Mudgett Award

The Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award was created to honor and pay tribute to individuals who have shown leadership and passion for our local trails. The award is given annually at TART’s Oktoberfest dinner party.

2015 – Jerry Glenn & Jim “Woody” Woodburne

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Two men with long histories of involvement with TART Trails are this year’s Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneers Awardees- Jerry Glenn and Jim “Woody” Woodburne. Both Jim and Jerry have worked for years on the Vasa Pathway and the North American Vasa ski race. They are avid cross-country skiers and enjoy giving back to the ski community.

Jerry coordinated the replacement of the bridges along the TART Trail. He secured funding from Home Depot, recruited volunteers and even designed a tool for the removal of the old bridge decking. His volunteer work crews completed the work ahead of schedule and had fun too!

Woody is passionate about removing invasive species along the Leelanau Trail corridor. He organized volunteer groups to tackle the problem of phragmites. Jerry and Woody exemplify living healthy active lifestyles.

We are grateful to both of them for setting a wonderful example of how things get done by volunteering. Jim Mudgett would be pleased to know his legacy lives on in our community.

TART Trails Board Chair, Brian Fisher, said it best, “Both Jim Woodburne and Jerry Glenn embody what makes TART Trails’ mission succeed, and that is volunteerism. They have both volunteered many hours each year for many years with of hope of simply making our community better, all the while asking nothing in return.”

The Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award honors those who give of their time, talent, and treasure to support TART Trails mission of enriching the Traverse region by providing a network of trails, bikeways and pedestrian ways; and encouraging their use. Jim Mudgett was a founding board member of TART Trails whose vision of happy, active people enjoying a world class trail system lives on through this award.

Past Mudgett Award Recipients:

2014 – Dr. Tom Auer

Mudgett AwardIn the late nineties, Dr. Jim Mudgett persuaded his friend, Dr. Tom Auer to become involved with TART. Since then, Tom has become the heart and soul of the organization as the longest serving board member and community advocate for healthy living.

Early on Tom grasped the importance of securing resources to carry out the mission and has selflessly set about that task. TART’s Board President, Brian Fisher shares “Dr. Auer’s stamina for fundraising and advocacy seems to have no limits. He is everywhere that matters all the time speaking on behalf of the trails and their safe use.”

Tom, and his most patient wife Barbara rarely miss an event or work bee. He has organized and led work groups, chopped weeds, planted flowers, picked up trash and shoveled snow. Tom has passionately advocated improving trail and pedestrian infrastructure.

2013 – Doug Scofield

At a dinner held on October 8th at the City Opera House, Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails awarded the tenth annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award to Doug Scofield. Last year’s recipient, Frank Noverr, presented the award.

Scofield worked tirelessly for many years on the VASA Pathway, especially with the cross-country ski grooming program. He, along with other founders of the Vasa Pathway, created a trail for all seasons that is a significant recreational resource with an incredible reputation across the state. Scofield developed his grooming skills over the years, which are a large part of why the Vasa Pathway is known as “world-class”, and why skiers expect pristine conditions. His patience and ability to pass along this knowledge and work with others to teach and train the next in line are what keep the trail looking better every year. Grooming crew member Glenn Rauth shared, “When I started grooming the trail 13 years ago, Doug taught me the finer points of keeping the trail in top condition. The VASA Pathway is in the condition it is today due in large part to the work that Doug has done for the last 20 years.”

2012 – Frank Noverr

At a dinner held on October 16 at the City Opera House, Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails awarded the ninth annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award to Frank Noverr. Last year’s recipients, Peter Doren and John Robert Williams, presented the award.

