Remarks of Jim Tomlin
President, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club
90th Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet
November 29, 2017
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"...we have learned from those who preceded us...those who are here 90 years from now [should learn]...from us"
Please raise your hands – how many were present at the 1927 meeting that formed the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club?
And how many of you are expecting to be attending the 180th anniversary dinner in the year 2107? I can think of one, if Eddie is here.
I will get back to this point shortly.
In preparation for this meeting, I have been reading all I can find about the history of PATC and the Appalachian Trail. For those who are not familiar with our history, our primary founder was Myron Avery. Among the rich tales about him, I found some interesting tidbits.
Very early on, Myron Avery stated, "We are not founding a Club for the next three to five years. We are forming a permanent organization." In this, we have succeeded spectacularly.
In these 90 years, some things have remained exactly the same. For example, in the earliest years, Avery said two things:
- The PATC President job could easily become a 24-hour-a-day job if you let it – I can confirm that is still absolutely true. And,
- He was worried that the trail volunteers were getting too elderly and that we needed younger people. This was in 1931!
So some things never change. Yet other things have changed dramatically. Think of what else big happened in 1927 - Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic. Has air travel changed in any way since then? Similar sweeping changes have affected PATC as well. Some of those changes are
- The population explosion has put many more people on the trails, especially those close-in to population centers, and those people are of new demographics.
- Our work has become more challenging, dealing with ever-increasing complexity working with all of the public land management agencies that we partner with.
- As trails and facilities age, it is more difficult to attract volunteers to maintain them, as it is always more fun to build something new than it is to maintain something.
- Discretionary free time has shrunk.
- Congested traffic has become ubiquitous.
- And the human health benefits of outdoor recreation are more known, better quantified, and more needed than ever.
As a result, PATC needs to step up and do three primary things:
- Make ourselves better known among potential new members.
- Do our jobs easier, faster, better, and safer so that we can accomplish more.
- Work with new partners, new collaborators, and new friends who share our goals.
None of us were present in 1927 at the inception of PATC. But we have learned from those who preceded us. We want those who are here 90 years from now to have learned from us. We want to hand down to them the trail networks, the knowledge, and the wisdom that we now possess.
We are here tonight not only to celebrate that Permanent Organization that has now lasted 90 years. We are here to re-affirm that vision that 90 years from now, our volunteers will still be hard at work.
Long live the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club!