The PATHE committee continues to focus on ways to mitigate the impact of so many hikers on our section of the AT. There were a couple of items addressed at the January meeting.
One objective is getting to thru-hikers before they start their hike in order to help educate them on their impact on the trail. One initiative includes a proposal to recognize Amicalola Falls State Park as the “unofficial” start of the A.T., which has the support of the park. Using the arch behind the Visitor Center as the center for photo opportunities. The official AT Hang Tag will only be distributed at the visitor center with a Leave No Trace Awareness Course being offered each day.
Additionally, club training was discussed. We have a need for crosscut and chainsaw sawyers and it seems harder to get members certified. This spring at the Wilderness Skills Institute Robert Collins and Bruce Kreitman will take the “C” Crosscut Certification and should then be able to certify club members.
For more information on the /Wilderness Skills Institute go to www.wildernessskillsinstitute.org, this is an excellent opportunity to learn skills related to trail work.
Last fall Ben Barry of ATC Asheville held the first Trail Skills Workshop in Georgia. This program will continue next fall with more courses. I am looking forward to more club members learning the latest in “state of the art” trail techniques so our trail becomes more sustainable.
Jeff Marion made a campsite sustainability presentation and reviewed the implications for sustainable camping management. His definition is “A “sustainable” campsite can accommodate the intended type and amount of use over time without unacceptable levels of expansion, degradation, or maintenance.”
Generally, a primary resource protection objective is to minimize the “aggregate” area of camping impact by minimizing campsite numbers and sizes. Side-hill campsites, such as those built at Hawk Mountain, are highly effective but can be challenging to construct in sufficient quantities. There may also be “Wilderness Character” concerns with using them.
Using Lidar it becomes possible to create a topographical map with two foot contour intervals. Then it becomes possible to identify naturally occurring flat areas where side hill campsites could be developed. By locating these site through GIS it becomes an easy matter for a crew to locate and make the site accessible.
With digital maps we can also identify non sustainable and marginally sustainable camp sites to help people make better decisions about where to camp. These sites could be coded accordingly so users will only see the places suitable for camping. Then this information becomes easily accessible to hikers with phone apps like Guthook and Avenza.
Campsite maintenance projects include improving tenting spots, restore peripheral areas, fix campfire locations, add facilities... Define tent pads, tent platform, raised tent pads. Provide a “kitchen” rock, “ice-berg” closed sites, install camping posts,
Recently seven board members, and Marianne Skeen, met at the Hike-Inn for a board retreat. Elizabeth Marsala led the group in a strategic planning session. If you have never been in one of these sessions, you know there is a lot to the process. It involves throwing out all sorts of ideas and identifying important factors for further conversation. Elizabeth got us started thinking outside of the box and we did some serious probing and thinking about our club.
This process will take several more meetings over the next few months and will continue to be more refined. We identified seven broad areas and will work to better define them and develop targets and action items.
Diversity Trail Membership engagement Operational excellence Visitor use (engagement) Outreach Advocacy
On Saturday February 3, 34 Trail Ambassadors attended the annual meeting which covers practices and procedures for patrolling the A.T. Brent Binion led most of the discussion and review of the Guidebook he recently revised. In addition, seven Ridge Runners and four Forest Service personnel attended most of the session.
Information about the Trail Ambassador program, as well as the Guidebook, can be found under the Trail Ambassador tab of the Member Features at www.georgia-atclub.org.
Our wild lands continue to be threatened. I am not sure how much momentum these bills have or will have. Even though legislation seems far away, it can and will hit home unless we put up a defense. For those interested, be ready to help defend Wilderness Areas all around our country.
Nearly a third of our entire 100 million acre National wilderness Preservation System are threatened, by bills in the House of Representatives: H.R. 3548 introduced by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX) would waive 36 federal laws, including the Wilderness Act, within 100 miles of northern and southern borders for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
All of America’s bedrock environmental laws would be waived for CBP by this bill. This would allow the construction of roads, bridges, towers, housing, walls and other buildings and structures. Additionally, it would allow helicopters, trucks, ATVs, bulldozers, tanks, aircraft etc. in these wild areas. Hardly what America expects in our protected and designated Wilderness Areas.
The Johnson Wilderness Act Bill, H.R. 3593, the so-called “Secure Our Borders and Wilderness Act” would directly amend the Wilderness Act to allow CBP to the following in all Wildernesses in the nation:
Access structures, installations and roads. Use motor vehicles, including ATVs, motorboats and motorized equipment.
Use aircraft, including approach, landing and takeoff.
Deploy “temporary” infrastructure, including forward operating bases.
Construct and maintain roads and fences with approval of the Secretary of Interior.