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 Trails’ Oktoberfest dinner party.
2023 – Jim and Diana Huckle
In recognition of their unwavering commitment to community well-being and as champions of trails, conservation and collaboration, it is an honor that we present the 2023 TART Trails Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award to Jim and Diana Huckle.
With a deep understanding of how outdoor spaces and nonmotorized pathways can affect happiness, health, and wellbeing, Jim and Diana have demonstrated an exceptional dedication to creating lasting change and fostering connection to people and the environment. They rely on collaborative discussions on how best to allocate resources to maximize impact.
Before their retirement, Jim and Diana co-founded media companies operating in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and a family foundation in 2011. They moved to Traverse City in 1985 with their two daughters Renee and Martha.
Their TART journey began with a remarkable gesture of awarding TART Trails the first grant ever from the Huckle Family Foundation, which was instrumental in fully paving the Leelanau Trail. Today that trail sees hundreds of thousands of visitors seeking recreation, a connection to our beautiful landscapes, and alternative transportation options. Their role as Founder Circle donors of the Nakwema Trailway and as catalytic funders of the Three Mile trail extension, underscores their dedication to creating pathways for the community to thrive.
In addition to TART Trails projects, the Huckles have made catalytic impacts through their involvement with organizations such as Norte, Paddle Antrim, Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy helping to create trails at Glacial Hills, FLOW, Grand Traverse Conservation District, and the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation among others. Their early and continued gifts to Paddle Antrim provided critical foundational support and helped to motivate supporters, leading to the formation of the Chain of Lakes Water Trail (the only state-designated water trail in northern Michigan) as well as new universally-designed access to the Chain of Lakes waterway. Their commitment to community health and wellness, and stewardship of natural resources have been guiding forces in their philanthropic decisions.
Jim and Diana Huckle have repeatedly demonstrated that their philanthropic spirit is not about recognition, but rather about fostering partnerships and inspiring collaboration.
The Huckle’s legacy will forever be intertwined with the trails they’ve helped create, the conservation they’ve championed, and the community they’ve enriched. As they receive the 2023 TART Trails Jim Mudgett Pioneer Award, we celebrate not only their philanthropy, but also their profound impact on the heart and soul of our community.
Past Mudgett Award Recipients:
2022 – Jean Derenzy
TART Trails is thrilled to honor Jean Derenzy as the 2022 Jim Mudgett Award Recipient. TART Trails Board Member Sara Harding presented Derenzy with the award at the annual Oktoberfest celebration, a special gathering of TART’s Sustainers Circle of Donors.
Jean Derenzy was the driving force behind finishing the Boardman Lake Loop Trail. Derenzy recognized the importance of trails and took it upon herself to figure out how to move the Loop forward to completion. In 2010, she launched the work plan that provided the funding necessary to complete the Loop. Derenzy also spearheaded bringing project partners together at the City, Garfield Township, Grand Traverse County, and TART Trails to get the work done.
Derenzy continues to improve the bikeability and walkability of our beloved downtown. She was a key supporter of the 8th Street reconstruction and helped ensure cycle tracks made it into the final design. She has been a lead advocate on the TART Bayfront Improvement & Extension project, and the DDA, where she serves as CEO, is one of the main funders for project design and engineering. Through the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, she led the effort to build the riverwalk along the Boardman between Union Street and Pine Street. Under Derenzy’s leadership, the DDA’s efforts on the Lower Boardman River plan call for expanded and enhanced non-motorized options including trail.
Jean Derenzy is a convener who, through deep listening, understands the vision of our community, and works tirelessly to get that vision on the ground.
“Our community is lucky to have Jean leading, creating, and visioning one of the best places to live and work. She is humble, genuine, collaborative, always willing to serve, and never seeking credit while acknowledging, praising, and cheering on others. As the head of our Downtown Development Authority, she continues this quest to create places characteristic of vibrant, thriving communities,” shares Sara Harding.
The Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award honors those who give of their time, talent, and treasure to support TART Trails’ mission of providing and promoting a trail network that enriches people and communities throughout the greater Traverse region. 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.
