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January 2020

It’s hard to believe I have been president for two years and am looking forward to another year.  I have plans for next year that include engaging more members into club operations.  In the meantime I would like to look back at 2019 and the exciting work your board has accomplished.

Year End Review

For the fiscal year ending September 31, 2019 the club reported 18,195 volunteer hours.  In years past we have contributed around 20,000 hours a year.  Much of the disparity is due to cancelled work trips because of weather. 

Of the total hours reported, 59% was spent directly maintaining the trail through Overseer Visits, Mid-week and 3rd Saturday Work Trips and Blowdown Removal.  Approximately 25% of our hours were devoted to Outreach, Membership, Activities, and Board meetings.

These statistics were pulled from a report Bill Bryant complied.  He had quite a time organizing the details which highlight two things: our database categories could stand some maintenance and members need to be careful when entering hours for proper accounting.

Speaking of Bill, he was very active this year at Information and Education. GATC was represented at seven festivals and events this year promoting the trial and the club.  He also coordinated the Ridgerunner program during the thru-hiker season. 

The Info & Ed group also kept up to date water information on our web site.  This is no easy task given the vagaries of the weather.  In addition, they also kept us up to date with the Hiker’s Digest.  One of their best contributions is the annual Wilderness First Aid class, which I believe is basic training.  I think it is important that around 50 members have had this training.

Our membership numbers are similar to previous years, Chair Phillip Hodges reports that currently we have 762 Members and 113 Prospective Members.  The number of Prospective Members (PM) applicants and new Members for the Fiscal Year Ended 9/30/19 stand at 155 PM applicants and 77 new Members.

This year there were two significant changes in Membership, a dues increase to $30.00 and changing the membership year.  Previously, all memberships renewed at year end.  This causes some confusion with new members, and make a lot of work at year end.  By establishing an anniversary date for new members going forward things will work easier.

Denny Rhodes has done an outstanding job as Conservation Director.  The club received a TAG Grant to suppress hemlock wooly adelgid infestation in the AT Corridor with Save Georgia’s Hemlocks.  He has also looked at the Springer Mountain view shed and the possible land acquisition of the Jenkins property near Jarrod Gap.  Then there is the Union County Target Range issue. 

Trails Director Tom Lamb had a busy year with: 126.4 miles of trail maintained, 11,089 hours worked, 1,503 individual work trips, 163 overseers on 113 sections, 13 district leaders on 11 districts, and 314 volunteer/days on the third Saturday work trips. There were 1355 member work days, 148 guest work days, and cleared 278 blowdowns. In June, 1454 feet of new trail were built at Gooch Gap relocation.

The third Saturday work trip with the most participants was in June at the R Ranch in the Mountains with 69 volunteers. The alternate spring break brought many students working at Lance Creek and south of Unicoi Gap. The Konnarock Crew in May built 450 feet of new trail at Poor Mountain relocation and rehabbed trail south from Hogpen Gap.  There were four classes at the Trail Skills Workshop, this ongoing program brings a higher level of trial maintaining and building skills.

Outreach Chair Bo Bobinski led the program that took 80 students in four trips to the Hike-Inn.  Additionally, we led a couple of youth backpack trips.  And, the Trail Ambassadors were out in force, even though the number of thru-hikers was almost the same as last year.

I am always impressed with how well the Activities Committee works.  The work load is divided by month, with two or three people being responsible for each month’s activities.  For the first eight months of the year Chair Babette Broussard reports 55 complete events with 390 participants.  A number of planned hikes had to be cancelled due to weather.

Communications Chair Jim Barker oversees three areas that continue to function very well.  Melanie Spamer does a great job each year assembling millions of bits of information in compiling our annual Yearbook.  John Turner does an outstanding job putting together the Georgia Mountaineer each month, his biggest challenge each month is getting my column.  Ron Hamlin continues to do a yeoman job with our web site.

There are several people who do the “back room” work that help hold the club together. Treasurer Eden Scott and Doug Haas handle all the financial matters of the club.  Secretary Carol Steiner keep track of what goes on at board meetings as well as maintain our records.  Don Hicks and Melanie Spamer are At Large directors and fill in and contribute with their expertise.

I am grateful to work with these dedicated board members.  There are many moving pieces to our club and many members in addition to the board make important contributions.

National Parks

The National Park Service has an annual budget of $2.2 billion which is not enough to adequately operate all the parks and catch up on the deferred maintenance. While parks have been added to the service, the overall budget has not increased.  Park management need to look for ways to maintain their parks as best they can.  Some parks are charging admission Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is instituting a “vehicle entrance” fee to pay for needed improvements and maintenance. 

This means there is less and less money for parks to operate.  A recent issue of Backpacker Magazine had an interesting idea for the park’s budget, close some parks.  The idea would be for a commission to be established to identify the smaller parks that few people would miss.

I have a hard time considering such an idea, it seems a step in the wrong direction.  I support measures that bring funding to parks.  In Georgia a proposal was approved to take a percentage of sales tax from sporting goods to be spent on outdoor activities.

Next month I plan to talk about my strategic plan for 2020.  In the meantime, have a happy and safe holiday, and I’ll see y’all on the trial soon.