We continue this month in our discussion of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s “Strategic Plan 2015-2019” and how all of this might impact GATC. This month the subject is the third goal in the plan, “Broader Relevancy” which is defined in the plan as “Connect and engage with a younger and more diverse audience and broaden the understanding of the physical and mental benefits that the Trail provides.” Suggested outcomes for this goal include:
•Encourage a diverse population and a younger audience to enjoy the Trail and give back through involvement with the ATC.
•Promote the physical and mental benefits of hiking and volunteering in order to expand the A.T. community.
In early group discussions at the Fall 2015 RPC meeting, the question was asked, “What is your Club doing to attract Millennials?” At first my response would be, “GATC is doing a lot to reach them.” We are involved in reaching school children and anyone else for that matter in our love for the A.T. But then I thought, “Do I really know what defines ‘millennial’?” I Googled the term. Basically, it means anyone who reached young adulthood around the year 2000. Some say that the age range is 18-33. So it is roughly those individuals in their twenties with a few years on either end. I realized that I have grandchildren in that category with several others just a couple of years outside.
What do I know about my grandchildren? Well, for one, they are never without their cell phones. Leaving their chargers behind is a true crisis for them. Their comfort zone is always within Wi-Fi range. Their phones are always in their hands but they rarely talk with them but their fingers are always in contact with the screen or keypad. If we expect to reach this group we had better know how to do that using a cell phone because I am not sure they are listening to much else. We do not have to use my grandchildren as models for millennials. Most are still a little young. But it is a challenge to interest them in the outdoors. I believe we are going to have to be creative to reach the younger generation. Sometimes I look around during trail maintenance work trips and see mostly older folks. Some are even older than me. We all probably realize that we must reach out to the younger generations. But do we know how? Do you have any ideas? I would love to hear them.
Broader Relevancy means more than just younger people. It also means people who are different from us in any possible category. Babette Broussard, our faithful and extremely hard working Membership Director, has reported to the ATC leadership on multiple occasions that GATC is open to any and all individuals. I agree that our welcome mat is racially and ethnically blind. We want everyone to come share our mission and love for the Trail. But we are being encouraged to consider that being open is not exactly the same as actively reaching out. Like reaching the younger generation, I know we want to do this. But do we know the most effective ways to reach this goal. Will you come help us figure all this out?
Submitted by: Don Hicks, GATC President 2016