View Full Version : MATC 75th birthday party at Sugarloaf

08-20-2012, 11:28
I attended the 75th event at Sugarloaf in Maine last Saturday (8/18). The organizers pulled off just about a perfect event. There were a couple of options for visiting the brass marker between Spaulding and Sugarloaf. I and 34(?) others elected to do the 8 mile option which was accessed by a long school bus ride through Barnjam where we were dropped near the end of a logging road. The bu driver deserved soem applause as the road up eventually turned into a logging road complete with one land bridges with trees brushing along both sides of the bus. We then hiked over to the AT crossing. The group had mixed paces but I expect the thru hikers we encountered didnt expect such a large pack of folks along this stretch. After a few Maine style uphills (switchbacks, we dont need no stinking switchbacks) we got to the plaque where there was a special one day register to sign and then we proceeded to the Sugarloaf summit. Along the way we encountered folks who were doing an out and back from the chairlift. The weather was perfect and views from Sugarloaf were great with Bigelow particularly inviting. We all had the option to take the chairlift down or walk down but the potential for a beer and barbeque and the steep descent led many to take the chair down.

The barbeque was at the Rack along the Sugarloaf base road. There were two varieties of beer and a large barbeque with quite a selection. As the base of Sugarloaf is somewhat off the AT, not all the throughhikers in the area came down the event but many did and it appeared as those there were shuttles available to those staying elsewhere in the area. I was quite surprised that the caterer was equipped to handle the appetites of the thru hikers.

The ceremonies were short and to the point. The event was also a kick off to the fundraising to protect sections of the AT corridor in the Sugarloaf area.

I do have to commend MATC for setting up this event, I think everyone had a great time and the coordination of all the activities so everyone ended up in the right place was impressive. I normally do solo boundary maintenance in western maine so this was my first chance to see many of the long term club members.

The club is apparently working with a PR firm and one of their associates involved with electronic media was there so I expect there is a twitter feed or facebook page with pictures somewhere for those inclined.

08-21-2012, 09:19
Ceremonies are just that. MATC needs to recognise that hikers are the mainstay of its "business" and, in order to move forward and better serve the public, the Club needs to develop a policy that provides detailed information, highlights Club History and accomplishments, and improve on ways to gain new members. The Club has stagnated over the years due to poor leadership and can do more to promote the spirit and concept of Volunteerism. I have been a member (indeed an Honorary Member) for over 35 years. I am saddened by the lack of vision of the current (spell that--past 25 years). There have been no new campsites or shelters in over 20 years, despite the fact that the US population has increased two-fold since then. Overcrowding, treadway erosion and diminishing levels of satisfaction are some of the results. Many of our shelters have become "back country slums" due to overcrowding. We need to offer more campsite opportunities, as well as offer more hiking options. Maine has the best Trail opportunities the AT offers, yet the MATC remains locked in past glory. Time to move forward to promote/protect the beauty that exists.......

08-21-2012, 11:06
Gee Quad, you should really do a bit of research before doing an editorial.

Ever heard of the Grafton Loop Trail (a project worked on by MATC and AMC)? That has occured within the past 25 years. It was specifically set up to give groups and individuals a long distance trail with similiar attributes as the AT to draw some folks away from the AT.

How about the major purchase and protection of Mt Abraham? And the new effort to protect a large block of land near Orbeton Stream.

The club also had a major impact in preventing the Reddington Wind Farm project on being set right next to AT on one of the arguably most scenic stretches of the Maine AT. They also had a lot of impact on the now deferred/canceled windfarm south of the Carry Ponds that Independence Wind had proposed.

The club has done extensive relocation work over recent years to continue and relocate and harden the treadway resulting from the major relocation due to the public reserve settlement in the seventies ? Some of the rock work in the 100 mile wilderness has taken years of paid and volunteer time to put in place. I see signs of a whole lot of work in the Bigelows and saw a lot of work as I went on the anniversary hike Saturday.

