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Whitley Gap Privy Gets a New Roof

Whitley Gap Privy
Georgia Appalachian Trail Club members recently completed the installation of a new tin roof on the privy at Whitley Gap Shelter. Our club member volunteers are always working to improve the Trail and facilities so others can enjoy their experience on the Appalachian Trail. Thank the trail maintainers when you see them out there!


GATC has received a 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award from the Rollins School of Public Health and the Goizueta Business School of Emory University. The award ceremony was held in Atlanta at Emory on January 19. Accepting the award was GATC’s current director of Community Outreach Jay Dement. Also in attendMLK Awdance were three former Outreach directors Marianne Skeen, Frank Wright, and Tom Ottinger.

This award recognizes and celebrates people and organizations in greater Atlanta whose work exemplifies the legacy of Dr. King. Some of the criteria for the award specify that recipients should celebrate diversity and impel action in building a better future for all. Additionally, it looks for organizations that invest resources for the well being of all children, especially those who would otherwise miss out on the many opportunities a young life should offer.

The award cites GATC for conducting a youth outreach program over the last ten years that helps young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in hiking and camping on National Forest lands. The program focuses both on children in areas of concentrated poverty in the metro Atlanta area and on youth in rural north Georgia counties through which the Appalachian Trail passes. Multi-day backpack trips are arranged for the metro Atlanta kids to build their self-reliance and give them a more immersive experience in the outdoors.

The award citation noted that over 25 GATC volunteers have been involved with these outreach activities. GATC thanks all of you who have participated and were instrumental in the club’s receiving this prestigious award. The Club also encourages any other members who are interested to join in this worthwhile outreach effort.

Presidential Ponderings

Jay DFebruary 2019

As I write this, the government is partially closed, again. I cannot help but feel we are pawns in a political game where the players are immune from their decisions. Now we have a number of blowdowns on the trail that we cannot clear, and we have to suspend other maintenance activities. I hope we will be operational soon.

The gun range proposal continues to move along. Denny Rhodes, our Conservation Director, has been in front of this and has an update elsewhere in this issue. One thing that concerns me is that the citizens of Union County are being asked to pay for a facility that will be turned over to a club to operate. Anyone wanting to use that range must first join the club.

Strategic Planning

When a pilot takes off in an airplane, he has a destination in mind and a plan on how to get there. As an organization we need a similar plan to determine where we want to be and to develop a direction on how to get there. To accomplish this, I offer the following plan, realizing these points are fluid and need to be reviewed and adjusted as things always change.

Last year the board met a couple of times to work on developing a Strategic Plan for the club. In these sessions we went through a process of recognizing areas within the club, what they meant, how important they are and how they should be addressed. The following areas were identified for action (not necessarily in any order):

Diversity: We need to improve the demographic of the club to include younger and more diverse people. Younger people need to be ready to succeed as older members retire. This helps to ensure a constituency to carry on our protective work.

The Trail: Since our principle reason for being is the trail, we need to make a concerted effort to continue our good work in maintaining and managing the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. This includes a focus on education and an awareness in techniques to improve and share our knowledge.

Membership Engagement: In order for our club to thrive, more members need to become engaged in club operations. A few do a lot of the heavy lifting and we need to involve more people. Additionally, I have to believe there are a couple of hundred people in Atlanta and north Georgia who should be members of Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. We need to make it easier for people to find, join and become engaged our club!

Operational Excellence: Financially we are sound, with good reporting and oversight methods in place. We cannot take anything for granted and need to continue to govern ourselves to a high standard. Improved communication will make many things easier all around and can always be strengthened.

Visitor Use: The Protecting the Appalachian Trail Hiking Experience (PATHE) committee has been working to insure positive visitor experiences while maintaining the wilderness quality. Through education of users and club members, our trail can be maintained to high standards. Working closely with our partners is very important to accomplish these tasks.

Outreach: We need to reach out to various communities for the future of our trail. It is important to maintain the support necessary to keep our trail in the desired condition. Our club has had a strong outreach program for many years. We have hosted thousands of young people on day hikes, visits to the Len Foote Hike Inn and backpack trips. In addition, there are five A.T. Communities in Georgia that need further engagement with the trail. Certainly, reaching a more diverse audience increases citizen’s support of this natural wonder.

Advocacy: Protecting and maintaining the trail takes a lot of work, especially because there are so many forces that seem to want to tear it apart. We are very lucky that more than 50 percent of the A.T. in Georgia is in a federally designated Wilderness Area. Additionally, there are many environmental and conservation issues we constantly face that need attention. The Chattahoochee National Forest will be revising their operating plan in the next few years and we need to be a part of that process.

As part of the planning process, the board also did an analysis of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Only with a clear and objective look at who we are can we begin to find a direction.

Strengths: As an almost 90-year old club we have amassed a lot of experience, expertise and a very solid reputation. This is through the common passion members have possessed for a long time. There has always been a core group of individuals who have made major commitments to the trail and the club. We also have very high standards for everything we do. Much effort goes into productive planning to ensure outstanding events.

Weaknesses: The ethnic makeup of the average GATC member is white and retired. Core groups or cliques develop. While not exclusionary, they don’t seem overly inclusive. Often committee members are not engaged enough. Communication and technology needs updating.

Opportunities: The facts that our “market area” is near a major city, and the trail is usually within a short drive for many, make it easy to maintain and grow our club. There are many pending retirees and “empty nesters” looking for new directions in their lives. Because our club has so many operational areas, there are opportunities for members to become engaged in new areas of interest.

Threats: With different user groups using the trail, our club’s contribution may not be noticed. Meet-up groups are more visible and may appear more interesting. Certainly, we cannot become complacent in our ways.

From the perspective of a broad plan we need to develop specific objectives and action plans. Some specific objectives to consider include:

  • Lower the average age of the members.  
  • Recruit more committee members and disperse the work load.
  • Include more diversity in our membership.
  • Each trail section would have two maintainers.
  • Increase educational efforts with more training on trail work and more.
  • Improve communication and technology.

I welcome any thoughts and input from members on developing this plan. Please contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

I would like to say Happy New Year and personally thank all the members that help our mission move forward. With the support of so many dedicated members and great partnerships, our trail is world class. Looking forward to seeing you on the Trail.

Jay Dement

Hawk Mountain Campsites

Check out the U.S. Forest Service Facebook post about the recent updates to the Hawk Mountain shelter and campsite area.  Should make things a lot easier for the upcoming thru-hiker season!

ATC Launches LNT Video Series

In anticipation of the increase in thru-hiker traffic as a result of the upcoming release of the movie "A Walk in the Woods", ATC has released a series of videos highlighting Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics.  The short (1-2 minute) videos focus on each of the seven LNT principles, as well as the story behind the videos and a blooper/outtake reel.  Spread the word -- "Don't Be That Guy".  #ATLNT