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March 2019

Member Reactions

I have been delighted to hear from some members about my “Pondering” last month on Strategic Planning.  I am trying to get my head around some ways to improve the club to better attract and serve members. While I have certain ideas, I do not want to work in a vacuum. I welcome and encourage your thoughts, comments and suggestions. Please keep them coming.

Board and Committees

Elsewhere in this issue is a call for members to join committees and the board.  I believe that as a member run organization, members have a responsibility to step up and become involved with the management of the club.

My biggest objective is to engage more members in the affairs and activities of the club.  There are many opportunities to share talents and services that will continue to keep our club strong.  Most of these positions do not require lots of time. Many jobs can be done strictly on your time and schedule.

Shortly, I will appoint a chair of the nominating committee.  If you are interested in serving on that committee, another committee or the board, please let me know.  There are many exciting areas for member engagement in our club.

Start Smart at The Arch

By early February several dozen will have taken off on their thru hike attempt. By the middle to end of the month we will see dozens a day depart.  Of course, while many will make it to Maine, many will not make it as far as Mountain Crossings.  During this time many are only out for a week or two, and soon spring breakers will also be on our trail.

Our primary concern are the several thousand hikers on the first thirty miles. The major impact is on campsites, fire rings, trash and not so much on the trail itself.  We do an excellent job of maintaining the trail.  Additionally, there are many ill prepared hikers that need our help as well.

This year we are hoping many will consider starting at The Arch, behind the visitor center at Amicalola Falls State Park.  This will give us the opportunity to count hikers. We also have a chance to present them with some ideas on how to help mitigate their impact on the resource.  The red A.T. hang tag indicates their attendance to the presentation.

The Discovery Room, in the Amicalola Falls visitor center, has been rebranded “The A.T. BASECAMP”.  A Ridge Runner will be stationed there over long weekends along with Trail Ambassadors.  We need more Trail Ambassadors to register hikers and help with pack shake downs and presentations.  This is a fun and rewarding patrol.  Inexperienced hikers need help adjusting their gear, logistics and planning.

For several years now Georgia Appalachian Trail Club Trail Ambassadors have done a great job of helping hikers minimize their impact on the trail.  The need for patrols is greater now than ever before.  Ridge Runners will be on duty Friday through Monday patrolling Springer, Hawk and Gooch shelters.  Trail Ambassadors are needed to patrol during the week and not just at the shelters.  Roving patrols are also beneficial, if out for an afternoon or several days.

Benton MacKaye Trail Parking

For some time there has been talk about building a parking lot near Big Stamp Gap to service the Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT).  While the location has shifted to clear NEPA approval, a site has been selected about 100 yards from the trail crossing at Big Stamp Gap (nearer Winding Stair Gap).  This will include a kiosk, parking for about 15 vehicles and a connecting trail to the BMT.

Assuming government shutdowns do not cause further impact, construction should begin in the spring.  This project is funded by the Benton MacKaye Trail Association and the Forest Service, with BMTA doing the work.  This area should provide safe parking for hikers beginning multi-day treks on the trail.

Government Shutdown

I sure hope we don’t have to endure these problems again.  As volunteers we experience frustrations because we cannot get out and do the work we love.  Because of our Volunteer Service Agreement (VSA) with the Chattahoochee National Forest we are considered “employees” for insurance purposes.  As such, when the Forest Service is closed, we are not permitted to work.

Of course the biggest causality of government shutdowns is the federal workers.  Not only do they not get paid, but the work they love doesn’t get performed.  This trickles down to and ultimately affects everyone.

2019 looks to be a great year for our club. Please share your comments and concerns with me.  Thank you for your good work and support.

Best Regards,
            Jay