Noverr was instrumental in the development of the Leelanau Trail all the way back in 1995. Most recently, he funded a successful $37,500 challenge match last January to help reach the $500,000 Leelanau Trail Paving Campaign goal. TART Trails Board President Brian Fisher said, “Frank Noverr saw the potential of an old rail corridor. He gave his time and resources to get the trail on the ground, including the initial down payment on the land purchase. Nearly 20 years later, he came back and helped finish the trail. As a result, the Leelanau Trail is here for generations to enjoy”

2011 – John Robert Williams and Peter Doren

Two recipients were awarded the Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award at TART’s annual Oktoberfest celebration at the City Opera House on October 12, 2011, local attorney Peter Doren and photographer John Robert Williams. Both Doren and Williams have been involved with TART Trails, or its predecessor Citizens for a Better Way, for more than twenty years. Doren was instrumental in writing the original Rotary Charities grant that launched the local trail network, which now has over sixty miles of trail. Williams helped secure additional funding to get the urban TART Trail completed and provided leadership when four trail organizations – Leelanau Trail, Vasa Pathway, Citizens for a Better Way and Boardman Lake Trail all came together to form TART Trails. Williams explained the lasting results of their work, “Today, everywhere a TART Trail has been developed, the quality of life of the area near it has increased, property values have gone up, areas near the trail have been cleaned up or reclaimed and more people are getting quiet, healthy, unstructured exercise and commuting.”

2010 – Jim Dombrowski

Scott Howard, president of TART Trails, awarded the 7th annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award to Jim Dombrowski at the annual Oktoberfest dinner.

Jim Dombrowski has served on the TART board since May of 2006. In addition, Jim serves on two committees at TART- safety, operations and maintenance and outreach. He is best known for the e-mails that he sends to cross-country skiers during the ski season that detail grooming on the Vasa Pathway. His volunteerism is noteworthy for not only TART but for the Traverse City Track Club too. Every year he manages the registration and shirts for the Bayshore Marathon. Jim is willing to help on the trails, in the office or at special events that benefit TART and the Traverse community. After receiving the Mudgett award Jim commented, “I lived in Traverse City and then moved away for a few years. I really missed the great network of trails. We have something special here in Traverse City and I’m happy to contribute to making the trails better.”

 2009 – Tom Phillips

Bob Otwell, Executive Director of TART Trails, awarded the 6th annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award to Tom Phillips.

Tom Phillips served on the TART board from 2000 to 2006 and was president in 2002. However, he is probably best known for his enormous pro-bono legal help to preserve the Leelanau Trail. Tom represented the trail in several lawsuits that contested trail property ownership. The cases were heard before the 13th Circuit Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court.

Tom also worked to secure a Special Land Use Permit and Overlay Zone in Bingham Township, which took ten years. Tom drove this process, attended dozens of township meetings, at the planning commission, zoning board of appeals, and town board levels.

Tom continues to stay engaged with the organization. This past summer, Tom saw a job that needed to be done. He noticed the caboose at Carter Road falling into disrepair. Tom organized work crews, gathered materials, and poured sweat into getting the job done. Tom has researched the history of the caboose and envisions it as a little respite haven for all to relax, learn about the history of the railroad, and encourage others to get involved in TART Trails.

One of the quotes from a nomination letter said it best, “Few of us had the vision, expertise, and tenacious gumption that Tom had to see the Leelanau Railroad corridor transformed into the incredible community resource it is. The Leelanau Trail is enjoyed each day of every season by countless users, and is preserved for future generations. We are so fortunate and indebted to Tom Phillips for taking on a leadership role to save this corridor.”

2008 – Dick Naperala

At a dinner event at Black Star Farms on October 2nd, the officials of Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation (TART) Trails awarded the 5th annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award. The award was presented to Dick Naperala by past recipient Tim Brick.

Dick Naperala, a founding member of the Grand Traverse Hiking Club, has been a leader in the development and maintenance of 90 miles of hiking trails in northwest Michigan for over 15 years. He worked with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to re-route the North Country Trail off the Shore-to-Shore Horse trail to connect Muncie Lakes Pathway with the Sand Lakes Quiet Area.

After working for years on a proposal to the MDNR, Dick recently received permission to establish a trail to connect the Vasa Pathway with Sand Lakes and the North Country Trail, along with a link to the Kalkaska area trail system. This will complete a continuous non-motorized trail from Traverse City to Kalkaska, with North Country Trail connections to New York and North Dakota! Fellow hiking club enthusiasts gushed over Dick’s dedication to the North Country Trail and said he spent hundreds of hours in the woods scouting potential routes.

Lesser known to most, Dick spends a lot of time behind the wheel of ski grooming equipment when the snow flies. He is one of the members of the TART Trails grooming crew who works many early mornings preparing the Vasa Pathway for cross-country skiing.

