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Rocks 'n Roots
11-08-2004, 00:05
In my years of posting on AT sites I've always been perplexed why the AT and all of its magic doesn't attract more attention either on the net or with volunteers?

The AT probably possesses one of the greatest gaps between experience and interest and "turn-out" in terms of people coming back and participating. Think of the thousands upon thousands who say "the AT was the best thing I've ever done, etc."


It's frustrating to those seeking better input -especially in Trail maintenance and advocacy...

Rocks 'n Roots
11-08-2004, 15:06
Case in point. I'm surprised Weary didn't chime in on this.


Personally, I've built Appalachian Trail single-handedly in New York (4/10th of a mile's worth at that). The reason I did so was because it was easier to just go up and get it done when I had time. The organizing part was literally harder than the work. My work also tended to be much more heavy-duty than average. Not to swipe at AT volunteers, but I found that most of the good-hearted and willing who showed up were incapable of the hard NPS-standard-type work that was needed. Projects where these average volunteers were involved usually ended up with either older people or persons without the specific ability to do hard trailwork. Again, not to criticize them since they were trying to help, but their input wasn't good enough.

That's the trouble with the AT's structure, you can get some very qualified people who really make a significant effort, but they are just like they never existed when it comes to Trail organization. The AT is organized in a way that is designed to fail. It needs to be fixed by people willing to go the distance for the long term...

Dances with Mice
11-08-2004, 15:58
Case in point. I'm surprised Weary didn't chime in on this.


Personally, I've built Appalachian Trail single-handedly in New York (4/10th of a mile's worth at that). The reason I did so was because it was easier to just go up and get it done when I had time. The organizing part was literally harder than the work. My work also tended to be much more heavy-duty than average. Not to swipe at AT volunteers, but I found that most of the good-hearted and willing who showed up were incapable of the hard NPS-standard-type work that was needed. Projects where these average volunteers were involved usually ended up with either older people or persons without the specific ability to do hard trailwork. Again, not to criticize them since they were trying to help, but their input wasn't good enough.

That's the trouble with the AT's structure, you can get some very qualified people who really make a significant effort, but they are just like they never existed when it comes to Trail organization. The AT is organized in a way that is designed to fail. It needs to be fixed by people willing to go the distance for the long term...

Nothing you wrote relates to my experience with http://www.georgia-atclub.org/. Absolutely nothing.

MOWGLI
11-08-2004, 16:17
The AT is organized in a way that is designed to fail. It needs to be fixed by people willing to go the distance for the long term...

I disagree with this statement. Volunteers come and volunteers go. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of hikers actually maintain trail. Thru-hikers are notorious for not being joiners, whether as members of organizations, or as long term volunteers. Of course, there are many many exceptions to that rule.

The fact of the matter is that it is much easier to hike a trail than it is to build or maintain a trail. These days, I find that building trail is much more satisfying than hiking one. Fact is, most anyone can hike a trail. It ain't difficult.

The challenge is to find folks younger than retirement age to maintain trail. Most folks in their 20s, 30s & 40s have very little spare time to devote towards volunteerism. Those that are inclined to volunteer are usually overloaded with 3-4 different volunteer efforts, on top of family commitments.

IMO, those that complete a long distance hike would be better serving the AT community by volunteering as opposed to handing out fruit & sodas at road crossings.

R&R, if you're not already involved with the Florida Trail Association, you should be. They need some help right now - badly.

bearbait2k4
11-08-2004, 16:54
First off, I think it is harsh to say that volunteers that give their time to help with maintenance didn't help enough. I would be inclined to say that open criticism of volunteers that do actually show up to help is not going to garner a lot of additional support, but that's just my opinion.

I also think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned that you just went up to do work by yourself because you simply wanted to go when you had the time. It's difficult to really organize big efforts, volunteer-wise, when we all have jobs, lives, families, etc., outside of the trail....and when we don't live in proximity of the trail. I'd personally love to volunteer on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I live in Texas.

Hopefully, we'll see a lot of people out this year, helping with the hurricane clean-up!

Peaks
11-08-2004, 18:35
IMO, those that complete a long distance hike would be better serving the AT community by volunteering as opposed to handing out fruit & sodas at road crossings.


How very true

rickb
11-08-2004, 19:06
Some might be too dang busy riding bikes cross country.

Just saw the article in a pile of old newspapers, Peaks. Conrgats to you and your daughter on what looked to be another great trip!

Rick B

Rocks 'n Roots
11-08-2004, 21:50
I disagree with this statement. Volunteers come and volunteers go. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of hikers actually maintain trail. Thru-hikers are notorious for not being joiners, whether as members of organizations, or as long term volunteers. Of course, there are many many exceptions to that rule.

I don't see where you 'disagree' exactly? After all, everything you wrote backs my point. Of the people we supervised only one was an ex-through-hiker - and he didn't attend meetings. Part of the problem with our organization is that it kept mediocre maintainers on while telling applicants there were no available openings. This is part of the "designed to fail" problem I cited. Glad to fill any opening with a volunteer, most maintainers were completely untrained and did sub-par work. Better put, most were never lead to believe there was more expected of them. The answer from the club was "well, they're volunteers".




