Sidehill - Close Call
By Bob Proudman and B.T. Fitzgerald
In late October 2011, a rare early season snowstorm blanketed the northeast from West Virginia through southern New England. Because the leaves were still on the trees, many limbs broke, isolating towns and causing power outages.
Five days after the storm, ATC Mid-Atlantic Regional Director Karen Lutz sent a message warning clubs in the region “to be alert for spring poles and tree branches under extreme and complex tension. Pay particular heed to overhead hazards, as I have personally observed a lot of large broken crowns that are hung up in the remaining overstory…”
About two weeks later, a club work party of four ventured forth on a maintenance trip on the A.T. in Pennsylvania. One of them had seen Karen’s warning, but they had no safety briefing or hazard-tree training.
After working about two hours, they came across the crown of a 12- to 15-inch-diameter tree blocking the Trail. The tree had broken about 25 feet up, but the top was not fully detached. Thinking it would be unsafe for hikers to pass underneath, they trimmed branches from the crown and then tried to move it. The top broke loose, hit some rocks, and “seesawed,” catching one maintainer under the arm, throwing him, and causing serious injuries.
The others acted immediately, providing first-aid and treating the victim for shock, contacting 911 and staying on the line, and sending one member out to meet and guide local fire and rescue personnel back to the scene. The evacuation went smoothly, and the victim was airlifted to a trauma center where he spent several days. He is now home and recovering.
The National Park Service and ATC conducted an “after-action-review” with the workers. As a result, ATC and NPS are identifying opportunities to coordinate with the Trail-maintaining clubs to share best practices in safety training for maintainers. We will be working with clubs and agency partners to advance safety management.
The best course of action when encountering a challenging situation beyond a maintainer's experience and training would be to flag the dangerous area to alert hikers and request assistance from the club's Trail management supervisor, ATC's regional office, or agency personnel.
The first rule should always be: Individual Trail maintainers have the obligation to say “NO” and walk away from any situation they determine to be an unacceptable risk. (Adapted from the Forest Service’s Health and Safety Code Handbook.)
We welcome comments at TheRegister@appalachiantrail.org, especially information on the training that your club provides to maintainers and reports of other close calls that might have been avoided by better training of volunteers. Our goal is to ensure that all volunteers have appropriate training to complete their invaluable work proficiently and safely.
Land Protection Update
Bob Proudman is director of conservation operations
B.T. Fitzgerald is chair of the Stewardship Council
Thank You, Dave!
After 34 years with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the past 25 as executive director, Dave Startzell is retiring. Dave was instrumental in launching efforts to acquire a federally protected corridor for the Appalachian Trail—now more than 250,000 acres of public lands. He chaired the task force that produced the Trails for All Americans report and served on a committee of the U.S. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board to negotiate a plan for making recreational resources more accessible to persons with disabilities.In 1995, Dave was awarded the Department of the Interior's highest "civilian" honor, the Conservation Service Award. He has served on the boards of the American Hiking Society and the Partnership for the National Trails System. His contributions go well beyond the A.T. and even beyond U.S. borders, including assisting with the development of the International A.T. and the Lebanon Mountain Trail. As colleagues and friends, we wish him well.
L.L.Bean's Million Moment Mission
Outdoor retailer L.L.Bean (long-time corporate supporter of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) is celebrating its 100th anniversary by donating up to one million dollars to the National Park Foundation. In this effort to increase outdoor recreation among families and introduce more children to America’s national parks, people are invited to share stories, ideas, and photos of outdoor experiences. For every eligible “moment” submitted through the end of the year, L.L.Bean will donate $1.00 to the foundation.
The new year brings a staffing shift to ATC's land protection program. Carlen Emanuel’s focus has shifted entirely to developing the ATC lands program. Alison Scheiderer has taken on the corridor monitoring program responsibilities that formerly belonged to Carlen - including the Boundary Blurb. Please direct all of your A.T. boundary or corridor monitoring inquiries to Alison.
Looking ahead to our 2012 field season, we will focus efforts on a few key areas, including continuing boundary recovery efforts in Maine and work in Carvins Cove, Virginia, as well as in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We look forward to seeing all of you monitors (hint!) out on the line this year!
More than Monuments
It’s reporting time! Please make sure that your club’s monitor coordinator has a report of your work. Club reports are due to ATC (firstname.lastname@example.org
) by February 15. We are working on a cloud-based format so that reports can be submitted instantly and be accessible to everyone, all the time. In the meantime, we recommend using the corridor monitoring Boundary Report Form
Snow has been light and winter temperatures fairly mild on the Trail this year. With leaves down and hunters gone, that makes winter a perfect time to introduce a friend to life on the edge.
Land Protection Associate
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
P.O. Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425