One of the quotes from a nomination letter said it best, “It is true that countless other people were involved in the work of building these trails, but without Dick’s inspiration and leadership it would not have happened.” Dick Naperala has been a positive force in our area over the years by visioning trails that connect people to the great outdoors to experience nature and receive an enlightening recreation experience.

“Dick has displayed the work ethic, character, integrity and dedication to this community and that should be recognized and honored. He is an incredibly worthy recipient and I’m proud that he has won the award this year”, said Bob Otwell, TART Trails Executive Director.

2007 – Tim Brick

The 4th annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award was presented to Tim Brick by past recipient Lois Bahle.

Tim Brick, a Traverse City native, went on to play football at University of Montana and earn a degree in recreation management. He moved back to Traverse City and started Brick Wheels in 1976. Brick Wheels is located on 8th Street and sells bikes, skis, in-line skates, skateboards, snowboards and apparel.

Lesser known to most, Tim also has a rich history promoting trails and outdoor recreation in Traverse City. Tim was a founding Vasa board member in 1988 and was on the Friends of TART board founded in 1990. He continued as a board member and treasurer when TART Trails merged with the Leelanau, Boardman and Vasa groups in 1998.

One of the quotes from a nomination letter said it best, “His support has been time, energy and financial resources.”  Tim was integral in getting TART’s successful 2002 Capital Campaign off the ground.

Tim Brick has been a positive force in our area over the years by visioning trails that connect people to other communities, to nature, recreation, and transportation.

“As TART moves forward and continues to advocate for bicycles and pedestrians in the Traverse area, we are always standing on the shoulders of those who have come before, and we appreciate all of the hard work, perseverance and dedication from these leaders,” said Bob Otwell, TART Trails Executive Director.

Tim has displayed the work ethic, character, integrity and dedication to this community and the TART organization that should be recognized and honored. He is an incredibly worthy recipient and I’m proud that he has won the award this year,” continued Otwell.

2006 – Lois Bahle

The 3rd annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award was presented to Lois Bahle by past recipient Ted Okerstrom.

Lois was involved at the very inception of the Leelanau Trail. From 1995-2005, she served on the board of the Leelanau Trail Association which became part of TART Trails in 1998. She has been the president of both organizations, and helped lead a capital fundraising effort for TART from 2002-2003. She has been involved organizing and promoting events to get people out to enjoy our beautiful area and our trails.

She has been described as the “keeper of all things”. One of those rare and valuable people that do not only remember everything, but also can put their hand on it.

One of the quotes from a nomination letter said it best, “I will never forget the first time I saw Lois. She got up in a room full of angry people and spoke eloquently about the need for a trail at a time that it took a lot of guts to say the right thing. Her biggest contribution was persistence and unflappable optimism, grace and courage under fire.”

Lois Bahle has been a positive force in our area over the years by visioning trails that connect people to other communities, to nature, recreation, and transportation. She has especially been a lightning rod for the Leelanau Trail.

“As TART moves forward and continues to advocate for bicycles and pedestrians in the Traverse area, we are always standing on the shoulders of those who have come before, and we appreciate all of the hard work, perseverance and dedication from these leaders,” said Bob Otwell, TART Trails Executive Director.

The TART Trails organization would not be where it is today without the foresight and guidance of those who created the dream. Lois Bahle is an incredibly worthy recipient and I’m proud that she has won the award this year. She certainly deserves it!” continued Otwell.

2005 – Ted Okerstrom

The officials of Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails awarded the 2nd annual Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award. The Jim Mudgett Award was presented to Ted Okerstrom by past recipients, George Lombard, Dave Monstrey and June Thaden.

Ted has been an active trail user in Northern Michigan, across the country, and abroad. He has been involved organizing and promoting events to get people out to enjoy our beautiful area and our trails.

Ted served on the original planning committee for the Boardman Lake Trail, and then served as a  founding board member of TART Trails, Inc. Ted worked with a broad range of trail supporters, property owners, and governmental officials to get the east side Boardman Lake Trail built. Ted is not finished either. He still has a vision for a permanent trail all the way around Boardman Lake and south into the Boardman River Valley.