The fact of the matter is that it is much easier to hike a trail than it is to build or maintain a trail. These days, I find that building trail is much more satisfying than hiking one. Fact is, most anyone can hike a trail. It ain't difficult.

That's why I chose the "Trail Maintainer" icon over the "Through-Hiker" one. Anyone can hike it, but to take it up and actually become part of it is much more fulfilling. It's like becoming part of Trail history.



The challenge is to find folks younger than retirement age to maintain trail. Most folks in their 20s, 30s & 40s have very little spare time to devote towards volunteerism. Those that are inclined to volunteer are usually overloaded with 3-4 different volunteer efforts, on top of family commitments.

We have serious demographic and societal changes to deal with no doubt. But, the problem is most people stop there at the excuse. There's no real reason why this can't be compensated for with summer camp type Trail projects and Trail organization. In my evaluation of Trail demographics and volunteer pools we don't lack in potential trail workers, we lack in organization, recruitment, and persons competent enough to direct them to those projects. My organization was very content with a clip & blaze structure and little more. Meanwhile the Trail was washing out from under them. There were one or two club work crews, but they almost never worked on the AT.



IMO, those that complete a long distance hike would be better serving the AT community by volunteering as opposed to handing out fruit & sodas at road crossings.

So, in a statement starting with "I disagree" you pretty much continue on to then agree. Part of the problem is that AT groups on the internet have pretty much negativized any calls for greater involvement. Check out the "one star" rating this post received for instance. Why one star? You'll find it pretty much accurate that anyone who speaks out critically in this constructive way somehow gains a reputation as a disliked Trail member. Wingfoot is one of the biggest examples of this - warts and all.




R&R, if you're not already involved with the Florida Trail Association, you should be. They need some help right now - badly.

Unfortunately I had a work-related accident where a 3/4 ton piece of heavy equipment rolled over my foot and ankle. It is just starting to get difficult years after the event. Don't know what I'm going to do. - But I will point out that the FT problem only backs my original point...


Ask Weary about Maine...

Lilred
11-08-2004, 23:23
I was going to volunteer to help make the Cumberland Trail. It's much closer to my home. That was until I found out they wanted to charge me $85 to 'volunteer' for a weekend. Too steep for my blood.

Mr. Clean
11-09-2004, 07:33
Please don't down-play "clipping and blazing", both important aspects of trail maintenance. One of the biggest complaints I see is brushy trails. And if someone can only clear branches off the trail, thats fine, it's a job someone else won't have to do.
Do not put people off from maintaining. I have been maintaining a trail (non AT) for many years, and as time goes on I get better. The same is true for anyone else. If the leadership is good and can help teach maintainers how to build waterbars and such, most will want to learn. Any help is appreciated. Any.
Maybe a new system could be set up, it may be worthwhile to try, but please don't knock what we have unless you have another plan up your sleeve.

MOWGLI
11-09-2004, 07:51
I was going to volunteer to help make the Cumberland Trail. It's much closer to my home. That was until I found out they wanted to charge me $85 to 'volunteer' for a weekend. Too steep for my blood.

Lilredmg"

Let me clarify this for you. There is no fee to volunteer along the Cumberland Trail. None. The Cumberland Trail does however does occasionally utilize American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations. You can sign up for a Volunteer Vacation and go help build trail in over 100 locations in 2005, including the Cumberland Trail. There is a fee for this, as American Hiking Society does basically all the work for you identifying and promoting the various trips. American Hiking SOciety makes no money on this - it covers some of our expenses (salary, etc) for our Volunteer Vacations Coordinator. If you compare the $85 fee with that of an Earthwatch trip. or a Sierra Club service trip, the fee is very reasonable. Especially when you consider that food is included in most of the trips.

Similarly, the Cumberland Trail charges college students about $100 to spend a week building trail during Alternative Spring Break (in March). The fee includes food & lodging, and is quite the deal.

If you want to contact Mark Stanfill at the Cumberland Trail directly at 931-456-6259, you can volunteer at no expense. With many of their programs they will house, feed & entertain you in exchange for your work on the trail.

I hope that clears things up somewhat. Send me a PM if you have any questions. I hope to see you out on the Cumberland Trail.

Peaks
11-09-2004, 08:17
Some might be too dang busy riding bikes cross country.

Just saw the article in a pile of old newspapers, Peaks. Conrgats to you and your daughter on what looked to be another great trip!

Rick B

It was a great trip, but different from a long distance hike.

I need to get my slides organized for a Third Wednesday presentation in the spring.

MadRiver
11-09-2004, 12:04
One reason for the ďgapĒ you suggested is because of the distance involved. If you read the posts from the AMCís own hiking board, you will find that a number of the hikers who regularly visit the White Mountains are from out of state. For instance, my wife and I maintain the Webster Cliff Trail from Route 302 to the first open ledge. Since we live in CT, it is 287 miles door to trail. Although the AMC requires us to make three visits per year, we generally do more because of the traffic that this trail experiences.

