The Superior Hiking Trail Association is getting a new leader this month when Lisa Luokkala takes over as executive director of the organization.

Luokkala, who last worked as a senior parks planner for the city of Duluth, is already familiar with the approximately 300-mile trail, which winds through the zenith city on its southern end.

Luokkala said her experience working in nonprofits before joining city government five years ago makes the job a good fit.

"This is one of those dream jobs that only comes up every once in a great while," Luokkala said, adding that she looks forward to "encouraging or connecting people to nature, to the health and wellness benefits of being outdoors and connecting to the land and watershed."

With a Master's degree in advocacy and political leadership from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Luokkala won the job from a field of 50 candidates from around the country, according to an association statement.

Luokkala, who has lived in Duluth for nearly 15 years, said she plans to continue the associations work to serve a new generation of hikers that likes to trip plan and connect through social media, as well as help a ripple effect of caring for land adjacent to the trail.

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped people see the importance of outdoor spaces, too, she said.

"I think people have a newfound appreciation for the outdoors during pandemic times," she said.

She replaces Denny Caneff, who was the association's executive director since 2017.

Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102