As we enter the “dog days” of summer, it is hot! When I lived in Chicago I did not look forward to the end of summer usually in mid-September, because winter was soon to be upon us. And after 46 years of that winter I did not like it any more. Now, I look forward to the end of summer because we have more of an autumn and winter is nothing like Chicago.
The Coronavirus situation continues to be of concern, we hope to see successful vaccines soon. While “social distancing” can help slow down the spread of this virus, people continue to be drawn to each other and to the trail. The Trail Ambassadors are starting to make plans for this fall and next spring. While we are open there is the uncertainty of if/when the trial will close.
There is reason to believe there will be the usual, or increased, volumes of visitors to our trail this fall. There is an increased number of SOBO hikers that will start showing up in Georgia this fall. In addition there will be the usual weekenders etc. To the extent possible Trail Ambassadors need to be on patrol. While we plan for activity this fall, I realize at any moment we may have to “pull the plug” and go back to sheltering in place.
Then there is the thought of the thru hiker season next spring. If it happens we should see significant increases in hikers. There are those that tried this year that could try again, people out of work could find a place on the trail and those already planning a 2021 trek. Again, we need to plan for the volumes of visitors and be ready to cancel.
The PATHE Campsite Engineering committee is in the final stage of developing trail classifications. Each trail section and camping area will be classified 1 to 5 (Wilderness to Front Country) for management prescriptions. In addition campsites are deemed Compliant, Non-Compliant, or Compliant by Exception. Stewart Holt produced an outstanding map of our trail indicating these zones. He and Bill Bryant will be visiting a section for final classifications.
After the PATHE meeting, the annual GATC/Forest Service meeting was held virtually. Discussion of ongoing subjects included the Cost Share Agreement, renewing our Volunteer Service Agreement, and the upcoming Forest Plan. We also requested the Forest Service consider additional funding for the Ridge Runner program.
Trail Skills Workshop
While I am disappointed that we cannot come together for this year’s Trail Skills Workshop, I am excited about our virtual program. The objective of the workshop is to bring enhanced trail building and maintaining skills to club members. This program will include two presentations from last spring’s Wilderness Skills Institute.
Dr. Jeff Marion will discuss trail and campsite design and management. Morgan Sommerville will present trail construction and maintenance. Our Sawyer Coordinator Mike Cordisco will describe our sawyer program in hopes of enticing more club members into the program.
Each two hour session will be held on Saturdays starting at 10:00am. The following is the tentative schedule for the virtual workshop:
September 26 Design and Management Dr. Jeff Marion
October 10 Trail Maintenance & Constructions Morgan Sommerville
October 17 Crosscut Sawyering Mike Cordisco
Great American Outdoor Act
Recently the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law. This bill will provide for the care of parks and public lands by establishing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, also known as LWCF. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how important parks and public lands are to communities physical, mental and financial health.
This bill will help by addressing a backlog of maintenance needs for our national parks and other public lands. Additionally, a fully funded LWCF will continue to help wildlife and communities meet the challenges of climate change. I am excited that now, after 55 years, champions in Congress are finally enabling this crucial fund to reach its full potential.
In referring to the National Park System, President Trump was quoted as saying “This is truly God’s creation… President Theodore Roosevelt was right when he called these exquisite resources”. Funding will start in fiscal year 2021.
I realize I am overdue for a Town Hall ~ Happy Hour, which I will remedy soon. I also invite interested members to virtually attend the upcoming board meeting, September 20 at 4:00pm. I look forward to seeing you on the trail, soon.