"Each portion built should, of course, be rigorously maintained and not allowed to revert to disuse. A trail is as serviceable as its poorest links." ~ Benton MacKaye
Georgia Appalachian Trail Club maintains over 125 miles of trails in Georgia including all of the Appalachian Trail, associated side trails, and the Duncan Ridge Trail.
The Trail is divided into 11 districts, managed by district leaders. The districts are further divided into sections, which are maintained by one or more maintainers. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club has about 150 maintainers among its members.
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Maintainers make regular trips to their section to maintain water diversion structures, cut weeds and intruding plant growth, paint blazes, and remove any obstructions on the trail. Larger and more difficult projects that require additional workers or skills are done during monthly club work trips or other special trips.
GATC volunteers work independently as they perform maintenance as prescribed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the U.S. Forest Service. In 2020, the Club's Trail Supervisor has published a guide for maintainers which you can find by clicking the link.
GATC schedules maintenance work trips on the third Saturday each month, which are typically attended by 30 to 60 people. The trips are done throughout the year and are rarely cancelled because of inclement weather.
Trail Shelters and Campsites
GATC maintainers routinely cleans and maintains the shelter system and off-trail campsites.
Trail Signs and Trail Markings
GATC is responsible for all signs and blazes on the Trail itself. Signs at trailhead parking are maintained by the U.S. Forest Service.
GATC maintains a tool inventory and provides the necessary tools required for trail projects. Tools are available to members for routine trail maintenance, as well.
GATC volunteers regularly monitor and evaluate trail conditions in order to plan future maintenance activities, generally in coordination with the ATC and US Forest Service personnel.
GATC considers safety to be of prime importance in carrying out its trail management and maintenance duties. GATC members and guests are encouraged to practice safe work habits and wear appropriate personal protective equipment. Each work session kicks off with a safety talk to ensure everyone is reminded of proper tool use and safety.
GATC has installed “moldering privies” at each shelter location in Georgia. Privy maintenance involves regularly providing wood chips to each location. Privy maintenance is one of the most challenging things that our volunteer maintainers do.
Training and Certification
Volunteers who become maintainers attend programs designed to enhance maintenace skills as well as receive on-the-job training from more experienced club members.
The use of crosscut saws and chainsaws requires special training and certification by the U.S. Forest Service. Training classes are scheduled each year for those maintainers who wish to acquire these skills. Members are allowed to use these saws only after successfully attaining certification.
Interested in becoming a trail maintainer?
Trail Maintenance Resources
For further information about what we do and how we do it, feel free to browse through these resources below.
As they are developed, resources produced by members of the GATC will be posted in the area below. The purpose is to orient new members and trail maintainers, as well as providing refreshers for experienced maintainers.
Basic Trail Maintenance is a video discussing tools and their safe use in trail maintenance.
Trail Skills Workshop
Each autumn, the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club holds a Trail Skills Workshop, a weekend-long class to introduce maintenance skills to new maintainers and enhance the skills of experienced maintainers. With the Coronavirus epidemic of 2020, the seminar was held virtually over three Saturdays. The video recordings below are large and lengthy, but well worth the time you'll invest in them. These links will take you to recordings of the Zoom sessions:
Jeff Marion: Trail Design and Management
Morgan Sommerville: Trail Construction and Maintenance (starts late)
Mike Cordisco: Introduction to Crosscut Sawyering
Additional Resources for Maintainers
A glossary of terms compiled by the ATC is linked here.
The ATC maintains a page of training resources for volunteers, as well. Follow this link to go to their page. ATC also publishes two manuals for trail maintainers: Appalachian Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance, a complete reference guide, as well as a more concise reference Appalachian Trail Fieldbook: Maintenance and Rehabilitation Guidelines for Volunteers. The price for these manuals may be discounted for ATC members and trail maintainers.
The US Forest Service has published two guides that may be helpful, also. The Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook and Handtools for Trail Work are both available as PDF documents or you can order them for free by following the instructions contained in the guides.
The University of Montana and the Arthur Carhartt National Wilderness Training Center offer an online class for crosscut sawyers that is free to take. It provides both crosscut and chainsawyers a good understanding of the basics in limbing and bucking. You'll need to register to take the course, but registration is free. You can get to the course by following this link.
What constitutes a good trail blaze policy? What is too much blazing? What's too little? Here is a link that trail maintainers may find interesting discussing the topic.