The Year for the Ice Age Trail

Prolific trail-building year with record volunteer hours

The Ice Age National Scenic Trail became an official unit of the National Park System in December, but that landmark event wasn’t the only momentous development for the trail in 2023.

After a robust trail-building season, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail now boasts 698 officially complete miles. That’s nearly 15 miles more than last year at the same time.

“So much was accomplished in seven months of trail-building,” said Luke Kloberdanz, executive director and CEO of the Ice Age Trail Alliance. “And it’s all because of our large number of volunteers and their dedicated service.”

The Ice Age Trail, which follows the terminal moraine of the last glaciation, is 1,200 miles long. It currently is comprised of completed, blazed miles and connecting routes. Typically rural roads or highways, connecting routes link completed, blazed segments of trail.

In fiscal year 2023, 1,990 Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers contributed a record 100,666 hours to trail-related activities.

The volunteer hours clocked in 2023 on the Ice Age Trail included this effort of moving and setting blocks for steps on the trail at its eastern terminus within Potawatomi State Park. Photo courtesy of Bob Jorin.

“It was a pretty spectacular trail-building year,” said Dave Caliebe, trail program manager for the Ice Age Trail Alliance. He attributes the record number of volunteer hours to “a great group of new volunteers who find value giving back to the Ice Age Trail after hiking it.”

In 2023, the Ice Age Trail Alliance hosted eight, large-scale, multi-day trail-building projects in Taylor, Marquette, Waupaca, Dane, Rock, and Door counties. Volunteers from across the Midwest participated to craft trail tread and build bridges, boardwalks, rock walls and steps.

Highlights of these projects included: 5.3 miles of new trail on the Rib Lake segment in Taylor County, and 3.5 miles of new trail on the Cross Plains segment in Dane County.

Nineteen volunteer chapters make up the Ice Age Trail Alliance. These chapters, which are located along the Trail, are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep in their areas. This year, multiple chapters led initiatives to open up new trail.

“Our chapter members took ownership, getting more trail on the ground in their counties,” said Chad DuChateau, director of trail operations for the Ice Age Trail Alliance. “New miles take a long time to come to fruition, and volunteers helped all along the way, from establishing contact with landowners and being involved with compliance to building trail.”

Kloberdanz said the successful season with its many new miles has brought them closer to a continuous, completed Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

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