Kate Williams Paddles Away from the Northern Forest Canoe Trail

Kate WilliamsThe Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT) has announced that Kate Williams will step down as executive director effective February 17, 2014. The NFCT Board of Directors has initiated a process to identify and hire a new executive director. Williams will remain active in the outdoor and recreation arenas joining 1% for the Planet as Director of Partnerships and New England Network.

“During Kate’s ten years as executive director, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail has grown from an intriguing idea to an internationally recognized recreational resource,” says Board President Warren Cook. “She is one of the outstanding nonprofit leaders in the country and we wish her well in her exciting new assignment. On behalf of the board of directors, I applaud Kate for her success in positioning the Northern Forest Canoe Trail as a leader in the Northern Forest Region and beyond.” 

Kate Williams Fort Kent Kiosk Dedication 2004Under Williams’ leadership, NFCT has grown from a small start-up to a lean but influential nonprofit. “The Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program began working with the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in the mid-1990s,” says Julie Isbill of the National Park Service. “Ever since I have watched the nonprofit take off, maturing from a great idea into a great force. Behind that explosive development was Kate.”

Williams has passionately raised awareness for paddling along the trail’s 740-mile route in New York’s Adirondacks, Lake Champlain, and the rivers and lakes of northern Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

“When I reflect back on my ten years at the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, I’m blown away by the innumerable memories of amazing people contributing in important ways,” says Kate Williams. Kate is admired for creating collaborations between individuals, partners, businesses, and the paddlesport industry that not only benefit the water trail, but also enhance communities along the trail corridor.     

She is responsible for establishing the nonprofits’ website and online Trip Planner; for managing a popular film festival that annually travels the Northeast showcasing watersport films; and providing advice to hundreds of canoeists and kayakers. Her on-the-ground efforts enable outdoor enthusiasts to have amazing and memorable experiences.

“I for one will miss Kate’s firm leadership,” shares Northern Forest Canoe Trail member Stephen Garanin. “I look forward to her notes of thanks and encouragement. She has taken a small and interesting kernel of an idea and guided it into becoming the premier water trail in the USA if not the world!”Kate Williams Jen Lamphere Raquette River 2005

The organization is known for its can-do, action-oriented approach, for its commitment to developing effective partnerships and networks, and for working diligently toward tangible outcomes. During Williams’ tenure, NFCT has accomplished the following:

  • Published a 13-map series and guidebook.
  • Grown individual membership to more than 1000 members and fundraising to a sustaining level.
  • Developed a highly effective Trail Stewardship Program that engages interns and regional volunteers to improve and enhance the multi-state route.
  • Launched a unique Youth Outdoors Program for underserved kids in trailside communities, connecting them to their backyard waterways.
  • Recruited and engaged a dynamic and committed Board of Directors.
  • Grown business and corporate partnerships to provide both financial and in-kind support for programs and operations, and led a new approach to collaborative strategies.

“It has not been easy times for any non-profit during the Great Recession,” says Lili Colby of MTI Adventurewear. “To grow the Northern Forest Canoe Trail in the face of difficult economic times speaks volumes to Kate’s sound management and steady commitment. She leaves the nonprofit in great shape, a strong and vibrant organization, well connected to the membership base and the communities along the trail.”

Williams’ reach extended beyond the nonprofit. In 2006, she was one of the founders of the Rural Destination Tourism model that catalyzed successful tourism efforts such as Maine Woods Discovery. This role positioned NFCT as an important asset for tourism departments in all Trail states.

In 2011, Williams helped advise American Rivers on their Blue Trails Program and provided one of their first “River Stories” at http://www.americanrivers.org/initiatives/blue-trails/riverstories/.Kate Williams Alan Stearns Chesuncook Lake 2013

In 2012, Williams served on the National Blueways Task Force, advising the National Park Service on the creation of a system for designating thriving watersheds. The Connecticut River, of which the Northern Forest Canoe Trail overlaps with for 20 miles, is the only river with the National Blueway status.

Under Williams’ tenure, the Northern Forest Canoe Trail has become a go-to resource for other water trail and long-distance trail groups nationwide. Williams was influential in providing guidance to the Alabama Scenic River Trail, the Huron River Water Trail, and the Washington Water Trails Association.

Williams remains on the board of directors for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Foundation and the National Outdoor Leadership School.

“I’m so grateful to the many friends and partners who helped propel the Northern Forest Canoe Trail forward, and I’m quite certain that I learned and benefited from this community at least as much as I was able to contribute,” says Kate Williams. “I look forward to continuing to champion this wonderful resource in the future.”

The next executive director will have the opportunity to build on this momentum, and join with the Board of Directors and staff to deliver the Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s 2020 Strategic Plan.

A Search Committee is currently accepting applications and holding interviews. Interested candidates can view the job description and application instructions at:  http://www.northernforestcanoetrail.org/AboutNFCT-2/NFCT-Jobs-83.


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