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July 2016

July, 2016

 
Are you getting tired with our discussion of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s “Strategic Plan 2015-2019?” If you are, you will be pleased that we finish that topic this month. If you would like to know more or read about this plan for yourself, visit http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/about-us.  The fifth and last goal in the ATC plan is “Strengthened Capacity and Operational Excellence.”  This is defined as “Continue to build a financially strong foundation and organizational capacity to ensure long-term success.” Desired outcomes for this goal include:
•Raise operating revenue from $6.6 million to $8 million.
•Boost the endowment from $3.6 million to $8.3 million.
•Strengthen organizational capacity. 
 
You might decide that sounds a lot like fund raising and wonder what that has to do with GATC. Well, much of what we do is at least partially funded by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  But we benefit from our association with the ATC in much bigger ways than funding.  As I mentioned last month we receive strong support from ATC especially from the ATC Southern Regional Office.  The staff there, under the leadership of Morgan Sommerville, works hand-in-hand with us to help us accomplish our mission.  Whether in the Ridgerunner program or Konnarock or in special projects like the new Hawk Mtn. campsite, the support, guidance, and funding they provide is invaluable.  A strong ATC leads to a strong GATC.  This is a partnership that enables us to be who and what we are.
 
Strengthened Capacity and Operational Excellence is more than fund raising. For ATC this means hiring and training staff to carry out the strategic plan.  For GATC, operational excellence comes from the volunteers who make up the membership.  Since the beginning of GATC in the 1930’s, this Club has been a model for the other trail maintaining clubs.  There were tremendous challenges in organizing volunteers to come together to build and maintain the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. But their passion and skills got the job done.  Each generation has faced its own challenges.  And each generation of GATC volunteers has met the challenges and succeeded.  And now it is our turn.  There are new challenges that have not been encountered by previous generations.  The challenges are new so the solutions must be new as well.
 
There is the challenge of too many people wanting to hike the AT in Georgia at the same time.  Some sections of the Georgia AT are being overused and, in some cases, abused.  This is our problem to solve.  Yes, we work together with our partners, the Forest Service and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.  But I believe that the solution will be better if GATC takes the lead.  I believe we have the passion and skills to meet the challenge. 
 
There is the challenge of accessibility on the Trail. Individuals with handicaps have been hiking the Georgia AT for decades.  But we are seeing hikers come to Georgia in situations we previously thought impossible. This August or September, a quadriplegic man will begin his hike of the Georgia AT. Apparently, he will be carried in a special chair by his friends.  This spring one of our members reported that there was a paralyzed woman hiking the Trail in Georgia. She was using mechanized leg braces powered by batteries. We worried how she would manage to keep her batteries charged.  But she wasn’t looking to us to solve that problem.  I often wondered why we build privies in the Forest with handicap ramps.  Now I know.
 
Like the ATC, we must strive for strengthened capacity and operational excellence.  We need this to face the challenges of today.
 
Don Hicks, GATC President