by ATC Volunteer Program Staff
Beginning in May, six club roundtables made space for A.T. volunteers to gather and discuss topics ranging from organizational development to A.T. management practices. These were unique opportunities for club volunteers from different regions to share successful strategies and resources with other clubs. Highlights from each roundtable are below, and additional notes from the sessions may be available by sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org:
Volunteer Leaders within Clubs – How to Recruit, Train, and Support:
A leader from Georgia Appalachian Trail Club shared their succession strategies and on-boarding resources with volunteer leaders from five clubs and other attendees. Following a discussion about the ongoing challenge of recruiting and supporting all volunteers, not just leaders, one attendee expressed support for other clubs to plan a workshop with ATC’s Traveling Trainer, who offers Field Leadership trainings as well as Essential Trail Maintenance. ATC offers resources on this topic on its Volunteer Management webpage.
Facility Inspection & Reporting:
Around a dozen club leaders from across 10 clubs discussed ways to identify, report, and record maintenance issues at Trail assets and features (shelters, privies, parking areas, bridges). Multiple clubs shared their monitoring checklists for maintainers as well as pdf report forms. Maine Appalachian Trail Club and Green Mountain Club shared their online reporting portals as additional alternatives. Carolina Mountain Club demonstrated their club-built online database which helps track assets, maintainers, and work reported and completed.
Around 20 club members from all four regions discussed different ways to manage backcountry waste, focusing on moldering privies. Several clubs shared their processes and methods to manage their moldering units. Cosmo Catalano, a volunteer with the Appalachian Mountain Club – Western Massachusetts chapter, shared how they maintain and track privy management along their section. Potomac Appalachian Trail Club’s moldering privy design was also shared as a recent new construction option. Mountain Club of Maryland shared a recent update to their Alec Kennedy moldering privy – a rain barrel. Since that privy gets lots of sun, the rain barrel should decrease the number of trips back and forth to the spring to get water to dampen the waste pile during routine mixing of bin contents. Throughout the conversation, the group acknowledged active management is unique at each site given the amount of sun, climate, seasonal temperatures, soil types, amount of use and deposits, capacity of the moldering bins, and more!
Funding A.T. Clubs into the Future through an Endowment or Trust:
A.T. Club leaders gathered for a conversation focused on funding their Appalachian Trail Clubs now and into the future. During the open discussion, Carolina Mountain Club shared how they recently started an endowment by working with the local community foundation and how they are promoting the opportunity within their club. The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club discussed a trust fund that is managed by a firm in Knoxville for the club that supports both stewardship work and conservation efforts. Participants from other clubs said they are considering developing these types of fund resources for their clubs and brought a great deal of curiosity that led to rich discussion.
Celebrating (Club) Anniversaries:
The unique qualities of each A.T. Club shone with this session because each club shared unique approaches to how they have recently celebrated or intend to commemorate a club birthday. Ideas were shared about different types of hiking events, environmental awareness stewardship opportunities, social gatherings, community events, sharing historical information, and gaining public awareness through the media during the special time. Beyond swapping ideas, participants with recent experience shared tactical advice and best practices to optimize these important celebrations.
Promoting A.T. Volunteerism:
Caring for the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) requires the help of many people – people like you – who are dedicating their time, skills, and expertise in support of this national public resource. Promoting A.T. volunteerism is in many ways the first crucial step towards ensuring that the Trail remains cared for today and into the future. An A.T. volunteer from the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Delaware Valley Chapter shared how their organization recruits and coordinates volunteers for on trail visitor education in the form of ridgerunners and shelter caretakers. Discussion around recruiting trail maintenance volunteers focused the different challenges faced by organizations who perform maintenance on an ad hoc basis under the guidance of a leadership team versus organizations who bestow trail maintenance responsibilities to volunteers under a section adopter model. For the former, one challenge was identifying and organizing a maintenance worktrip with enough advanced notice for effective promotion (at least three weeks prior to the worktrip).