2018 Trail Conference Awards: Celebrating Our Volunteers and Partners

March 10, 2018
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


2018 Trail Conference Awards: Celebrating Our Volunteers and Partners
2018 Volunteer Awards Recipients. Photo by Amber Ray.


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. With more than 2,400 people donating their time and energy to our mission, there are many award-worthy volunteers in our ranks. On March 10, we honored those who have gone above and beyond in the last year at our annual Volunteer Appreciation event, held at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Trail Conference awards are given by the Board of Directors upon recommendation by staff and volunteers.

Distinguished Service Award

Recognizes significant service or a special achievement by Trail Conference volunteers.

Glenda Haas, nominated by Brendan Cunningham

As chair of the Art Selection Committee, Glenda has added “gallery” as a new function of the Main Hall at Trail Conference Headquarters. A resident of Mahwah, N.J., Glenda was responsible for the installation of the building’s history wall and gallery system. She has overseen or assisted with every art exhibition the organization has hosted since moving our offices to Darlington Schoolhouse, and has art exhibitions and events planned at Headquarters through 2020. Since 2015, Glenda has done a phenomenal job of bringing together professional artists, casual photographers, trail users, and the local community, creating a space for all to enjoy.

Jim Piombino, nominated by Erica Colace & Gary Willick

As a front desk volunteer, Jim is welcoming and knowledgeable–the best traits for someone who greets visitors at Trail Conference Headquarters. Jim, of Fair Lawn, N.J., is also an at-large voting member, which means he represents the interests of 400 individual members at voting member meetings. He understands the inner workings of the Trail Conference and brings his expertise to these meetings. As if this weren’t enough, he was instrumental in helping us secure a matching $5,000 donation. Jim’s passion and outgoing demeanor make him one of the best Trail Conference volunteers!

Pete Tilgner, nominated by Don Weise

Over his 31 years of service to the Trail Conference, Pete, of Tenafly, N.J., has most recently functioned as a volunteer extension of the Membership and Development department, sending donation acknowledgements and membership gifts on a weekly basis. This important work requires focus and organizational skills. It can be tedious and long, especially at year’s end. We rely on Pete for his speed, accuracy, and consistency to make sure we “get it right” every time. Pete and his wife Suzan also served for more than a decade as the trail supervisors of Sterling Forest State Park. On and off the trail, Pete’s contributions have made us proud to call him a member of our trail family.

Next Generation Award

Given to those under age 21 who make significant contributions of time and energy to trail building or protection.

TJ Robinson, nominated by Tom Robinson

TJ is 13 years old and has been working hard with Wawayanda State Park staff and the West Jersey Trail Crew on restorations on the Appalachian Trail’s Pochuck Boardwalk. He worked on hundreds of feet of curbing, laid decking, and hauled scrap out and fresh material in. He was very excited about cranking the grip-hoist for the “material transport high-line.” TJ, of Harriman, N.Y., is passionate about the outdoors—he’s one of the youngest people to finish the Catskill 3500—and is enthusiastic about protecting nature for others to enjoy. He is an eager and steady worker who understands the importance of the job and of giving back.

Don Derr Award

Recognizes those who have provided exemplary service and outstanding contributions to major projects, such as our trail maps and publications.

Ed Burdzy, nominated by Jeremy Apgar

Ed has made consistent and long-time contributions to several Trail Conference maps.  Ed, of Passaic, N.J., is a hike leader with the Harriman Hikers club, and through his hikes around the region, he has become quite attuned to discovering trails and woods roads that should be included on our maps. For at least a decade, Ed has regularly stopped by Headquarters at least once a month to both transfer collected GPS data and discuss map-related items. Ed also assisted in inventorying trail features and deficiencies in several state parks in Rockland County. Among the maps Ed has helped to provide data or field-checking for are: Harriman-Bear Mountain, Jersey Highlands, Kittatinny, North Jersey, Sterling Forest, and West Hudson. Our maps are accurate and detailed because volunteers and partners take the time to collect data, field-check, and review the maps.  Ed is one of those dedicated volunteers whom we can thank for helping make the maps the reliable trail resource they have come to be known for.

