Happy Trails to You
By Bob Proudman
(Photos of Bob Proudman by Suzanne Birchard)
Along with coauthor Beth Critton, I have continued writing our popular “Sidehill” column since retiring from ATC in 2015. I also aid staff editor Sue Daniels with other research and articles. I am writing this column one last time, at least for now.
The Register enjoys a long history, and ATC plans to continue publishing it. It began as a printed newsletter in March 1978 and has been an e-newsletter in varying formats since 2006. In 2016, we also began publishingThe Register Blog, with new, in-depth articles on a variety of topics and “Flashback Thursday” reprints from past issues.
You must be wondering, is Bob writing his “Swan Song?”
ATC has created a new position of Program Director for Volunteer Relations (see below), with responsibilities that include effective communications to recruit, inform, and empower volunteers and support the A.T. maintaining clubs. The director will work with Laura Belleville on determining additional capacity that may be needed, including writing for The Register.
I’ve been asked to write about my favorite subjects or insights about the Appalachian Trail. There are dozens of things that I’ve been fascinated with for more than 50 years, learning the trails trade and what that really entails. Today I’ll list just three, club volunteerism, conservation, and sustainability.
Club Volunteerism—Self-propelled, the clubs of the ATC seem like the mythical “perpetual motion machine” to this old science hobbyist. When a hurricane closed 100-plus miles of the Trail and the area’s land manager predicted that it would take a year to reopen the A.T. there, the local Trail club and other volunteers (working with agency specialists, explosive experts for large wind-thrown sections) opened the Trail in three weeks! Those volunteer experts know their sections better than anyone, and frequently guide EMS personnel during emergencies. The 31 A.T. clubs are the envy of the national trails system, and indeed other trails worldwide (see sidebar, "The Empowered Volunteer").
Conservation—As a conservation corridor, protecting lands, waters, and the primitive experience, the Trail notonly provides access for hikers, it is a decades-long experiment in conserving trail resources themselves—soils, waters, and rare plants—with dozens of techniques as varied as tread hardening, drainage, puncheon, designated campsite design and construction, and moldering privies. Recognition of this basic “tilt” in the ATC’s and clubs’ historic roles, and the need to continue investing in broader land protection, the ATC changed its name twelve years ago from a “conference” to a “conservancy.” The ATC Board and Stewardship Council, Executive Director Ron Tipton, and the rest of the staff work with the Trail clubs and agency partners to continue and improve upon these investments, from landscape protection right down to the volunteer-installed privy, side-hill or waterbar!
Sustainability—We’ve learned much over the decades and are now improving on our visitor-use-management capabilities, a regular theme of past issues of The Register. Dr. Jeff Marion and Dr. Jeremy Wimpey, recreation ecologists, are conducting a comprehensive study of the Trail’s sustainability, funded by the NPS-APPA. Their paper aimed at improving scientific understanding of factors affecting trail sustainability has been accepted for the March issue of The Journal of Environmental Management (see pre-publication articlehere). It includes preliminary tables of data from the first two (of three) A.T. research field seasons. These data are from a representative sample of 2100 transects for the northern and southern portions of the A.T. (fieldwork for the middle third will occur this summer). Be careful comparing percentages between clubs, as those with fewer than about 150 transects (see sample-size values in tables) may not accurately characterize the Trail sections. The sustainability ratings they apply are described in the journal paper and were developed from non-A.T. data. Next year, they will reexamine and refine the ratings based on the full A.T. dataset, reapply them, and provide more detailed guidance on sustainable trail and camping management.
So, with that, I’ll just end with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Rogers wonderful line, “Happy Trails to you, until we meet again.” (I wish I could sing this to you, maybe someday around a campfire, with a well-tuned guitar....)
P.S. See you at Colby College for ATC's Maine 2017 Conference in August!
Leanna Joyner, Program Director for Volunteer Relations
ATC’s five-year strategic plan highlights the important goal of effectively engaging our core partners. The A.T. clubs, many of whom are entirely volunteer based, are at the top of that list. Volunteer relations is a big part of our work in the regional offices, but we recognize that dedicated leadership is needed to best support the Trail clubs, and we have selected Leanna Joyner as ATC’s Program Director, Volunteer Relations.
As many of you know, Leanna has had a number of roles at ATC, most recently as the Trail Resources Manager in the Southern Regional Office. She also has been serving as the team lead for the Engaged Partners strategic goal, working closely with the Stewardship Council. We are thrilled that Leanna will continue to bring her creativity, strategic thinking, and positive energy to help ATC support and grow volunteer programs and the volunteer clubs.
Leanna will lead Trailwide volunteer communications and training efforts. Working collaboratively with club leaders and agency partners, she will help ATC bring strategic focus to volunteer support, communications, and volunteer-related policies.
Her primary focus in the coming months will be to facilitate an approach to volunteer service agreements between the National Park Service and A.T. clubs. More about those agreements will be presented and discussed at the spring Regional Partnership Committee meetings.
We also hope to take a look at risk management issues and to work collaboratively with the Council and club leaders to identify strategies to help clubs grow. Later this year, we will work on analyzing necessary improvements to ATC's volunteer-data-management system.
We welcome your comments and ideas! Please feel free to contact Leanna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Laura Belleville, Vice President of Conservation and Trail Programs
An Old Salt
From The Register, Volume 3, No. 7, July 1980