The Green Mountain Club held its 112th Annual Meeting in person this year at its Waterbury headquarters, a happy reunion after following heightened COVID precautions through 2020 and 2021. Staff, board members, and volunteers shared the year’s accomplishments, awarded star volunteers, and led guided outings around the area. Thank you to all those who participated. Please enjoy this recap of the 2022 Annual Meeting activities:
Remarks from GMC President Howard VanBenthuysen
Fifty years ago this Memorial Day, I was just moving in to my first summer as a Green Mountain Club caretaker on Camel’s Hump at the old Gorham Lodge. Fifty years ago this June 6th, I watched through the window as a few inches of snow fell on 20 or so Boy Scouts, who were from New Jersey, while I stoked the tiny but wonderful wood stove inside the cabin. Little did I know that the experiences of that summer would lead me to a lifetime of hiking, backpacking, and involvement with and commitment to the Green Mountain Club.
As I thought about that wonderful summer in preparation for this meeting, it occurred to me that GMC, the Long Trail, and my native state of Vermont have all undergone significant and amazing changes in that intervening 50 years. I dug into some GMC history, went through some old guidebooks, and thought it might be fun and informative to share some of those changes for the 112th year of the Green Mountain Club!
In 1972 the Green Mountain Club had 2,200 members, while today membership stands at almost 10,000. While we speak of a Long Trail System today which comprises over 500 miles of trail, including the Appalachian Trail in Vermont and the Kingdom Heritage Trails maintained by our Northeast Kingdom Section, the 1971 guide book described the system as having 436 miles of trails.
As the trail mileage and the complexity of our cooperative management system has increased, as well as trail usage, the GMC has evolved as a professional organization. In 1972, there were at most two paid employees who worked more or less full time, while today we are an employer of choice with 19 full-time professional staff and 35 seasonal employees. During my caretaker year, there were about 18 seasonal employees, mostly caretakers, the Ranger Naturalists, and Ken and Alice Boyd, who were running the programs out of their South Burlington home! It’s a good thing gas was only .36 a gallon in those days, given that Ken and Alice put thousands of miles on their car to keep track of the 14 caretakers between Stratton Pond and Sterling Pond!
Of course, the GMC budget in 1972 was tiny and was managed by volunteers, but has since grown to a complex FY23 budget of $2.7 million. Likewise, the GMC endowment, now a healthy $6.8 million after our very successful Capital Campaign, was jump started in 1986 when the Long Trail Protection Campaign started.
We are all painfully aware of inflation today, but some things — like GMC dues — have not grown as much as you might expect. The 1971 guide book notes that GMC dues started at $2 per year, while today anyone is welcome to join the club for as little as $45 for an individual membership. That increase is less than a dollar per year! And some things, like the cost of staying at a caretaker site in our system, have gone down when inflation is factored in! In 1972, we charged the princely overnight sum of .75 for non-members and .50 for members! Today, overnight stays at our caretaker shelters and sites are free for members and only $5 for non-members!
In 1972, the club had 10 sections, while today it has 14 active sections in Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Protection of the trail was not yet an organized project in 1972, but with the advent of our very successful Long Trail Protection Campaign in 1986, we have successfully brought under permanent protection 98% of the Long Trail. Only about 6.28 miles remain unprotected and our conservation program actively monitors the remaining portions and works tirelessly to bring that unprotected number down to zero.
While the club in 1972 had no rental cabins and owned no real estate, today we have a very successful cabin rental program at Wheeler Pond, Bolton and Bryant camps. The club owns and manages outright about 3,500 acres of forest land appurtenant to the Long Trail or other protected lands. Our dozens of volunteer corridor monitors faithfully watch over 305 miles of boundaries on protected lands across the Long Trail System.
Speaking of which, our rented office in Rutland in the 1970’s has long since been replaced by our modern headquarters complex on 40 acres in Waterbury Center. As a result of our very successful Capital Campaign, we will be breaking ground on the replacement of the old Herrick Office building in late 2022 or early 2023. This much needed upgrade which will improve our ADA access, eliminate a dangerous mold problem for staff, and give us new and more efficient space.
And now, onto a topic everyone loves: waste management!
In 1972 every privy on the Long Trail was a pit privy, mostly dug laboriously as deep as one can dig in Vermont’s bony and stony soils by GMC members and volunteers. Today, we are on the cusp of eliminating the last of our pit privies with the completion of a number of moldering privies at five separate sites this year.
