February 19, 2019 The ATC 2018 Biennial Conference by Cynthia Paetow and Agnes Sablow
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) written mission is “to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.” We were excited to be a part of the ATC conference this year and to learn how much this organization does for the hiking community.
One of the things that stood out is the number of clubs, organizations, governments and individuals that work together for the benefit of the Appalachian Trail (AT). One of the AT’s core values is Cooperation. We had speakers from A.T. Communities, the AT Park Ranger, ATC Board members, Youth Representatives and so many more. There are a multitude of groups, organizations, governments and individuals working hard behind the scenes to maintain this trail that we all enjoy.
The focus for much of the weekend was on getting new people outside hiking on and maintaining our trails. Diversity in race, ethnicity, age and abilities was discussed and we were encouraged to look at our own groups and networks. Some ideas included offering specialty events such as those for young adults or family hikes to bring out adults and children together. History or cultural hikes were mentioned as well as reaching out to other diverse groups in our area.
Overall, we think our club is on the right track. Like many other clubs, we have an aging membership, but like any established group, it has its ebbs and flows. Our schedule is currently filled with many different kinds of activities from short city walks to long strenuous hikes, from kayaking to camping and a variety of cultural treks, maintenance hikes and social activities. We have daytime, evening and weekend hikes of various lengths. Our Meetup and Facebook pages have added to our Club Page, bringing in new attendees and members.
Our club can also utilize the ATC website. In fact, the ATC encourages us to list all our maintenance events on their website which is another way for people to find us. Logging all of our volunteer hours maintaining the AT is extremely important in continuing to obtain funding for the AT. The more hours that are logged and submitted shows the government how much work it takes to maintain the trail. The ATC can also “compete for a significant amount of NPS [National Park Service] funding from its national “Volunteer in the Parks” program.” So, when our Appalachian Trail Chair, Ed Ritter, asks us for our volunteer hours, please make sure he gets those.
Finally, we would encourage everyone to visit the ATC website. There is so much information there that we could not even begin to cover. Whether you are an active hiker, someone trying to get back into shape, someone who wants to help maintain the trail or someone who can no longer hike but wants to support the Appalachian Trail, there is something for everyone.
Hope to see you all soon on a hike, at a meeting or working together on a maintenance activity.