The mission of the Green Mountain Club is to make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people by protecting and maintaining the Long Trail System and fostering, through education, the stewardship of Vermont’s hiking trails and mountains.
History of the Long Trail
The history of the Green Mountain Club is the history of the Long Trail. The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. Conceived by James P. Taylor (1872-1949) as he waited for the mist to clear from Stratton Mountain, the Long Trail took its first step from dream to reality at a gathering of twenty-three people on March 11, 1910, in Burlington when the Green Mountain Club was formed.
The Green Mountains had been largely unappreciated and unused for recreation until Taylor promised that the new organization would “make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.”
Work began in the Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield areas and by the end of 1912 a path was cleared from Sterling Pond to Camel’s Hump. In the first decade of the Club, members built 209 miles of trail and provided forty-four overnight facilities, fourteen of which were raised by the GMC.
In 1930, the final link of the Long Trail was cut to Canada. The Club celebrated its twenty-first birthday with a party and the lighting of flares from mountaintop to mountaintop along the spine of the Green Mountains.
With the Trail completed, the Club continued to expand its network of shelters. In 1931 the Club’s board of trustees authorized formation of a salaried Long Trail Patrol led by Roy O. Buchanan. Each summer, Buchanan and groups of students worked on trail maintenance, construction of new shelters, and repairs to existing ones.
During most of its history the GMC has chosen not to become involved in national conservation issues, but has steadfastly worked to preserve the character and value of the Long Trail and the Green Mountains. In the mid-1930s when a scenic highway, called the Green Mountain Parkway, was proposed for the length of the Green Mountain Range, the Club mounted energetic opposition. Vermonters ultimately rejected the idea in a statewide referendum. In 1958 when the U. S. Air Force dropped its plan to erect a missile communications facility on the Chin of Mount Mansfield, it was in part due to GMC opposition. The Green Mountain Club continues its role as the founder, sponsor, defender, and protector of the Long Trail System.
Shelter construction and reconstruction accelerated between 1950 and 1960. Between 1966 and 1975, responding to heavy trail traffic, the Club launched a variety of initiatives, including removal of dumps at shelters and promotion of a “carry-in, carry-out ” policy, dissemination of information on responsible trail and camping practices, and stationing of caretakers at the most popular shelters and ranger-naturalists (now summit caretakers) on the summits of Mount Mansfield and Camel’s Hump, where they taught hikers to respect the rare, fragile alpine ecosystems. One of the most important endeavors for the Green Mountain Club was Long Trail Protection Campaign in 1986. The campaign has successfully protected all but 6.5 miles of the Long Trail.
In 1992, the Club bought the former 1836 May Farm on Route 100, a popular tourist avenue into the Green Mountains, in Waterbury Center. After renting space for many years, first in Rutland, then in downtown Montpelier, the GMC was finally its own landlord. In addition to administrative offices, the headquarters houses the GMC’s information and education services.
In 1971, the Vermont Legislature passed a resolution, recognizing the Club as “the founder, sponsor, defender, and protector” of the Long Trail System and delegating to it responsibility for developing policies and programs for “the preservation, maintenance, and proper use of hiking trails for the benefit of the people of Vermont.” Although different generations of GMCers have faced different challenges–from pioneer trail blazing to environmental concerns and land acquisition–the Club’s main responsibility remains the same today as it was in 1910: to maintain and protect the Long Trail for all Vermonters, now and in the future.