By Andrea Minoff
Steve Schimpff, Goose Pond South Maintainer, Neal Chamberlain, Sheffield Land Trust and Adam Sperlonga, Tyringham Maintainer
Almost 100 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 Dalton at the 16th Annual Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Volunteer Gathering to share information and find out more about volunteering.
Jim Pelletier, A.T. Management Committee Chair, who organized the meeting, along with Volunteer Coordinator Cosmo Catalano, welcomed the participants, followed by Martin Mahoney, Chairman of the AMC Berkshire Chapter who said that the Chapter, with 2,900 members, is looking to increase opportunities for members aged 20-45 by expanding leadership training and scheduling more chapter wide events. Volunteer efforts
in 2017 totaled over 7,000 hours on the 90 miles of trail treadway, 14 overnight sites, 5,365 acres of Trail Corridor lands with 81 miles of Corridor boundary. Additional volunteer efforts also included monitoring of rare, threatened or endangered plants at 22 sites, invasive removal, and open space maintenance.
2017 project highlights included treadway and privy repairs, adding a tent platform at the Tom Leonard Shelter, improvements at Hemlocks Shelter including a new roof, patio and benches, removing diseased trees at campsites and preserving others from invasive insects. The AT Committee’s new Cultural Heritage program will care for historical sites near the trail, including Shays Rebellion Monument and Sheffield Lime Kilns. This is the first culturally engaged volunteer-managed resource project on the entire A.T.
With funding from the Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, 372 acres of A.T. Corridor lands were added east of Warner Hill in Hinsdale. The Great Barrington-based Greenagers youth crew worked for four weeks last year on the south side of Mt. Everett, installing steps to reduce erosion and trail deterioration and on improvements to the nearby Hemlocks shelter. The AMC Teens built two additional trail switchbacks on Mt. Prospect.
Pelletier highlighted volunteer caretaking activity at Goose Pond Cabin. Overnight stays totaled 2,350 hikers, about even with last season’s totals. An overall total of 3,268 hikers, (approximately 2,618 individual backpackers, 440 day hikers and 210 groups) were counted at a central point on the Trail in MA during the course of the season.
Proposed Trail projects for 2018 include removing graffiti on Cheshire Cobble, launching a MA A.T. license plate program to establish stable funding for the A.T. Committee's efforts on behalf of the Trail, replacing the failing dock at Upper Goose Pond Cabin, continuing to work on the Local Management Plan and extending coverage of seasonal ridge runners into the fall to assist hikers through Labor Day.
Due to recent updates in the formal relationship between ATC and the National Park Service, the NPS will be manager of record for Trail volunteers. All volunteers will need to be recorded on project paperwork to improve legal protection and safety for all of those working on the A.T.
Partners Share Updates
Becky Barnes, MA DCR Western Region Trails Supervisor, announced that the State has established an Interagency Trails Team to increase collaboration, funding and trails development. The State will be funding two full-time seasonal Ridge Runners this summer. These will be supplemented by volunteer Overnight Site Caretakers at busy locations. Adam Brown, ATC Conservation Stewardship Manager, shared news that ATC’s Kellogg Conservation Center in South Egremont is being offered for sale to a conservation buyer interested in continuing to manage the property. ATC will continue to maintain a Trail management presence in the south-County area.
Andrea Lassor and Margaret Cahill, Co-Chairs for the A.T. Community Committee for Dalton, recapped 2017 accomplishments with Dalton receiving designation as an A.T. Community, marked with a very successful celebration in July, including distribution of free postcards with A.T. scenes to hikers to mail home. The town has adopted the A.T. section running through the town, new signs were installed to clarify the trail route and efforts are being made to expand overnight options for hikers passing through Dalton. Cheshire is now in the process of applying for designation as an A.T. Community and is hopeful for a final approval from ATC in early summer.
The northern, central and southern maintainers, led by Josh Weeks, Deb Weisenstein and Dave Koerber respectively and Natural Resource Monitoring, led by Steve Smith, met in breakout sessions to discuss trail maintenance projects and resource monitoring issues within their sections. The second round of breakout sessions discussed A.T. Corridor Monitoring, led by Dave Pirog; Upper Goose Pond Caretaking and Maintenance, led by Debra Klaber; Shelter and Campsite Adopters, led by Don Fairbanks; Ridge Runners and Overnight Site Caretakers, led by Denis Boudreau; and A.T. Communities, led by Christine Ward.
Rob Bristow was recognized by the National Park Service for 25 years of volunteer work and Bob Fitzsimmons, Kerry Schnorf and Eric Roozekrans were honored for 500 hours of cumulative service. Also honored by the Park Service for up to 100 Hours of cumulative service were Denis Boudreau, Mike Brick, Geoffrey Caldwell, Jon Elliott, Ken Germania, Tony Gola, Ryan Gregory, Charlie Quinlan, Dave Schnorf and Russ Skelton.
The Appalachian Mountain Cub Stewardship Society’s Pychowsaska Awards (for more than 96 hours of service in a single year) were presented to Alan Breach, Mike Brick, Geoffrey Caldwell, Rob Cramp, Bonnie Haug-Cramp Debra Klaber, Dave Koerber, Joanne Sheron and Debra Weisenstein. AMC’s Hart Award for more than 224 hours went to Cosmo Catalano, Don Fairbanks, Jim Pelletier, Dave Pirog, Pete Rentz and Steve Smith.
COME CELEBRATE BERKSHIRE COUNTY'S CONNECTION WITH THE A.T. THIS SUMMER
Hike and picnic with A.T. volunteers, maintainers and hikers on annual trail days scheduled for July 21 in Great Barrington and on July 28 in North Adams. Subject to application approval, a celebration is tentatively planned on June 30 to mark Cheshire designation as an A.T. Community. Anyone may volunteer for the A.T. by contacting Volunteer Coordinator, Cosmo Catalano at email@example.com
Christine Ward, Shays Hollow Road South to Jug End Maintainer and Andy Potter, Wilcox South Maintainer
(l to r) Karen Daigle and Eileen Quinn, Co-Chairs for Cheshire A.T. Community Designation Committee and Andrea Lassor and Margaret Cahill, Co-Chairs for Dalton A.T. Community Designation
Becky Barnes, DCR
Eric Roozekrans, 500 Hour Honoree and Adam Brown, ATC
Adam Sperlonga, Jim Pelletier and Denis Broudreau, DCR Ridge Runner program
Southern Maintainers Breakout session, with (l to r) Martin Mahoney, AMC Berkshire Chapter Chair, Christine Ward, Elia Del Molino, Head of Greenagers, Russ Skelton, Bill Boyer, Jack Platt and Leader Dave Koerber
Jim Pelletier, Eileen Quinn, Cheshire A.T. Designation Co-Chair and Cosmo Catalano
100 Hours of Service Honorees
Bob Fitzsimmons, recognized for 500 hours of service along with Eric Roozekrans (in photo with Adam Brown from ATC) with Jim Pelletier and Debra Weisenstein, Chair for Volunteer Recognition
Rob Bristow recognized for 25 years of service
Margaret Cahill unveils items in box won in raffle