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Superior Hiking Trail Association hires new leader

DULUTH — The Superior Hiking Trail Association has hired a new executive director to lead its work on maintaining, improving and supporting the iconic hiking route along the North Shore.

Denny Caneff, who most recently spent 13 years as executive director of the River Alliance of Wisconsin, was hired after a four-month search to replace Gayle Coyer, who stepped down earlier this year after 16 years leading the SHTA.

Caneff was selected from more than 70 applicants for the position.

"We are fortunate to have found a leader with Denny's depth of experience and dynamic personality," Tim Kuehn, vice president of the SHTA board of directors, said in a news release. "With this summer's completion of the trail, the association's focus and needs are broadening. We not only chose Denny for his passion for the outdoors, but his big-picture thinking and strategic skills and his ability to build relationships with stakeholders. These skills will be key in setting the future direction of the trail for years to come."

"I'm really excited to bring my nonprofit management experience and passion for the outdoors and conservation to the Superior Hiking Trail Association," Caneff said in a news release. "The North Shore has always drawn me in, and what better way to answer that call than this work to keep the Superior Hiking Trail a regional and national gem."

Caneff is a Minnesota native who grew up in Hastings, graduated from St. Cloud State University and received a master's degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He's a father of four, an avid hiker and kayaker who has canoed the entire length of the Mississippi River, and has spent time in more than 20 foreign countries — including serving in the Peace Corps in western Africa.

The Superior Hiking Trail extends more than 300 miles from Jay Cooke State Park almost all the way to the Canadian border.

Fundraising is something that all nonprofits must do, but Caneff told Forum News Service that the Superior Hiking Trail offers a unique opportunity.

"The appeal of the trail association is that it's a very tangible thing — you can walk on it, you can get dirty on it, you can go from end to end or just from A to B for three or four miles," he said. "To have something tangible like that gives a lot of fundraising opportunities that I haven't had before, and I like that. ...

"Now it's built, so I think the challenge for us now as a board and staff will be keeping people engaged in the business of the trail," Caneff said. "... It will be a lot about how to package the trail differently, how to promote it differently — and I think that looks fun and challenging."

Caneff will start his new job on June 1, but he'll attend Hike Fest 2017 on May 19-21 at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in Finland. Find more information at

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