Even before his work on trails, Ted had a vision in the 1970’s of a local cross-country ski race modeled after the great Nordic ski races in Europe. His Swedish nationality of course affected the name chosen for our local race – the Vasa.

Ted Okerstrom has been a positive force in Traverse City over the years by visioning trails in our community, creating the North American Vasa ski race, and by being a healthy-living role model. A quote from a nomination letter stated: “I have worked with Ted… and the one thing that stands out about [him] is his love for Traverse City. He will definitely leave Traverse City a better place.”

With the recent opening of the east Boardman Lake Trail, it seemed to be timed just right, for Ted, to receive the Jim Mudgett Award this year. “As TART Trails moves forward and continues to advocate for bicycles and pedestrians in the Traverse area, we are always standing on the shoulders of those who have come before, and we appreciate all of the hard work, perseverance and dedication from these leaders,” said Bob Otwell, TART Trails Executive Director. “The TART Trails organization would not be where it is today without the foresight and guidance of those who created the dream,” continued Otwell.

2004 – Dave Monstrey, June Thaden and George Lombard

At a dinner event at Black Star Farms, the officials of Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails awarded the inaugural Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award.

Bill Smith, a long time friend and colleague of Jim Mudgett, spoke about Jim and the award before the crowd.  Jim Mudgett was a founding member of the TART Trails Board of Directors, was a trail chief on the Leelanau Trail, and a long time supporter of the Vasa Pathway. He used the TART and Leelanau trails regularly to commute to work, and was an ever present ambassador of the trails to people he met. Jim was an advocate of not only ensuring that our community had plenty of great places to play, but also a life-long promoter of healthy living.

“The loss of our friend Jim Mudgett in January 2004, made us think about the great loss to our community of these active people who enjoyed the great outdoors and helped us develop our trail facilities,” said Smith. Now, the Jim Mudgett Award recognizes those who have shown extraordinary trail stewardship and will permanently distinguish them in a hall of fame.  “I think Jim would have been honored and proud to have an award in his name that recognizes local trail advocates,” said Smith.

Nominations were open to anyone who has advocated for building, maintaining and using trails in the Traverse area. TART Trails received nominations for over a dozen wonderful candidates. The selection committee had a difficult decision.  Bob Otwell, Executive Director at TART Trails, explained, “for the inaugural class, we have selected one nominee from each of the three trails.”

The Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Awards were presented to Dave Monstrey for the Leelanau Trail, George Lombard for the Vasa Pathway and June Thaden for the TART Trail.  Karen Mudgett presented each award recipient with a framed print photographed by Jim Mudgett.  The print featured Pink Lady’s Slippers on the Leelanau Trail.

Dave Monstrey founded and was the first president of the Leelanau Trail Association. Dave has spent countless hours at public meetings, board meetings and on the trail working to convert the rail corridor. He has sat calmly at public meetings for almost 10 years while people criticized his dream for local residents to simply have a safe place to walk and bike. He still volunteers his time and his tractor to maintain the Leelanau Trail.

George Lombard served for many years on the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Commission. On a state level, he also serves on the MDNR Trails advisory board. He had a vision for a permanent Vasa Trail, and set about to make it happen. His work included countless meetings with the DNR and property owners, and countless hours physically building the trail. He had a vision for a warming hut at the Vasa Trailhead, and made that happen for us to enjoy.

June Thaden was one of the three initial board members of Citizens for Better Ways, founded in 1987. This group was renamed The Friends of TART in 1989. She was also a charter member of the Cherry Capital Cycling Club and one of the club’s first presidents. At the state level, June helped found the Michigan Chapter of the Rails to Trails Conservancy and served on the Board, and also served on the Board and was President of the League of Michigan Bicyclists. At the national level, she served on the board and was president of the League of American Bicyclists, a group founded in the 1890’s dedicated to promoting bicycling.

As TART Trails moves forward and continues to advocate for bicycles and pedestrians in the Traverse area, we are always standing on the shoulders of those who have come before, and we appreciate all of the hard work, perseverance and dedication from these leaders,” said Bob Wick, President of the TART Trails Board.  “The TART Trails organization would not be where it is today without the foresight and guidance of those who created the dream,” continued Wick.