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North Star: The Magazine of the North Country Trail

April - June 2001

We're All Just People on Capitol Hill This past March, volunteers Bob Tait, Jon Lindgren, Richard Lutz and Ben Mourer joined NCTA staff members Tiffany Halfmann and myself on a trip to Washington DC to build support for the North Country Trail. In just three days, we attended more than 40 meetings! Mainly, we worked to persuade Senators and Representatives to help us with funding, but we also covered a number of other topics. During the trip, one thing quickly became apparent to me. When it comes to persuading politicians, experience counts, but not as much as you might think. Richard and Ben were true novices at lobbying. Richard, founding President of our Wampum Chapter, is twenty years old. Ben, an outstanding volunteer from the Butler Chapter, is sixteen. Both of these young men did your trail proud. Their commitment to our cause was obvious to me and to those with whom they met. They impressed both the politicos on the Hill and our colleagues from other trail organizations also in DC. Jon, on the other hand, is an old hand at this sort of thing. Having spent sixteen years as the Mayor of Fargo, ND, Jon is familiar with political advocacy from the other side of the desk. He commented to me that it's hard for a politician not to sympathize with a cause being championed by people who clearly aren't professional lobbyists. Personal commitment and belief in the cause carry a lot of weight. I noticed that Jon himself always approached people on a personal level, taking the time to chat and to get to know who they were. He never failed to ask where they were from and to try to establish a bond with them based on their answers. My own weakness in lobbying is that I take my mission too seriously and don't spend enough time remembering that we're all just people, no matter what side of the desk we sit on. Because of that, we have things Page 34

crossed by our trail, or, at the very least, that they truly appreciated the accomplishments and dedication of our organization and volunteers.

By Bob Papp Executive Director in common. Many of the people we met with were eager to let us know that they were hikers too, or that they enjoyed some of the parks

As a result, most people immediately grasped the benefits of our proposal. In short, we primarily sought funding to establish four "regional support centers" to allow us, finally, to place paid trail coordinators in the field, closer to where our volunteers are working and our trail is being built. This is a management model that the Appalachian Trail has successfully used to create one of the greatest hiking trails in our nation. If we receive the funding, it will help bring a whole new level of activity to the North Country Trail, as well as a very exciting future. Let's keep our fingers crossed! To help us get there, please contact your Senator or Representative and ask them to support the North Country National Scenic Trail. Remember, polish doesn't count nearly as much as passion!

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North Star Vol. 20, No. 2 (2001)  
North Star Vol. 20, No. 2 (2001)