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Presidential Ponderings

Jay DDecember 2020

I can’t believe this is my last Presidential Pondering! After three years it seems strange starting my “last” things, board meeting, general meeting, Town Hall etc.  It has been a privilege leading our club for the past three years.  While I am stepping down from this position I will still be around.  I will continue to be involved with our Trail Ambassador program and the Trail Skills Workshop.

Over the last eight years I have had the privilege of working with some great club members.  Your board demonstrates a high level of commitment, energy and enthusiasm which is amazing.  And there are many committee members who make significant contributions.

There are several members who perform duties year after year, our club would not be as strong as it is without people like:  Bruce Kreitman as Tool Manager, Ron Hamlin and Lisa Williams managing our web site and database, Olin Batchelor running the Photography Committee, Martha Miller engaging new members, Doug Haas keeping our books, John Turner editing our monthly newsletter, Mike Cordisco as Sawyer Coordinator, Tom Cross overseeing activities, Melanie Spamer assembling the year book, David & Pat Stelts maintaining structures, Margaret Bryant calculating the work trip database and counting hours and many others

The 2021 Board has four new members to the board, including Don Converse as president.  These people will bring new ideas and energy to the board to see our club through the Coronavirus pandemic. It is exciting to see new people join the board and bring new ideas and actions.

Three years ago a board retreat was held at the Hike Inn with Elizabeth Marsala conducting a strategic planning process.  From this the single most important take away was the need to engage more members in all areas of the club.  This involves mentoring prospective members to bring them into the club culture, assessing their strength, potential contributions and getting them involved.  Each board member as a committee chair has the responsibility to foster engagement and to develop a succession plan.

I also feel that our membership base should grow by up to 300 people.  That number would bring ten to twenty individuals getting sufficiently involved, from sections maintainers to filling many board positions.  For this to happen a marketing plan should be developed to promote the club and solicit members.

Consider there are approximately 7,000 Appalachian Trail license plates in Georgia.  That means there are a lot of people out there that feel a connection to our trail.  By reaching out we should be able to make a number of them members.  For those not able to commit to a membership our new Friends program allows people to be connected.  We can also reach potential members through our relationship with REI.  Additionally, tabling at various events provides great exposure, and with a provision to take applications and money an opportunity to gain members.

Of course, I have a concern about the immediate future as we all have been hoping the Coronavirus would be dissipating by now.  It seems there may be another wave as the weather brings us inside.  I am slightly pessimistic about next year's through hiker season.  There is a distinct possibility that the pandemic and social distancing will be back in full swing causing measures to be taken.

The season will be either full speed or a trickle.  If the trail is open, we should see record numbers of hikers starting.  In this case we will need an army of Trail Ambassadors to help visitors mitigate their impacts.  If the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the Chattahoochee National Forest (C-ONF) close the trail, there will still be many flaunting the rule and hiking.

I long for the day when we can get back to “normal”.  I miss our third Saturday work trips and seeing friends.  Fortunately, the trail remains in good condition, testament to the quality of our work.  Our sawyer team has been diligent about clearing blowdowns.  I hope we can get together next October for our annual meeting and celebration of 90 years of stewardship.

There will be a Town Hall meeting Thursday November 19 at 5:00pm. Also, make plans to participate in the annual Holiday Party Saturday December 5 at 10:00am.  I will send out notices soon to register for these events. 

By next October I hope we can gather together for our annual meeting and the postponed celebration of our 90th anniversary.  Until then, I’ll see you on the trail.

Jay