In short, then, much has changed with the GMC and the Long Trail System in the 50 years since I was the Gorham Lodge caretaker. And, I think, all for the better!
Today, the state of the GMC is, in a word, outstanding! We came through the pandemic with balanced budgets (eight in a row), have completed an amazing Capital Campaign, and are poised to have two of the busiest trail work and construction seasons in our history. Another clean independent audit of our finances and an almost $7 million endowment in the bank are a tribute to the loyalty and commitment of our 10,000 members, our 240 adopters, our community supporters, and our incredible, professional staff. The GMC has an enormous reservoir of good will in Vermont and in the greater conservation community, and this is in no small measure thanks to the fine work of our executive director, his hardworking staff, and all of you.
New initiatives underway are designed to strengthen and diversify the GMC and to ensure that the Long Trail System and the club are open and welcoming to everyone. Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group has been developing outreach initiatives to do just that, and the Board of Directors has adopted a land acknowledgement statement recognizing the historic place of the Abenaki in Vermont and the fact that the Long Trail System is located on their historic grounds. Our strategic plan has proven successful and is in its second, five-year development. GMC continues to have excellent relationships with our agency partners including the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
In closing, I would be remiss to not mention and thank the volunteer leaders on whose shoulders we now stand. Tom Candon, John Page, Jean Haigh, and so many others, worked so hard and so successfully to establish the solid foundation on which we now are continuing their legacy. Tom and John have helped me in so many ways and have both been so generous with their time and advice, and I must say a special “thanks” to both of them.
Finally, today the GMC is growing to meet its mission to make the mountains of Vermont play a larger part in the lives of the people. The continuing success of the GMC and the world class quality and protection of the Long Trail System are a tribute to every one of you, our members, our volunteer leaders, our committee members, our section leaders, and our fine professional and seasonal staffs. None of what we do as an organization would work without all of you, working together as a team, and the countless hours you devote to the GMC and the Long Trail. I can never say or stress this enough: thank you all for all that you do for the club and the trail!
Speech given by Green Mountain Club President Howard VanBenthuysen at the 112th Annual Meeting on Saturday, June 11, 2022. View the 2022 agenda and reports here.
President’s Awards & Honorary Life Members
In GMC tradition, President Howard awarded three star volunteers for their dedication and service to the club. This year’s President’s Award recipients were Scott Christiansen, Edmund Guest, and Nancy McClellan.
Honorary Life Members
Section volunteers highlighted their star volunteers and awarded them with an honorary life membership. This year’s recipients were Lee Allen, Phil Hazen, and Carol Langley (not in attendance).
Real Talk About the Long Trail
A highlight of the day was the panel discussion on the status and future of the Long Trail System, featuring GMC Director of Field Programs Keegan Tierney; GMC Director of Land Conservation Mollie Flanigan; VT Dept. Of Forests, Parks, and Recreation Director of Lands Administration and Recreation Becca Washburn; and Appalachian Trail Conservancy Interim Regional Director, Northeast, Ilana Copel. They discussed pressing issues related to land protection, shared use, equity and inclusion on the trail, and managing the impacts of climate change.
Trip Outings & Workshops
After enjoying a catered lunch from Le Petit Gourmet, event goers dispersed to hike nearby trails, learn beginner trail maintenance, paint their own image of the Stratton Mountain Fire Tower with artist Kati Christoffel, and study bog plants with state botanist Bob Popp.
Have photos of your Green Mountain Club adventure? Please share them via email: [email protected].
The Art of Race & Leadership
Before celebrating the year’s accomplishments, we tuned in with Melody Walker Mackin on Friday, June 10. Melody kicked off the Annual Meeting events with her virtual talk, The Art of Race and Leadership. As an educator and citizen of the Elnu Band in Vermont, Melody discussed leadership from an indigenous perspective and how indigenous concepts of leadership differ from Western ones. She touched upon what it means to live in relationship as a way to lead, community and representation, and the humility to learn from intelligences other than our human community. Check out her speech below.
Melody Mackin is the assistant director of the Atowi Project and a member of the VT Abenaki Artists Association. She has worked as an adjunct professor in the past and taught Native American History, Native American Spirituality, and other topics in history.
Want to join other upcoming GMC outings and membership events? Stay in the know by signing up for our monthly email newsletter.