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National Parks Service recognizes Ice Age and North Country Trails

A view of the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest as seen from St. Peter's Dome.
Katie Thoresen
A view of the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest as seen from St. Peter's Dome.

Wisconsin’s Ice Age and North Country Scenic Trails are now officially recognized as units of the National Parks System.

That means that the trails will have access to new resources in terms of funding and environmental management.

The Ice Age and North Country Scenic Trails are popular hiking destinations in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula.

The Ice Age Trail stretches over 1,000 miles along the edge of the last continental glacier in Wisconsin.

The North Country National Scenic Trail is longer, spanning 4,800 miles through multiple states including Wisconsin and Michigan, and passing waterfalls, wetlands, and woods.

They’re now considered units of the National Park Service, which means a lot to the people who work in the trail system.

They have access to more funding and other resources.

Luke Kloberdanz is the Executive Director and CEO of the Ice Age Trails Alliance.

“I haven't stopped smiling for about the last 24 hours,” he said.

Kloberdanz says that unit status recognizes the work thousands have contributed to create and maintain the trails.

Volunteers are a key part of maintaining these trail systems.

In the 2023 fiscal year, volunteers spent over 100,000 hours on trail related activities.

“It's evidence that the National Park Service is paying attention to Wisconsin and how important the trail is to the state and its residents,” said Kloberdanz.

Senator Tammy Baldwin has been pushing for this change since 2014.

“When I got the call that Wisconsin's two scenic trails were finally getting full unit status, I actually was in the car, I was driving across the state. I quickly pulled out my phone to locate on the Map app, the nearest Ice Age trailhead, so that we could get a photo to commemorate the moment,” she said.

Baldwin says these trails showcase the best Wisconsin has to offer.

“For the first time with this new designation, Wisconsin trails will be included in all the great lists that publicize our nation's national treasures, and that the National Parks put together and be considered for more funding opportunities that allow their managers and many volunteers to take good care of them,” says Baldwin.

Plus, hundreds of local businesses, families, and outdoor enthusiasts reap the benefits.

“These hikers are spending money at locally owned coffee shops, pizza places and breweries. They're staying overnight at campgrounds, small motels and bed and breakfasts. The Ice Age trail impacts local and state economies each and every day,” he said.

Kloberdanz says the Ice Age Trail’s land conservation team wants to close gaps in the trail and that’s a major focus for the future.

The New England National Scenic Trail was also included in the National Parks Service’s announcement.

That brings the total number of units in the system to 428.

Hannah Davis-Reid is a WXPR Reporter.
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