The Curry Coastal Pilot

Two Curry County residents received awards for the National Coast

Trail Association during Oregon Coast Trail presentations in Brookings

and Gold Beach.

Al LePage, director of the trail association, presented Al Collinet,

coordinator of Muscle Busters hiking group, the Trail Development Award

Wednesday at the Chetco Community Public Library.

Then on Thursday at the Curry County Courthouse Annex, LePage

presented Walt Schroeder with the Ernie Drapela Award, the

association's newest and highest special award for outstanding

achievement in developing missing links in the Oregon Coast Trail.

The awards were presented during the last two stops of LePage's program titled "Oregon Coast Trail: Journey Along the Edge of Infinity!"

"Walt is the spark. No, he is the lighting bolt for the Oregon Coast Trail along the South Coast," LePage said.

"I cannot begin to express the appreciation I have for Walt Schroeder," LePage said. "He has worked for years, freely giving of his time, energy and other resources to make the Oregon Coast Trail a reality."

LePage said Schroeder's "relentless advocacy, make-things-happen organizing, hands-on trail building, and working with everyone to successfully create connections for the trail where he lives set him apart."

The Ernie Drapela Award was created to recognize the dedication and success of both Schroeder and Joanne and Norman Kittel of Yachats, who received the award in early March.

The award is named for the first chair of the Oregon Recreational Trails Advisory Council, created in 1971 to advise the state parks commission about recreational trails in Oregon. One of the first projects they recommended was that the Oregon Coast Trail become State Parks' No. 1 priority.

LePage said Schroeder and the Kittels kept working over the years and developing even more trail, so he felt it was necessary to honor them again.

LePage said Schroeder has spent a lot of time outdoors working as a county extension agent, hiking and doing trail work in Curry County, as well as advocated for the development of the trail along the South Coast with Oregon State Park's managers and state trail coordinators.

"Since 2004, (Schroeder) worked with Al Collinet, coordinator of the Muscle Busters trail group, and those associated with it, to help build trail at Otter Point, Cape Sebastian, and along many sections of Boardman State Park," LePage said, adding that most recently, Schroeder has provided input to develop solutions to complete the trail throughout the length of Curry County.

It was Schroeder who told LePage about Collinet and the Muscle Busters group.

"I knew I had to listen." LePage said. "Now (Schroeder) didn't use these exact words, but he essentially told me that the Muscle Busters had been busting their tails for trails."

LePage, who has hiked the entire Oregon Coast Trail from the Columbia River south jetty to the California state line just south of the Winchuck River in 1988 and 2008, said "I can appreciate their work in more ways than one."

The Muscle Busters group was the brainchild of Collinet, a hiker who had relocated to Brookings from Washington state. He began joining in on hikes led by a Curry General Hospital program called Sole Pursuits. Although he enjoyed the walks, he wanted something a bit more strenuous, something that would be a muscle buster. In 2004, with Collinet getting the word out and working with Schroeder not only lead hikes, but do trail work, too.

Trail building projects have included work at Otter Point, Cape Sebastian and along many segments in Boardman State Park.

In addition, Collinet and Schroeder do not limit themselves to the Oregon Coast Trail. Collinet said at the Brookings presentation that with the help of between 20 and 30 people, they had completed the Rogue River Walk in Gold Beach.

The Ernie Drapela Award is the second that Schroeder has received from LePage.

The National Coast Trail Association had already recognized both Schroeder and the Kittels earlier in the last decade with another award andndash; the Sam Dicken Award andndash; that had been created to recognize their contributions as volunteers in developing the Oregon Coast Trail.

That award was named after the University of Oregon geography professor who originated the idea for the Oregon Coast Trail in 1959 and advocated for its development with Oregon State Parks for more than 12 years.