preserve the integrity of our natural world.

Glenn Oleksak
Local Trail Committee Chair and Trail Supervisor: West Hudson and New Jersey Highlands Trail; Maintainer: New Jersey—Pyramid Mountain and Southern Wyanokies
Glenn Oleksak has almost single-handedly been the driving force for the New Jersey Highlands Trail since 2005. He has spent countless hours working with the Land Conservancy of New Jersey in identifying parcels for acquisition and, In the field, relocating the Trail off roads or impacted areas into preserved woodland. All of his accomplishments continue to move the Highlands Trail towards becoming a model long-distance trail.

Win Perry  
Conservation Committee
Win has been active in the preservation and protection of the Long Path since the 1960s, when real estate development in Rockland County, N.Y., became booming and the trail faced significant threats. He was involved in several major land purchases and easements that have ensured the Long Path retains a safe, enjoyable route to connect people with nature.


The William Hoeferlin Award for Exemplary Leadership

Honors volunteers who have contributed long-time exemplary service in a leadership capacity by supporting other volunteers and/or spearheading a major project. It is given to those who embody our value of celebrating volunteers and recognizing that they make the trails and protection of the lands we love possible.

Alan Abramowitz, Nick McKenna, and Keith Scherer
The supervisor team of Alan, Nick, and Keith care for some 34,000 acres of parkland that contains over 60 miles of mixed-use trails. Their attention to challenges and skill in finding solutions make them invaluable to the region. They are the eyes and ears for New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection-Wawayanda State Park.

Alan Abramowitz
Trail Supervisor & Maintainer – NJ – Wawayanda State Park West
Alan has been a maintainer since 1999 and became supervisor of Wawayanda West in 2010. He has walked every mile of trail in his region and worked with and/or trained all his maintainers. Alan monitors trail conditions and participates as a swamper and trail crew member. He plays an integral role in creating cooperation and trust between the park and the Trail Conference.

Nick McKenna
Supervisor and Maintainer: New Jersey—Wawayanda East
Nick has been a trail maintainer since 2005 and became supervisor of Wawayanda East in 2013. He has created and worked with ad hoc trail crews to refurbish some of the lesser maintained trails in the Terrace Pond area. He performs this role with eagerness year-round, which bolsters good relations with maintainers and park staff. 

Keith Scherer
Supervisor and Maintainer: New Jersey—Wawayanda State Park East; Regional Trails Council Policy Council Representative
Keith has been a trail maintainer since July 2003 and became supervisor of Wawayanda East in August 2009. He is dedicated to the trails in Abram Hewitt State Forest and the Terrace Pond Area, working hard alongside trail crews, serving as swamper to chain sawyers, recruiting and training volunteers, and keeping positive relationships with maintainers and park staff.

Christopher Connolly
Regional Trails Council Chair: New Jersey; Local Trail Committee Chair: North Jersey and Northeast Jersey; Sawyer Policy Council; Former Board Chair and Member
Chris’ on-the-ground leadership, first as supervisor, and now as trail chair, has been outstanding. His insight and action in what needs to be done for the job is obvious and on-point, resulting in numerous success stories. He is respected by fellow volunteers, staff, and partners. Chris’ tireless work in improving the trail experience in New Jersey has benefited the countless people he has enabled to connect with nature.

Jane Daniels
Regional Trails Council Chair: East Hudson; Trail Supervisor: East Hudson—Yorktown; Trail Crew Leader/Member—East Hudson; Volunteer Committee Member; Publications Committee Member; Author; Workshop Leader; Former Board Chair and Member
Jane is a well-known leader in the local, regional, and state trails community for more than three decades. A winner of the Raymond H. Torrey Award—the Trail Conference’s highest award—in 2011, Jane continues to enter every project with boundless energy and enthusiasm. She works tirelessly to recruit, encourage, mentor, and reward volunteers of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels who express interest in the care and protection of trails and parks. 

Richard Jobsky
Regional Trails Council Chair: West Hudson; Trail Supervisor: West Hudson—Sterling Forest
Rich took the position of supervisor at Sterling Forest State Park shortly after he retired; it seems he transferred the energy and enthusiasm from his professional life to this new volunteer management role. Rich always tries for the "personal touch" in introducing new volunteers to the group of more than 30 Sterling Forest maintainers and spends quality time showing them how to maintain a trail correctly. He values communication, regularly holding meetings for his maintainers to update everyone on “anything new” and is very detail-oriented, a trait that helps the volunteers—and ultimately, the trails—that he supports.