By CHRIS HANNA
The GMC staff, and section and at-large leaders gathered at Middlebury College on April 27 to discuss Membership Recruitment & Development.
Executive Director Ben Rose addressed the group saying, If it werent for volunteers, we wouldnt have a Green Mountain Club. It is the members who run the club, not the staff. The staff serves the needs of the members. He explained that the decisions made by the Board of Directors represent the will of the membership. It is then his job to direct the staff to implement those decisions.
Throughout the day, Bens words resonated as GMC President Marty Lawthers led a discussion on how to attract new members, keep the current members and involve more members in club activities and decision making.
We divided into three groups to identify barriers and solutions for increasing membership involvement. The perceived barriers included: competition with other organizations or activities, ineffective communication, unflattering perception of the GMC, fear or intimidation due to physical limitations or social uncertainty and a lack of specific tasks. For solutions, the groups identified: attending functions to advertise who we are and what we do, mentoring new members, improving communications to the general public, using creative advertising, following up on volunteer interests, creating an email list-serve and identifying volunteer tasks within the sections.
Then the fun began. The entire group car-pooled to Middlebury Gap for a hike to Silent Cliff. Marty asked each of us to take the Waterbar Pledge (see summer 2002 issue of the Long Trail News). Each day we hike on the LT or any other trail this season, we are to clean the leaves and mud out of two waterbars. The Old Ridge Runner hiked with ax in hand, presumably to enforce the oath. As we neared our destination, Marty and Field Director Dave Hardy led an animated discussion of the proposed fee increase for overnight stays at GMC shelters with caretakers. To replace the member discount, Dave suggested one free overnight stay per year for members. Talking outdoors allowed some of us (including me) to raise our voices in opposition to the increase and to fees in general.
Ben was concerned that caretakers had to deal with belligerent hikers who didnt want to pay. Someone suggested that, in lieu of payment, hikers could be offered a work alternative, such as cleaning the privy. Fees continued to be a hot topic with a discussion of the USDA Forest Service and National Park Service parking and trail fee program. Marty used all her expertise to give everyone a chance to speak on this topic. And, of course, the Old Ridge Runner stood guard with his ax.
The final discussion of the day was about the usefulness of a GPS unit. Several people carried different styles and demonstrated how they worked. I came away believing they had some value for mapping and trail corridor monitoring, but it is unlikely I will ever be motivated to use one.
Marty closed the conference by inviting everyone to a working group meeting at GMC headquarters in May to generate a list of future action items.