2021 – The Leelanau Trail Crew: Eric Braverman, David Dean, Dave Fisher, Dick Kelley, Gary MacAulay, Dave Monstrey and Chuck Percy
The Leelanau Trail is the only trail within the TART Trails network entirely owned and operated by TART Trails, Inc. It was born from a passionate community that continues to support it today. Throughout the spring, summer, and fall, the all-volunteer Leelanau Trail Maintenance Crew works on continual improvements to provide a world-class experience for trail users.
Their work includes trail safety inspections, replacement and repairing of damaged signs, benches, pavement, bridges, boardwalks, culverts and marking, creating clear vision areas at intersections, trimming and cutting vegetation along the trail corridor, clearing debris such as downed trees, liter, branches, excessive sand and gravel, cutting roots under the trail, grading unpaved trail surfaces, repairing soil erosion, and much more.
“They’re receiving the award because of their incredible dedication, all-encompassing work, and generosity for the Leelanau Trail. Their responsiveness, efforts, and time given to create the incredible trail that the Leelanau Trail is, is truly amazing!” commented TART Trails’ Trail Planning and Management Director, Chris Kushman.
2020 – Carol and George Quarderer
Carol and George Quarderer have played an important role in recreation and transportation opportunities in Glen Arbor, and have been paramount in the success of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.
Since community partners quite literally gathered around a kitchen table in Leelanau County in 2001, Carol and George have been a part of the conversation. Nineteen years later, they continue to lead the charge for additional Pathways in and around Sleeping Bear. Carol co-chairs the campaign cabinet with Kerry Kelly, leading the effort to raise private funds for the next section of trail. The upcoming section of the Heritage Trail will extend north from Bohemian Road (CR 669) to Good Harbor Trail.
Kelly states, “I’ve worked with Carol and George for many years…their leadership has made this trail what it is today. Without them, the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail certainly wouldn’t be the over-20-mile long, world-class, Pure Michigan trail that is loved by so many local residents and visitors from around the world.”
Avid outdoor enthusiasts with a personal passion for community projects, Carol and George are the perfect partners to have on the team. We thank Carol and George for their incredible energy and enthusiasm they have shared with us, and all of the work they have done for trails in our region.
2019 – Bob Otwell
Bob Otwell is the 2019 Recipient of the Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award from TART Trails. Bob played an important role in TART history. As an Executive Director of TART Trails early on, his actions and acumen helped set the foundation for what TART Trails stands for today.
Highlights of Bob’s decade of leadership include opening TART Trails’ first office downtown on Front Street, starting TART Trails’ Vasa grooming program and launching TART Trails’ Sustainer’s Circle of Donors. Bob also helped with connecting the TART Trail in Traverse City to the Leelanau Trail between M-72 at Tom’s West Bay to Carter Road at the Caboose. He also helped with extending paving of the Leelanau Trail from Fouch Road to Lakeview Hills Road. He also gave his time and expertise to constructing East Boardman Lake Trail and the Boardman Lake pedestrian bridge.
Bob was also integral in launching Smart Commute Week in Traverse City which encourages people from all walks of life to use multi-modal transportation options as a healthier and happier way to get around.
Bob brought a steady hand to TART Trails back when it needed it most during its infancy. The commitment that he and his wife Laura and their three girls, Julia, Annie and Claire, have made over the years (including hosting the first office out of their home for a while) set a tone and a mindset of what it takes to fulfill the mission and vision of happy, active people enjoying a world-class trail system.
Bob’s passion runs beyond just trails. He has long advocated for safer bike and pedestrian infrastructure in our communities and is always looking for ways to engage people to be more active, including in his role as a founding board member of Norte. His commitment to healthy living is a big reason why TART Trails adopted, as part of the strategic plan, the goal of improving infrastructure and safe access for all non-motorized forms of transportation.
The TART Trails community thanks Bob and his family for all the energy, enthusiasm and joy they have brought to the community.
