October 2011 Volunteer of the Month
John Shannon

                                        Photo by Bill Holman

John Shannon is such an avid PATC volunteer that given the choice to go hiking or do trail work, he’ll choose trail work faster than you can say "garlic mustard." After 25 years of service to PATC, not even John knows how many miles of trail he has cleared, how many waterbars he has built and cleaned, how many blowdowns he has removed, and how many invasive plants he has pulled.

One of the original members when the Charlottesville Chapter – PATC was formed in 1986, John continues to regularly lead work trips along the club’s section of the Appalachian Trail between Rockfish and McCormick Gaps. And he likes doing it.

"From my perspective, John is the glue that keeps the Charlottesville Chapter running," e-mailed Don White, PATC district manager for the AT, South District, Shenandoah National Park.

"Truly, John stands out in a group of standouts. His manner and leadership are consistently outstanding…His value to the chapter is, I feel, almost incalculable." John previously served as the overseer of the Furnace Mountain Trail for some 14 years, and he continues to help other trail overseers with their trails. And when bad storms wreak havoc on trails—such as the ice storms of 1998 and 2006 and Hurricane Isabel in 2003—John is out there working on weekends until the trails are shipshape. John also pitches in on special projects, such as helping to keep the top of Calf Mountain clear and helping with AT trail relocation efforts.

The Flying McLeods, whose members repair waterbars and steep, eroded sections of the AT, has likewise benefited from John’s tireless help. "John Shannon has been one of the pillars of the fledgling Flying McLeods South District SNP trail crew, digging in on our mission to control erosion one waterbar at a time," e-mailed crew leader Mark Gatewood.

"When the crew quits for the day, John continues working, shifting focus to his personal war against invasive plants in the trail corridor."

John has indeed taken a keen interest in the detrimental effect that invasive plants are having on the native plants in the AT corridor. Put John in a stand of multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, or garlic mustard, and he’ll attack the invaders until sunlight fades.

Lest anyone get the impression that John Shannon is all work and no play, he also loves to hike. Shortly after joining PATC, John started leading hikes year-round for the Charlottesville Chapter. He has introduced numerous people to the joys of hiking in Shenandoah National Park,
George Washington National Forest, and other beautiful Virginia locales.

John is no stranger to beautiful locales. An Australia native, he was born in Adelaide, the lovely capital city on the coast of South Australia. He left home in 1979 and moved to the United States, where he secured a postdoctoral position in Richmond with Virginia Commonwealth University, followed a couple of years later by another postdoc position in Tucson, Arizona. In 1985, John joined the University of Virginia, where he is now a research faculty member with the Department of Microbiology.

John makes the long flight back to Australia every year to see his mother, sister, two brothers, and numerous other relatives. This year, he’ll make the flight as a dual citizen of both Australia and the United States. John was among the 77 people who were sworn in as citizens on July 4 during the annual naturalization ceremony at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Although not nearly as famous as Monticello’s founder, John is a recognized leader in his own right. He served as president of the Charlottesville Chapter for at least a dozen years, then shifted to newsletter editor, a post he continues to hold.

The members of the Charlottesville Chapter would most likely all agree that John is the heart of group—a PATC volunteer extraordinaire. Lindsay Brown, Charlottesville Chapter President, sums up John’s service well: "John shows what leadership-by-example is all about with his dedication to working on trails."