ATC will engage and connect to a younger and more inclusive audience, broaden the understanding of the physical and mental benefits provided by the Trail, and cultivate the next generation to value and steward the Trail. As a mostly white, older organization this is a challenging goal. But we are slowly making progress.
In 2017, we piloted a second year of the Conservation Leadership Corps and received significant funding from the U.S. Forest Service for this work. To scale the program, we will take time in 2018 to work with a core partner, Groundwork USA, to plan and fundraise to bring their largely urban based teams to the A.T. for hands on training at several sites across the Trail.
Our other successful engagement with youth included hosting two youth summits and building youth stewardship coalitions, one in Maine one in western Massachusetts, and a third coalition of the Children's Forest Network of Northern Georgia. This tactic works with local youth organizations and educators to encourage more youth to work on local trails by providing skill development opportunities, stewardship events, and fostering connections with volunteer and professional trail organizations. We will continue to grow these coalitions and explore expanding into new areas with new partners.
We also focused on relationships with new organizations such as Outdoor Afro, Latino Outdoors, Student Conservation Association, Groundwork USA. We are expanding our toolbox by investigating how to use affinity groups to engage new audiences. And we nurtured our Next Generation Advisory Council members who contributed new ideas and time to ATC, joining us at the Biennial meeting in Maine, Hike the Hill, and at many regional meetings. Their presence and fresh ideas feel like shifting winds. It’s time to catch the sails!
In 2018, we will manage contracts for active youth A.T. trail crews administered by partner organizations such as Student Conservation Association, Greenagers, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, and Maine Conservation Corps. As ATC moves into this new role we will be better positioned to engage youth corps members directly, sharing information about the A.T, ATC, and enlisting members to continue their engagement with the A.T. We’ll capture their stories and support crew recruitment to reach new, diverse audiences.
We will also launch two campaigns this year to emphasize the physical and mental benefits derived from hiking and volunteering along the A.T. as well as from the enjoyment of the beauty of the Trail. We have initiated a partnership with Positive Tracks, an organization that helps youth to engage in making a difference by raising funds and awareness for organizations through athletic events. We will also create a new MyATStory through a veteran’s perspective.
- Host 3 youth summits – 2 in Maine, 1 in Massachusetts and scale the program for continued and expanded engagement.
- Develop plan and funding to expand the Conservation Leadership Corps with Groundwork USA.
- Create a campaign with Positive Tracks for youth to lead and share physical and mental benefits of the Trail.
- Create and share MyATStory to highlight mental benefits of the Trail through a veteran story.
- Connect with at least 5 volunteer affinity group leaders to foster connections to the Trail and ATC.