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Presidential Ponderings

Jay DNovember 2019

Well it seems like fall has finally arrived!  I can’t believe it was so hot into October, and it is a relief to finally have some cool weather.  I sure hope we get some good foliage and winter holds off for a couple of months.

Member Engagement

Early in my term as club president the board held a retreat at the Hike Inn to discuss strategic planning.  From that it seems to me the most important strategy is Member Engagement.  In order to thrive long term, more members need to participate throughout the club.  This includes with committees, trail sections, Trail Ambassadors etc.

Tom Lamb, Trails Director, is starting an initiative to have two or more overseers on each section.  Doing trail work with a partner will make it more fun, by virtue of having someone to talk with and share the load.  It will also make for a safer work environment.

At the recent annual meeting the Forest Service recognized many members who do a lot of work “behind the scenes”.  Their work provides a solid foundation for the club and we are grateful for their commitment.  Many of these individuals are the only ones that know certain areas of the club’s workings.  We need to augment their efforts with another member who is trained to take over, or at least share the load.

Engaging members across the club takes some effort by all parties.  Board members need to use their committees more, which means we need more people on committees.  I am hoping that new members will reach out and join groups that interest them. 

PATHE

Recently the Protecting the Appalachian Trail Hiking Experience committee, PATHE, met at Forest Service headquarters in Gainesville.  Not much has happened over the summer and the spirit of the meeting was to refocus and reenergize to go forward.

The NEPA Campsite is in the process of categorizing the trail and campsites in Georgia with a number between 1 and 5, representing Wilderness Areas to Front country.  This will provide a prescription to manage these areas.  The Campsite Committee of the Stewardship Council of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy is also working on this same programming.  Club member Bill Bryant is influential on the PATHE committee and was recently appointed chair of the Stewardship Council’s Campsite Committee.

Discussions of a Bear Resistant Storage Container order continued.  The Chattahoochee National Forest wants a forest wide order that would include all front and back country campsites.  I support this initiative mainly because visitors need to become aware of the impacts they have on the resource.  Food storage is not for the benefit of campers, rather for the protection of the animals.  We don’t want animals to become dependent on humans as a source for food.

A.T. Caucus

Since 2018, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Caucus (A.T. Caucus) has provided a convening space for Members of Congress, on a non-partisan basis, who are enthusiastic about the Trail.  The Caucus works directly with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) to help members stay informed on trail issue.  Additionally, they will be informed about bills and hearings in Congress that are of special importance to the Trail.

Doug Collins of District 1 is the only Georgia representative on the Caucus.  Please contact your representative and ask that they join the Caucus.

Clean Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) attack on the Clean Water Act is a major concern. It could severely restrict the ability of states to participate in the permitting and licensing of major infrastructure, that can have a major impact on the Trail landscape, such as pipelines and transmission lines.

The target of this attack is Section 401 of the Clean Water Act which would limit the ability of local and state governments.  This would allow developers and industry to basically ignore the public good.  Section 401 is similar to the Cooperative Agreement under which the A.T. is managed, with all parties having a voice in decisions.

National Park Service Value

A recent economic analysis places the value of the United States National Park System at over $100 billion.  Consider the agencies annual operating budget of $2.5 billion and a maintenance backlog between $12 and $20 billion and something is out of balance.  “America’s Best Idea” needs some better ideas to address the needed maintenance.

The ATC, has conducted an inventory of the trail and associated structures.  This has taken several years to compile as all the water bars, rock steps, shelters etc. have been counted and valuated. That analysis places the value of the A.T. at $28.43 a foot or almost $330 million.

I would hope that Americans would find ways to support our parks.  Some national parks are starting to charge admission and exploring other means of generating revenue. Approximately $36 billion is generated in local economies.

Board Meetings

As a reminder, club board meetings are open and members are encouraged to attend.  Typically we meet at the Kennesaw REI store on the second or third Sunday of odd months.  Please let me know if you are interested so I can provide specific details.

Jay