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The North Country Trail Allegheny National Forest Chapter

By Bert Nemcik

When I returned from my Appalachian Trail through-hike in 2002, I wanted to give something back to the trail communiy. Working on the AT was my first through, but the nearest section is 200 miles away.

The NCT is right in my own backyard crossing over Henry's Mills Bridge juts 10 miles from my Pennsylvania home. I knew that the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) section of the NCT was certified but not yet adopted by anyone, so starting a chapter to do just that seemed the thing to do. I had lots of help:

Bob Tait, the North Country Trail Association's coordinator for Pennsylvania was elated that someone wanted to organize the chapter.

Kirk Johnson, Executive Director of the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness, was instrumental in assisting my networking with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) personnel.

Eric Flood, Wilderness Ranger for the Allegheny National Forest, was quick to join and offer his expertise and connections with the NFS system.

With support from these men, my wife, Cheryl, and I started to spread the word in the area and within a month, we were ready to hold our first meeting, write our by-laws and chapter charter and forge ahead to become officially recognized.

At our first meetng, many local people came and shared their vision. Bill and Mary Massa, President and Secretary of the Allegheny Outdoor Club, said they wanted to see the chapter succeed so that we could support them in relocating and maintaining the NCT.

Bill Belitksus said he wanted to make sure that his efforts would help to protect the NCT in the Allegheny National Forest. He hoped that our hard work would result in establishing a high quality recreational hiking trail in the ANF for all to enjoy.

Jim Kleissler, the head of the Allegheny Defense Project, said he wanted to promote the trail so that people would appreciate the natural beauty of the Allegheny National Forest and that his efforts would result in protecting the pathway through the entire length of it.

Eric offered his years of trail building and maintenance skills learned in the wilds of Maine. He believed that his enthusiasm for trail work would encourage others to begin to volunteer their time and efforts on this awesome project.

Kirk said, "I am joining the ANF chapter of the NCTA in order to participate in trail events along the NCT. I live in (nearby) Warren. It is exciting to me that a new chapter is being formed specific to the ANF. This was something long overdue." Keith Klos said he wanted to be involved in the trail work and looked forward to erecting a series of shelters that would rival anything on any trail in the nation.

The enthusiasm is building. We are looking forward to an exciting summer of trail work, backpacking and promoting our section of the NCT pathway. See you down the trail!

Visit the NCTA Allegheny Forest Chapter website at www.northcountrytrail.org/anf/index.htm

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