Leo Rothschild Conservation Award

Presented to a person or organization that has made a significant contribution to the protection of our trails and/or the natural lands that surround them.

Bob Ross, nominated by Ed Goodell, Sona Mason & Peter Dolan

As an active member of the Conservation Committee, Bob is a dedicated champion of protecting open space for trails. Bob, of New York, N.Y., has been instrumental in helping the committee identify and secure numerous parcels for conservation, particularly in New Jersey, where he previously lived. In the recent past, he has been a great benefactor to many projects and programs, such as restoration of the Darlington Schoolhouse, enhancing Trail University in New Jersey, and adding to the Trail Conference’s gear and tool stash.

There were two recent land acquisitions for which Bob went above and beyond as a volunteer. First, as our legal representative, Bob helped close on a property in Orange County, N.Y., that is crucial to the protection of the Highlands Trail. Bob has also been a key asset in acquiring a property in Albany County, N.Y., that would protect the Long Path and contribute significant acreage contiguous to an existing Wildlife Management Area. His hard work and dedication over the years has helped ensure the protection of trail lands across the region.

Noah Zakim, nominated by Sona Mason

Noah is doing excellent work in our urgent push to protect a green corridor for the long-distance Long Path and Highlands Trail in Orange County, N.Y., which are at risk of being severed by development. As an attorney generously donating his time to our Conservation Committee, Noah, of Franklin Lakes, N.J., is a valued member of the team, dispensing expert advice and assisting with the many facets that go into land preservation and advocacy. Without his expertise, the current efforts to preserve the last bit of greenway in Monroe would be a much more daunting task to accomplish. 

Paul Leikin Extra Mile Award

Recognizes those who have demonstrated exceptional service and have gone “the extra mile.”

Steve Aaron, nominated by Heather Darley

Steve, of Valley Cottage, N.Y., takes absolutely phenomenal photographs of trails in our region and shares them with the Trail Conference for use in our communications. Steve's generosity, passion for the outdoors, and creative contributions allow us to increase our visibility and outreach. These incredible photos are inspiring and eye-catching, and when used in our newsletters, social media, and on our website, they make folks stop and think, oh wow, what's this? The use of Steve's photography in our social media has received a lot of meaningful attention and sparked a lot of conversations with potential volunteers and members. Steve enthusiastically shares his photography, and he's told us that it fulfills his passion for the art to see his work used in our work. Photography at the level of Steve's skill is a true donation to our organization. The Trail Conference is lucky to have such talent and passion in our ranks!

Ann and Jerry Barry, nominated by Eric Stone

Ann and Gerry went above and beyond with their work on the Invasive Species Program's Blockbuster Surveys in 2017. In addition to surveying their own 3-mile by 3-mile square in Rockland County for invasive plants, the Suffern, N.Y., residents went out of their way to join other surveyors in the field to learn the survey process and help us get valuable data on the spread and distribution of invasive species.  They volunteered more than twice as many hours as anyone else in the Blockbuster Program, and we are incredibly grateful for their help in ensuring its success throughout Rockland County.

Jennifer Ghahari, nominated by Geoff Hamilton

Jennifer, of Riverdale, N.J., has only been volunteering with the Trail Conference for a few months, but during her more than 400 hours of volunteer service with us, she has proven to be a huge asset to the Conservation Corps. Her tireless efforts have helped keep on track a program that doubled in size in 2017 but had a third of the previous year’s staffing. Jennifer's incredible ability to process data and her attention to detail was integral in the successful completion of the 2017 Corps season and preparation for 2018.

Jennifer's efforts did not stop with her dedication to the Corps. Her analytical talents were sought after and utilized by senior staff—from interpreting data collected in the Trail User Survey, to helping to improve volunteer management processes, to volunteering with the Invasive Strike Force. Her desire to learn and to assist any staff member or volunteer who asks has become a thing of legend at Headquarters.

