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Presidential Ponderings

Jay DDecember 2018

I can’t believe it is almost November and we don’t have any fall color. I am glad the heat of summer is behind us and it seems like we are thrust into late fall without the usual stuff of leaf colors and pleasant days.

At our recent annual meeting a resolution was passed to increase our dues. I think it is a good measure to make sure we can continue to fund our good work, and it was long overdue. The ensuing discussion brought to light a small problem with our accounting.

We have kept our books based on a calendar year, which keeps us out of sync with several things. Our partners use the federal fiscal year, starting October 1, and our annual meeting is held at the start of the third quarter. The big issue is we have significant revenues in the fourth quarter that are spent throughout the year. The statements shown at the meeting require this explanation.

Plans are underway to change our fiscal year to start October 1 and end September 30. I believe this should be painless and happen before the end of the year. This will allow us to report the revenues from License Tag Grants and membership dues in the same reporting period as the expenditures. This will make our statements more readily reflect operations.

Gun Range

As many of you are aware, there is a proposal for a gun range in Union County. The location, on Rt. 180, is sandwiched between the Brasstown and Mark Trail Wildernesses. The Trail is in defilade of the range from Cold Springs Gap until it nears Chattahoochee Gap. There are two principle concerns, which are noise and safety.

The site is approximately 1.2 miles from a section of the Appalachian Trail. I suspect that gun fire reports would be noticeable and disruptive. I am also concerned about errant bullets hitting the trail directly or indirectly. Studies will be done on both these issues for a proper determination.

Additional information, the scoping letter and accompanying maps can be seen at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=54559 under the "Scoping" tab. The deadline for replies is November 13.

Fiftieth Anniversary of the National Trails System Act

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the passage of the National Trails System Act of 1968. This recognizes long trails with “maximum outdoor potential” and its “nationally significant scenic, historical, natural or cultural qualities.” The act officially recognized the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail as the first two National Scenic Trails (NST). In addition, the act also identified 14 other trails for NST status.

Set up as collaborative projects by the National Trails System Act, hundreds of nonprofit organizations, assisted by a variety of state and federal agencies, support the National Trails System and offer recreational and heritage identity to thousands of communities nationwide.

Today there are 30 trails in the system that stretch for a hundred or thousands of miles each and more than 55,000 miles in total, connect with 70 wildlife refuges, 80 National Parks, 90 Bureau of Land Management areas, 90 National Forests, 123 Wilderness Areas, and 100 major metropolitan areas.

Partnership for the National Trails System

Last week I attended the meeting of the Partnership for the National Trail System in Vancouver WA. Many of the National Scenic and Historic Trails were represented at this conference in addition to federal partner agencies.

I found it interesting to learn about other trails and what similarities and differences there are with the Appalachian Trail. Of course, with the A.T. nearing one hundred years and having been “finished” for over eighty, it certainly is the granddaddy of national trails. NSTs typically have an executive director and some paid staff; they rely on volunteers extensively for trail work.

The A.T. is unique in that there are 31 individual clubs that maintain the trail through Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) and Volunteer Service Agreements (VSA). This comprises the three-legged stool. Other NSTs have chapters, which are under the umbrella of the central organization. Each chapter operates with some autonomy.

The biggest difference is how complete each trails is. Over the history of the A.T. there was a lot of work on connecting pieces of the trail into the long corridor we have today. Even the PCT is only on 85% of public lands. All the other trail systems, with significantly less public land, are dealing with fund raising for land acquisition. They are also heavily involved with managing rights and access over private lands.

Protecting the Appalachian Trail Hiking Experience

At the PATHE meeting Friday, Nov 3, the committee agreed to recommend to Betty Jewett, Forest Supervisor of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, that a bear resistant food storage container be required on the Appalachian Trail management area in Georgia. This includes one half mile either side of a white, blue or green blaze trail.

Jay Dement