At a recent meeting with the Forest Service one of the leaders started the meeting with an interesting exercise. There were about fifty-plus individuals in attendance. The leader asked that everyone stand and close their eyes. She then asked each of us to turn and face north without opening our eyes. She then had us open our eyes. Though most of us were facing in the same general direction there were only a few who were within ten degrees or so of compass north. Some were actually facing South, East, and West. It was then that the leader pointed out that there was a sign on the North wall indicating true North. The point of the exercise, as we were then told, was to get everyone facing in the same direction. I thought that this was a good exercise. It included a simple point not quickly forgotten.
Do you believe that we are all “facing in the same direction” in regard to our mission and purpose? I do! I think this is amazing. Over the course of over 85 years, GATC has changed from a small handful of folks to a sizeable organization of several hundred. Yet, our dedication to our central purpose has remained strong. As stated in the Yearbook, “The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club manages, maintains and protects the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Georgia…The Trail Club promotes the appreciation of the …[Trail]…through education and recreational activities, with an emphasis on conservation ethics and protection of the forests, their natural resources and wilderness areas.” Since 1930, this is what we have done. Some of the activities may look different but the focus is always our loving care of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.
On at least two occasions this year, Laura Northrop, our Conservation Director, has led a group into the North Georgia Mountains to pull mustard garlic in an effort to eradicate it from areas along the AT in Georgia. Under her leadership, the group achieved its goal of pulling at least one-hundred pounds of mustard garlic each time. Would the early leaders of GATC have ever envisioned such a trip? Probably not. But today we recognize that conservation efforts are a central part of our mission. And it is not just mustard pulls.
Today the Forest Service is encouraging us to think in broad terms. Betty Jewett, Forest Supervisor, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (CONF), is teaching us to “Think like a Landscape.” The goal is to direct conservation and other efforts in broad areas rather than simply small, unrelated areas. The Forest Service has divided the CONF into seven different landscapes. The focus now is on the Foothills Landscape, an area of 143,419 acres “where the mountains are visibly reduced to foothills.” http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/conf/home/?cid=FSEPRD501290 This includes the area around Amicalola Falls and the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain. GATC must be a vital part of this effort. Meetings are being planned for Fall 2016 to collectively develop a future plan for this large area. I hope you will consider your participation.
Thinking and planning in these broad terms will be a challenge for an action-oriented club like ours. We must learn to think beyond a single worktrip or conservation effort. We will need strong minds in addition to strong backs to achieve our mission in this brave new world. I believe we can do this because, despite our varied interests and abilities, we all face in the same general direction.
Submitted by: Don Hicks, GATC President