Todd Jennings, nominated by Sona Mason

Todd, along with Trail Conference Board member Ken Posner (who was co-nominated for this award, but is ineligible to receive it due to his position on the Board), created the popular Long Path Trail Race Series. Their aim was to get “more people running and hiking on New York's beautiful trails and [to] build awareness for the Long Path and the work of the Trail Conference and its volunteers.” Their success is truly admirable.

Recruiting from their base of race competitors and social media followers, Todd, who is the Southern Shawangunks Trail Chair and maintainer for a section of the Highlands Trail where he lives in Monroe, N.Y., and Ken have achieved an historic record of 100% maintainer occupancy of the trails along the southern Shawangunk Ridge. They also spend a great many hours leading work trips to keep trails along the Ridge clear and encourage race participants to give back by donating to the Trail Conference. On or off-trail, they are found to be enthusiastically promoting the Long Path, Shawangunk Ridge Trail, and the Trail Conference.

 John Pappas and Katie Kingsbury, nominated by Steve Weissman

John and Katie are a dynamic supervisory team for the southern and northern sections of the New Jersey Appalachian Trail.  Katie, of Barrington, N.J., began maintaining the section of the A.T. that passes by Sunfish Pond more than 15 years ago and has been responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the A.T. from the Delaware Water Gap to the Buttermilk Falls Trail for the last 10 years. Katie introduced John to her passion for maintaining the Trail in 2005, and both have been a vital part of the New Jersey Appalachian Trail Committee ever since. 

In May 2013, John, of Oak Ridge, N.J., took over as the supervisor for the northern section of the Trail that includes the Pochuck Boardwalk.  John and Katie have devoted dozens of hours to the recent redecking of the Boardwalk. John has also been chronicling this ambitious project with videos on the N.J. Appalachian Trail Maintainers Facebook page. The Pappas-Kingsbury team richly deserve this award for their years of devotion to the maintenance of the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey.

Irene Voce and Tom Hobbick, nominated by Linda Rohleder

Over the past year and a half, Irene and Tom have shown sustained dedication and enthusiasm for our Invasive Species program. Beginning as Invasive Strike Force surveying volunteers, these Suffern, N.Y., residents have assisted with various aspects of our invasives program by actively surveying for our target species. Together, they have committed over 440 hours to performing critical data entry for our 2016 Blockbuster program, creating new smartphone survey apps for our 2017 Blockbuster and ISF programs, and engaging in training sessions for volunteers. They continue to be engaged by helping to develop more efficient methods to manage the information and data that we receive across our different programs, including helping to redesign our database. Tom and Irene have been instrumental in broadening our scope of how we use our tools to increase volunteer engagement and in ongoing development of tech solutions for our program operations.

 William Hoeferlin Award

Recognizes Trail Conference volunteers who have demonstrated exemplary service to trail maintenance, management, and/or trail land protection.

Geof Connor, nominated by Rose Bonanno

Geof has volunteered for the Trail Conference since 2007, first in Hudson Highlands State Park, and now in county parks in Westchester County, N.Y. Over the years, he has served as supervisor, trail chair, crew leader, and certified sawyer. Geof, of Katonah, N.Y., has been instrumental in not only building trails, but also building strong relationships with land managers. He visits the parks he supervises daily with his dog, which is why he is so knowledgeable about these trails—and why he has become known as a go-to person for solving trail problems. With his passion for trails and dedication to improving access to nature, Geof embodies the very best of the Trail Conference. 

Mary Dodds, nominated by Rose Bonanno

Mary’s volunteer career began with an e-mail in 2010 about new trails in a park near her house. She first became a trail maintainer, then crew chief and supervisor. A boots-on-the-ground person, Mary, of Mohegan Lake, N.Y., started the Westchester Trail Tramps to help maintain trails at Teatown Lake Reservation. Within a year, the Tramps gained the skills to do trail repairs—and soon began constructing them. Mary became Teatown-Cortland Supervisor when trails in the Town of Cortlandt needed help. In 2015, Mary also agreed to be supervisor on the trails in the southern Hudson Highlands. Whether it is designing trails or supervising a crew trip (or assisting other crews), Mary works tirelessly for trails under her purview.

