More than 75 current, former and prospective Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Berkshire Chapter volunteers, spouses and friends, Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) staff met recently in Great Barrington at the 17th Annual Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Volunteer Gathering to share information and find out more about volunteering. The meeting was organized by Christine Ward from the Great Barrington Trails and Greenways.
Jim Pelletier, A.T. Management Committee Chair, welcomed the participants and shared some 2018 stats – 4,000 hikers at October Mountain Shelter, 900 overnight stays at Kay Wood Shelter. Additionally, more than 200 organized groups made use of the Trail and its campsites last season. Pelletier introduced some new members of the leadership team – Nancy Weld, group outreach coordinator; Monica Aguilar, public communications coordinator; and Nicole Graham, young members chair and recognized long time volunteers John Shuttleworth and Earl McWhorter. Martin Mahoney, Chairman of the AMC Berkshire Chapter, announced that the Chapter has received a $12K Grinspoon Foundation grant which has been split between the A.T. Management Committee and Noble View Outdoor Center. The grant will be used by the A.T. Committee and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to help mitigate widespread invasive species along the Trail in the Housatonic Valley.
Looking Back at 2018
Putting in a total of 6,712 hours in 2018, volunteers built a new dock at Upper Goose Pond, cleaned up Shays Rebellion Monument and worked on the tent pads for overnight sites at Tom Leonard and Mark Noepel shelters. Repairs were made to Sherman Brook tent platforms and replacement step stones were installed south of Blotz Road. Cheshire was recognized as the newest A.T. Community and residents helped to clean graffiti off of rocks at Cheshire Cobble.
Becky Barnes, MA DCR Western Region Trails Supervisor, said that a modest increase in the DCR budget may allow the hiring of up to 50 full time people state wide, which could allow for the change from winter and summer seasonal employees to full time. The Recreational Trails Grant Program increased 60 percent in funding to $3,940,000 for 75 trail projects across MA and 60 community projects.
The Great Barrington-based Greenagers have purchased the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s (ATC) Kellogg Conservation Center for their headquarters and will restore its former name of April Hill. Greenagers will base their community youth conservation and agricultural programs from their newly acquired facility.
Several breakout sessions provided attendees with the opportunity to dig into the details of specific A.T. trail management volunteer opportunities. These included: trail maintenance, trail corridor and boundary monitoring, overnight facility maintenance, natural and cultural heritage monitoring and caretaking at overnight sites and at Upper Goose Pond Cabin.
Andrea Lassor and Margaret Cahill, Co-Chairs for the A.T. Community Committee for Dalton, shared some upcoming plans to mark Dalton’s designation as an A.T. Community. Dalton is planning to collaborate with the public library and the Berkshire Natural Resources Council to host a “Hiking 101 Talk” to encourage local people to get out on the A.T. They plan to educate about “leave no trace” and that “you don’t have to be a thru hiker to enjoy the A.T.” They also hope to do a videotape telling the story of Kay Wood who lived on the trail and hosted hikers and was the first head of the A.T. Management Committee. Her design for Kay Wood Shelter is now used at other shelters along the A.T.
Looking Ahead to 2019
Some A.T. Committee leadership changes will go into effect this March. Pelletier will take over as Natural Resources coordinator from Smith and Catalano will take up the mantle of A.T. Management Committee Chair until March 2021, to be succeeded by Deb Weisenstein in 2021.
A draft list of trail projects for the upcoming season was circulated to volunteers for comments and suggestions. Proposed work includes repairs to trail bridges, addressing muddy areas and improvements and repairs to a number of overnight sites. A final work project list for the 2019 season will be distributed in late March.
Rob Bristow, Mary Berryhill, Nancy Eaton, Debra Klaber and Joanne Sheron were recognized for 25 years of service. Claudia Longmore, John Longmore, Peg Werns and Kevin Matthei were recognized for 1000 hours and John Purbrick was recognized for 500 hours of cumulative service. Also honored for up to 100 Hours of cumulative service were Margaret Cahill, Cathy Green, Andrea Lassor, Joe Masery, Mike O’Brien, Julianna Vanderweilen, Liz Young and Wayne Young. Bob Fowler, Hank Barton and John Sullivan were recognized with Retiree Awards.
The Appalachian Mountain Club Stewardship Society’s Pychowsaska Awards (for more than 96 hours of service in a single year) were presented to Cathy Green, Barbara King and Joanne Sheron. AMC’s Hart Award for more than 224 hours of service in 2018 went to Catalano, Fairbanks, Pelletier, Pirog, Rentz and Mike Brick.
COME CELEBRATE BERKSHIRE COUNTY'S CONNECTION WITH THE A.T. THIS SUMMER
Hike and picnic with A.T. volunteers, maintainers and hikers on annual A.T. Community days scheduled for July 20 in Great Barrington and on July 27 in North Adams. Celebrations are also tentatively planned to mark the one-year anniversary of Cheshire’s designation and in Dalton. Anyone may volunteer for the A.T. by contacting Volunteer Coordinator, Cosmo Catalano at email@example.com.
By Andrea Minoff