NTN Trails: Unlocking Marquette’s Hidden Trails

Passion, People and Pedals

by Cliff Duvernois

NTN Trails - Hiking Marquette

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Ready to explore Marquette’s trails? Lori Hauswirth and Jeni Kilpela from NTN Trails located in Marquette, Michigan discuss the organization’s history, volunteer efforts, and extensive trail system.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The importance of community support for trail maintenance
  • The diverse year-round activities available on the trails
  • The various events that draw people to the area.

Links:

NTN Trails Website: https://noquetrails.org/

Passion, People and Pedals: The Story of NTN Trails

Michigan is a place of bracing winters, bright summers, and rugged beauty. It’s a land where nature speaks in whispers of wind through trees and the crunch of gravel underfoot. For Michiganders, exploring the great outdoors is a sacred rite. And standing at the helm of this adventure is NTN Trails.

Trails for Everyone, Funded by Everyone

Trails are like veins, carrying life through Michigan’s landscapes. NTN Trails, based in Marquette, Michigan, is a non-profit dedicated to maintaining over 150 miles of these vital paths. But these trails aren’t merely provided for free. As Lori Hauswirth, the Executive Director, mentions, “We don’t like using the word free because there’s a cost to doing all this.” The organization survived and thrived through the sweat, dollars, and hours from contributors. They operate on the belief that everyone should be a contributor, not just a user.

From Passionate Beginnings

NTN Trails started from the sheer passion of volunteers. Lori herself was one such devotee. Growing up in Marquette, she played on the area that is now crisscrossed by NTN Trails. Lori’s journey from a simple mountain biker to the Executive Director is as winding and adventurous as the paths she helps maintain. Jenny Kilpela, the Community Outreach Manager, shares a similar tale. She began as a volunteer, inspired by her love for Nordic skiing and trail running. Her energy and dedication caught Lori’s eye, leading to Jenny’s current role. Today, she helps manage community relationships and coordinates events, working full-time on something she once did out of pure love.

The Vital Role of Volunteers

Maintaining 150 miles of trails is no small feat. NTN Trails relies heavily on an army of volunteers. Winter grooming alone involves a sophisticated dance of machines and manpower. From the massive $250,000 Piston Bully groomer to simpler snowmobiles, every piece of equipment helps keep the trails in top shape. These volunteers, or as Lori calls them, “super volunteers,” are the backbone of NTN Trails. “You get a text that says, ‘It’s all groomed’ an hour after it stopped snowing,” Lori describes. Their commitment ensures that trails remain accessible, even in the harshest conditions.

Fundraising Through Community and Events

Funding comes through memberships, business sponsorships, and grants. Individual memberships provide discounts at local shops and personalized updates about trails. Higher levels of financial support let benefactors sponsor specific trail sections, immortalizing their contributions on the paths they love. NTN Trails also hosts various events throughout the year, such as the renowned Noque Ski Marathon, which draws over 1,200 participants every January. Other events include the Trails Fest in June and the Marquette Trail 50 ultramarathon in August. These events not only fund the trails but also solidify the community’s bond with its natural surroundings.

A Testament to Collective Effort

The story of NTN Trails is one woven with threads of community, passion, and hard work. It’s a testament to what can happen when ordinary people do extraordinary things. Through their dedication, they ensure that every twist, turn, and stretch of Michigan’s trails continues to inspire awe and adventure. So, next time you venture into the woods, remember that it’s the collective effort of passionate Michiganders that makes your exploration possible. They’ve built a world where, as Jenny aptly puts it, the winters may be long but filled with opportunities to cherish the great outdoors.

Join the Cause

For those inspired by the work NTN Trails does, considering a membership or volunteering can go a long way. Visit their website at Noquetrails.org to learn more and contribute to this noble endeavor. Keep exploring, Michigan. The trails await, thanks to the hands and hearts that keep them alive.