Thom Patton, nominated by Sona Mason

Thom spends endless hours ensuring the Long Path remains open and functional in Harriman State Park. A Trail Conference volunteer for eight years, the Westwood, N.J., resident diplomatically handles tricky trail and people issues, never giving up until reaching a solution. Always ready to lend a hand, Thom goes above and beyond to create a better trail experience.

Rick Loggia, nominated by Moe Lemire

For over 20 years, Rick has been manager of the Appalachian Trail Corridor in Orange and Rockland counties in New York. A.T. boundary monitoring is one of the most underappreciated and difficult positions on the Appalachian Trail, yet he has served in this role—and mentored many others under him—with skill and grace. Rick, of Middletown, N.J., has been a dedicated manager, always recruiting new volunteers and providing great training to his team. He is always a pleasure to work with; there are never any complaints or bad words about him. While Rick is preparing to retire from his role as manager, he will continue to monitor the Corridor—just one more sign of his dedication to protecting the Appalachian Trail and passion for giving back.

Bob Messerschmidt, nominated by Don Weise

For 50 years, Bob maintained the Posts Brook Trail in New Jersey's Wyanokie region. Bob, of Bridgewater, N.J., performed this community service responsibly and reliably, both as a club maintainer and an individual maintainer. After retiring from his post, Bob continued to assist and mentor other maintainers and has been a steadfast supporter of the Trail Conference and our mission.

Corporate Partner Award

Given to businesses or their employees for outstanding service to the hiking community.

Mountain Tops, nominated by Hank Osborn

Mountain Tops' support of the Breakneck Ridge Trail Steward Program is unparalleled. Based in Beacon, N.Y., Mountain Tops has been the most consistent sponsor of the Breakneck Stewards program since its creation in 2013. Every season, Mountain Tops has provided uniforms of the highest quality to each Steward stationed at Breakneck. Over the years, the store has custom-fit over 30 Stewards with shirts, pants, jackets, and boots. They have been exceedingly generous with their time and commitment to this program, and they are a pleasure to work with. 

Major William A. Welch Trail Partner Award

Presented to those outside the Trail Conference (for example, state, federal, or local agency partner officials) who have given long and/or significant assistance to the Trail Conference.

Essex County, New Jersey, nominated by Peter Dolan

Essex County—particularly Tara Casella, Director of the Essex County Environmental Center—provided assistance in promoting and developing the 34-mile, cross-county Lenape Trail. This included storing trail bollards, assisting with permits and approvals, coordinating installation, and hosting volunteer recognition events, among other helpful acts. Their enthusiasm for and dedication to improving the Lenape Trail helps to ensure this unique trail will remain accessible for all for many years to come.

Town of Yorktown Department of Parks and Recreationnominated by Jane Daniels

Since 2010, multiple levels of the Town of Yorktown’s Department of Parks and Recreation have been partners to the volunteers of the Trail Conference. Three different park superintendents have all been supportive of adding trails, making improvements, and building structures such as bridges, puncheon, and boardwalks for this community in Westchester, N.Y. Park workers have been instrumental in ensuring the success of larger projects, hauling lumber and providing other assistance when needed. When a bridge was destroyed in 2016, the superintendent immediately asked if volunteers could fix it—which they did. This productive relationship is a perfect example of how land managers and volunteers work together to improve access to nature.

Long Path End-to-Enders

The Trail Conference offers a certificate and an end-to-end patch “rocker” to anyone who hikes the entire length of the Long Path. The trip can be completed in one continuous trip or in a number of hikes over many years. The following people became end-to-enders in 2017 and were acknowledged at the Volunteer Recognition event.

#145  John A. Papirio finished on 8/29/2016

#147  Ken Morgan finished on 11/1/2016

#148  Franklin Marra finished on 7/13/2017

#149  Laura Smith finished on 7/22/2017

#150  David Booth finished on 9/17/2017

#151  Heather Houskeeper finished on 10/17/2017

#152  Scott Weis finished on 10/17/2017

#153  Joe Baldino finished on 11/5/2017

#154  Daniel Anderson finished on 11/19/2017