Trail Advocacy

This award is given in recognition of successful efforts to influence public policy relating to trail planning, trail protection, trail development, or maintenance.


Minnesota: Mary Straka

Mary Straka has successfully influenced public policy relating to trail planning, protection, development and maintenance.

Mary Straka, Off-Highway Vehicle Coordinator, Parks & Trails Division, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, deserves recognition for her outstanding work as a positive and professional trail advocate, and her commitment to our off-highway vehicle (OHV) club and the entire Minnesota OHV community.

My name is David Halsey. I am the president of the Woodtick Wheelers ATV/OHM Club, a family-oriented club started in northern Minnesota in June of 2009, and today with over 300 members. I am also the winner of the the 2010 American Trails ‘State Trail Worker Award.’

Since the summer of 2010, our club has been working with the Minnesota DNR, and local and federal agencies, to create a 35-mile Grant-In-Aid ATV Trail connecting the towns of Hackensack, Whipholt and Longville, Minnesota. For the past 2 years, Mary has helped our club climb the steep learning curve on the many facets of proposing, building and maintaining a sustainable off-highway vehicle trail in Minnesota.

In June of 2010, as part of the Minnesota DNR’s 7-step trail-building process, our club held an all-agency Informational Meeting, with land and road authorities representing 2 cities, 5 townships, Cass County (the funding sponsor for our trail), the Minnesota DNR and the Chippewa National Forest. Mary played a key leadership role at that meeting. Over the following 2 years, she has also participated in many of the over 25 additional meetings our club held to obtain resolutions of support from local townships, cities and other trail organizations.

Mary is always willing to share her wealth of information on Minnesota’s OHV policies, processes and projects. She returns calls and emails promptly, and has been instrumental in helping us move that project forward. Whether in one-on-one conversations or large group meetings, she always leads by example, providing factual, useful information and answering questions calmly and courteously.

Mary also provides this valuable service to many other clubs and their trail-funding sponsors that are working to build and maintain trails, helping provide new and better OHV trail opportunities throughout Minnesota. She has held her current position with the Minnesota DNR since 2007, is well known and well liked. In fact, on all things related to creating and maintaining sustainable OHV trails, Mary is the “go to” person for OHV clubs across the state.

Over the past 2 years, in addition to helping our club with our trail project, Mary has made many other significant contributions to Minnesota’s trail systems - used by thousands of families with ATVs, off-highway motorcycles and off-road vehicles - their planning, protection, development and management. She has:

  • Worked to revise the Minnesota DNR OHV Grant-in-Aid Manual to make it more complete and user friendly
  • Worked through several projects that involved multiple funding, some having federal funding, bonding and dedicated funding from one or more dedicated motorized accounts
  • Coordinated the use of the DNR ATV Simulator by clubs and organizations as an educational tool to promote safe and responsible use of ATVs throughout Minnesota
  • Served on the Minnesota DNR ‘Invasive Species Team’ to promote public awareness of Terrestrial Invasive Species among motorized and non-motorized trail enthusiasts in the state, including the new “Play Clean Go” campaign aimed at all trail users
  • Served on the Minnesota DNR ‘Trail Ambassador Advisory Committee’ to continue to improve that very successful trail program and the great work it does
  • Served as the chair for the Trails Committee as a member of the International Off-Highway Vehicle Administrators Association (INOHVAA)

Mary’s experience with the Minnesota DNR goes back over 20 years and includes: December 2007 to present: Off-Highway Vehicle Coordinator for the Division. December 2002 to September 2007: Area Supervisor for Trails and Waterways Division, Thief River Falls. April 1994 to December 2002: Park Manager at Old Mill State Park. 1990 to 1994: Assistant Park Manager at Blue Mounds, Camden, and Father Hennepin State Parks.

934 views • posted 01/16/2018