The club has built more than a few new campsites. The reason the club isnt building new shelters is that tentsites are easier to manage and dont turn into "backcountry slums". The reality is if you build a shelter that will hold 20, 30 people will try to use it and will be atracted to it. Looking at threads on whitebalze there seems to be a lot of support to building more tentsites and far fewer shelters. Even if the club does want to build new shelters, ADA and other federal accessibility regs make the permitting and construction effort a multiyear effort. There have been numerous shelter replacements/reconstructions over the last 20 years, most of them require relocating the shelters off the actual trail to a more suitable site.

The club also has been extensively doing the unglamorous work of upgrading the outhouses along the trail to mouldering privy designs. Unlike the AMC, the option of having a paid caretaker shovel out a privy on a daily basis and compost it is not an option unless the clubs used the AMC approach and charged a fee for camping at each shelter. As you can see in the whites, the shelters that dont get enough use to support a caretaker are deemed as not in keeping with the management plan and removed.

Realistically the requirements of maintaining a long stretch of trail and its associated boundaries (longer than the boundary of Yellowstone National Park) to NPS standards is tough anywhere and MATC does it with a small membership due to the rural location of the trail. I havent seen significant roadblocks put in place by the club preventing new blood from coming in. They seem to be quite welcoming. I expect that if new blood cares to join the club, they can get as much responsibility as they care to once they are a known quantity. Looking over the MATC website, there are lots of open trail sections and boundary sections and I dont see a lottery required to apportion those sections out to willing new members. Obviously the many federal requirements including the very unpopular chainsaw certification requirements upsets some folks but MATC is at the mercy of the NPS as the federal goverment owns most of the route through Maine and is designated by law as the organization in charge.

How would you propose that the club move forward with an ambitious new promote/protect agenda with the same resources while also meeting the NPS standards?
Where would the new membership come from? Many of the various college outdoor clubs have scaled back on participation due to lack of members and from personal experience I have found that the Facebook/Meetup groups that have diverted members away from traditional clubs tend to be consumers of outdoor resources rather than contributors.

The reality is that most demographics show the number of people interested in backcountry trails and hiking is dropping rapidly, all the major outdoor organizations are losing members steadilly and it quite obvious that the average age of the hiking public is going up. AMC's solution is to go for the older high end crowd by building the Highland Center in NH or the new Gorman Lodge and the associated upgraded cabins but I dont see that approach working well on the AT. Maine Huts and Trails long ago attempted to be located along the AT but it was forced to private land by the public who defined their approach as elitist.

08-22-2012, 11:25
Building a $4.5 million dollar trail crew facility in Showhegan (over 40 miles distant from the AT) isn't the answer. Education and involvement with the hiking public is key. The Club needs to be located on the Trail (my Guide business is just a 2 minute walk from the AT near Lake Hebron in Monson). How can the MATC serve the interests of the hiking public when it chooses to locate itself in an area unfamiliar to most hikers? The AMC recognises that positioning itself close to the Trail is key. The AMC has a huge presence in the 100 Mile Wilderness (where it owns vast acreage). Many of the AT hikers associate the trail maintenance and infrastructure with the AMC due to their signage and advertising. MATC is asleep at the wheel and remains dead in the water. I know. I was once a proud member of MATC for over 35 years. When I joined the MATC in 1977 there were just 200 members. Today, there are just over 600 and most of these members are just dues payers and not contributors. Most of the work being done today on the Trail is a direct contribution of the State and much less so of Volunteers. Those rock steps and erosion control work isn't being done by the hiking public and Volunteers, but is being done by the Maine Conservation Corps, which is being paid for by the State. I was an Overseer of Trails, Corresponding Secretary. Vice-President and Director for most of my 35 years of Volunteer involvement. I co-ordinated a once successful caretaker program at Bigelow Col for 18 years and maintained 4-1/2 miles of Trail on Bigelow for 28 years. I know the Trail. I have hiked it in its entirety 3 times from Georgia to Maine. MATC has had poor leadership ever since Dave Field stepped down back in the early '80's. The Club is sleeping and needs direction to advance into the future. It saddens me to see what has happened to the Trail in Maine. Overuse issues are prevalent, yet nothing is being done. You can't advance your goals when you locate your "business" 40 miles from your target audience. Wake up MATC!! AMC has a storefront in Greenville and captures many of the hikers you need to succeed.