2018 – Marsha Smith
Every once in a while, someone steps into a community leadership role and has a profound impact that alters the course of history. In northwest Michigan, that someone is Marsha Smith, this year’s recipient of TART Trails’ Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneer Award. When you hear people speak of Marsha you often hear phrases like “visionary,” “fearless leader,” “community figurehead,” “mentor,” and “friend.” She has lived in and served the region for more than 40 years and changed the lives of so many throughout her career.
Marsha’s pending retirement from Rotary Charities of Traverse City caps a remarkable 25 years as CEO of an organization that has granted/invested more than $560,000 into the TART Trails, thanks to oil and gas revenues from a property owned by Rotary Camps & Services. While at the helm of Rotary Charities, Marsha helped launch trails that now weave through the region, facilitated what became a Grand Vision of walkable, bikeable communities and supported the protection of significant natural areas that provide access to our region’s rich scenic and natural beauty. In 1996, Rotary Charities provided the single largest gift that launched the Traverse Area Recreational Trail (TART) and made the project possible. In fact, with Marsha’s leadership, the entire TART Trails network expanded significantly thanks to Rotary’s support of and major contributions toward the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, the Vasa Pathway, the Boardman Lake Loop, the Leelanau Trail and more. Not only is her commitment to trails strong, but so has been her investment in the capacity of TART Trails to grow and thrive. Bob Otwell, TART Trails’ former Executive Director (2001-2010), cites Rotary’s commitment as being part of TART Trails’ successful evolution. Otwell explains “…In 2002 we launched our first capital campaign to tackle several trail projects and pay off the Leelanau Trail. Not only was Rotary willing to provide a gift to the campaign, but more important was their endorsement of our place in the community. With the support of Marsha and her staff, our small non-profit gained the confidence to believe we could accomplish our lofty goals.”
We are grateful for all Marsha has done to lift TART Trails and so many others up and help create opportunities for active and connected communities thanks to the network of trails and walkable, bikeable communities she has championed.
2017 – Tom White
Anyone who has spent time riding their bike in the woods in and around the Traverse City area over the past thirty years has benefited from the vocational trail work of Tom White, whether they know it or not. As someone who defies labels, he is part trail builder, part ecologist, part philosopher, part advocate, part humanitarian and his passion for mountain biking is both contagious and community minded. His countless and selfless hours of building and maintaining trails has not only helped make the Traverse City area a mountain bike destination, it has helped foster collaboration between all outdoor recreation enthusiasts who live for a day in the woods.
As a board member with the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Association he is leading efforts to create a Traverse City to Kalkaska Loop Trail, the first leg of which was showcased during the 2017 Traverse City Trails Festival, an inaugural fundraising event for the NMMBA. Twenty years ago he helped build the Vasa Marked Singletrack and is busy re-routing the loop for an improved trail experience. If ever Tom is asked for his help he is there to provide it, not for the recognition, rather for the pride he feels from seeing others enjoy time on the trails. He is incredibly deserving of such acknowledgment for his long-standing contribution to the trails we all love.
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.
2016 – Jim Heffner & Rick Antosh
Two longtime trail luminaries who have dedicated so much to TART Trails are the 2016 Jim Mudgett Trail Pioneers Awardees- Rick Antosh and Jim Heffner. Both men have deep roots in trail planning, development, and stewardship. Jim Heffner and Rick Antosh have both contributed greatly to the network of trails that define our region and have given tirelessly of themselves so that others can enjoy the many benefits of trails and healthy living.
Rick Antosh was a founding member of the group, ‘Citizens for a Better Way’ which is responsible for getting the trail on the ground from Traverse City to Acme Township. He is credited with coining the name TART and is widely admired for his early vision of what the trail network would someday become.
Jim Heffner’s connections with TART Trails go back to his help with the development of the Vasa Pathway along with a pioneering group of volunteers whose work has resulted in year-round enjoyment for so many people today. Jim is still very active as a trail Ambassador on the Boardman River Trail and is responsible for developing the Vasa Snowshoe Trail.
The leadership and passion for supporting local trails that both Antosh and Heffner have demonstrated make them well deserving of this prestigious award that honors the life of Jim Mudgett.
2015 – Jerry Glenn & Jim “Woody” Woodburne
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.”
2014 – Dr. Tom Auer
In 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.