A Wilderness for all: 2023 NMW DEIJ Grants Summary, Part 2

Jan 26, 2024
Lucy Trotter
Urban Boatbuilders Apprenticeship participants at their campsite on a cloudy evening in the BWCA

A Wilderness for all: 2023 NMW DEIJ Grants Summary, Part 2

By Lucy Trotter, Administrative Coordinator


The final three groups funded by our 2023 grant cycles were Renew Earth Running, Urban Boatbuilders, and Troop 100. 

Renew Earth Running is a Native-led nonprofit, with members spread throughout the US and Canada, Their mission is, “Running to protect and heal the environment by restoring land to the stewardship of Tribal Nations and Indigenous leadership”. RER brought a group of 10 up North in September to participate in the Ely Marathon. 

RER gave us a summary of their experience up North -

We gathered in Ely on Friday, September 22nd and enjoyed a delicious pre-race meal at Insula and then picked up our race packets at Whiteside Park. We then unpacked and prepared for race day at our perfectly Boundary Waters accommodations at Silver Rapids Lodge. 


On Saturday, September 23rd, we all toed the line and enjoyed the beautiful Ely Half Marathon. The race was very well organized and all of the volunteers were amazing. The post race festivities at the finish line in Whiteside Park were a lot of fun. We all proudly collected our medals as we finished and cheered on our teammate, Bethany Kozak (Red Cliff Band of Ojibwe) who finished 3rd place overall/1st place female, and John Lee (White Earth Band of Ojibwe) who placed 10th overall/1st in his age group. We then rewarded ourselves with a big post race meal at the Boathouse Brewpub and Restaurant.


Our Boundary Waters plan included a canoe trip on Sunday, September 24th to the pictographs on Hegman Lake. Unfortunately, we woke up Sunday morning to heavy rain and wind. After frantic texts and calls with our guide, it was decided that the wind and whitecaps would make for an enjoyable and potentially unsafe canoe trip. The Ely Outfitting Company was very kind and flexible with us and we hope to get to canoe with them in the near future. With the cancelled canoe trip, we were able to take our time and really enjoy the International Wolf Center and the North American Bear Center.


From Bethany Kozak: 

This past September I had an incredible opportunity to enjoy time spent running, learning, and exploring with fellow teammates/friends as a part of Renew Earth Running. The peace and vastness of Minnesota's most northern parts is so beautiful, and we made the most of running with the Land in Ely traversing roads and trails alongside streams and tall pines. Every footstep along this route I felt energized by the comradery of those running as well as by those helping organize the Ely Half Marathon. Seeing individuals portage 13.1 miles was also a sight to see and I think it would be fun to do as a team in the future. While the high winds and rain did not allow for time on the water, we made the most of our time after racing by going to the North American Bear Center and the International Wolf Center. A huge thank you to Renew Earth Running, Save the Boundary Waters, and Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness for making this experience possible! I am looking forward to more BWCA memories with this crew. 


From Jasmine Grika: 

I had never been to Ely, and this experience provided me the opportunity to experience all of it in its mother nature entirety. We had beautiful running weather and scenery for the half marathon, and then experienced some rain the next day, which brought serenity. The best part about this was the camaraderie with the Renew Earth running team, and exploring the aspects of Ely together. From the Bears, wolves, shops and restaurants, it was the joy I didn't know I needed. I really appreciate and am deeply honored I got to have this experience with some of the best humans I know.


Check out their instagram post here for some pictures from the run!

Urban Boatbuilders, based in St. Paul, works to “empower youth to succeed in work and life through woodworking and experiential learning”. Through their paid apprenticeship program, youth who face barriers to employment can learn technical, social, emotional, and career and future-readiness skills. The 2023 grant cycle helped to fund the celebratory Boundary Waters trip for the apprenticeship graduates in August. 

From one of the trip leaders: “Eight apprentices from Urban Boatbuilders went on a five-day boundary waters wilderness trip. All the apprentices took on roles like navigating, cooking, portaging, etc. We hit some intense wind some days, so we had to do pretty powerful paddling to make it through it. It was also an incredibly unique experience for the staff chaperones that we’re grateful for having gotten to do. We all ate a lot of summer sausage and tuna fish and only got rained on once!”


Kids on BWCA tripKids on BWCA trip

Troop 100, an all Hmong boys scout troop based in St. Paul, sent two groups to the Boundary Waters in late June, via the Kawishiwi and Sawbill trails. Check out these pictures from their trips!


BWCA tripBig rock in BWCA

It was an incredible year of seeing the results of hard work and planning coming to life, and it is a privilege to play a small role in supporting all of these groups. 


The first round of the Wilderness Equity Initiative 2024 Grant Cycle has already wrapped up, check out the Grants page to read more about the projects receiving funding. The next round is live, with a deadline of May 1!