For example, I cleared all the water bars about a month ago and returned this past weekend after several storms had gone through and found 17 blowdowns obstructing the trail. I will also do several trips this winter to brush low hanging branches that become more noticeable once the snow comes.

Even though I am 50 and my wife is 47, and cannot carry a ten foot section of a bog bridge by ourselves, we do fairly well for a couple of old farts. We both thoroughly enjoy the time we spend on trail maintenance and will hopefully be able to contribute for a few more years.

One other issue that hasnít been raised that might bear directly on this discussion is how many people who attempt a thru-hike and fail ever return to the trail either attempting another thru-hike or return as a section hiker? It seems to me as a casual observer that once the thru-hike is over, whether successful or not, the hiker moves on to other interests. This moving on might account for why there isnít this continued interest in the AT after the fact.

Rocks 'n Roots
11-10-2004, 01:05
A bit typed-out tonight.



Do not put people off from maintaining.

Interesting response. As a person who did an awful lot of clipping & blazing myself on both the AT and NY Long Path I certainly realize its importance. Nobody was criticizing clipping & blazing per say, it was more a criticism of C&B being the sole image and nothing more.

If you look at the AT maintenance structure it relies on roving seasonal regional crews to do heavy-duty trail construction. Clubs can do individual trail projects, but most don't and leave the heavy stuff to called-in crews. In my section in New York this wasn't getting it done.

So it's not really fair to say to someone "don't turn people off" when the objective is just the opposite. As usual with the AT Community it's the messenger that's doing something wrong - not the system. Frankly, that turns me off.

I agree with Mad River's comment that the problem is a Trail proximity one. Since we know what the problem is, then we should try to remedy it with the knowledge we have. I think it's obvious that trail work projects need to be organized above and beyond local clip & blazers. This was well within MacKaye's original plan. Probably government is the only one capable of providing the organizational structure and support...

I think we need some more work crews. I believe the positions could be filled from people out there who have yet to be approached with a solid plan, or given a solid and perennial project run year to year on a long term basis. At least in New York anyway.


As usual, I lament Weary doesn't chime in on this. He is a good source of knowledge...

walkin' wally
11-10-2004, 13:43
On the clipping issue I think that is one of the more important things that I do as a trail maintainer. Yes it is hard to get motivated sometimes but it is frustrating to come upon a section of trail where you cannot even see your feet. If it is a brushy area you might not see any blazes either. It is unbelievable how quick the in-growth can take over. My wife and I do about 4 miles of trail and it can be tedious at times but still a good way to spend some time outdoors. We go in August often and we meet a lot of hikers that are very close to finishing their thru hike. Great folks to talk to. Great trail stories.
So that's another benefit of trail maintenace.

It would be nice indeed to have more people in the trail crews. This is where the heavy work is done that is so important for the long term. I'll bet every maintainer has some part of their section that would benefit from the work these crews do; rock steps, bog bridging,sidehilling, etc. As someone said a few years ago 'The trail is in danger of being loved to death'.

weary
11-10-2004, 14:53
I....The challenge is to find folks younger than retirement age to maintain trail. Most folks in their 20s, 30s & 40s have very little spare time to devote towards volunteerism. Those that are inclined to volunteer are usually overloaded with 3-4 different volunteer efforts, on top of family commitments.

IMO, those that complete a long distance hike would be better serving the AT community by volunteering as opposed to handing out fruit & sodas at road crossings.

An excellent comment, especially the bit about handing out fruit and sodas.

Weary

MadRiver
11-10-2004, 15:35
An excellent comment, especially the bit about handing out fruit and sodas.

Weary

Actually, you can do both. My wife and I always bring along a cooler filled with goodies when we do trail maintenance. As you might know, the Webster Cliff trail is the first trail you reach after emerging from the Pemigewasset Wilderness, so fresh fruit and some brownies are always welcomed.

minnesotasmith
11-11-2004, 03:50
I would think that hikers who have had a rough day would tend to have their attitude about the Trail improve dramatically when someone makes an effort to get out to where the hikers are and hands them some cold refreshments and town food. Hikers whose love for hiking in general, and love for the Trail in particular, is running strong are IMHO more likely to want to give something to the Trail in the future. After all, a former through/section-hiker who regards his experience warmly (whether or not they finished) would surely be more inclined to go do trail maintenance in the future than someone bitter about their experience on the Trail (who'd just as soon forget about the whole thing), yes?

Too, thieves and jerks on the Trail probably have the side effect of reducing the # of volunteers to do trail maintenance for the same reason, I suspect.

Pencil Pusher
11-11-2004, 06:13
Hiking and climbing clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, universities or high schools... all these provide sources for trail work. Since you're an advocate, take it upon yourself to reach out to these organizations and create trail maintenance days.