Revised August 2022
Carolina Mountain Club has five types of partners:
- Managers of the Government Owned Land, the trails we hike on and maintain cross (National Park Service, US Forest Service, North Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission, Town of Hot Springs, NC);
- NGO Land Owners, e.g. The Nature Conservancy;
- Umbrella Organizations for the trails we maintain and hike (Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST));
- Peer Organizations, other hiking, trail-maintenance, outdoor, and environmental organizations (other A.T.-maintaining clubs – e.g. the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club – other hiking clubs in Western North Carolina – e.g. Pisgah Hikers – and outdoor/environmental organizations – e.g. The Wilderness Society); and
- Community Organizations (e.g. Town of Hot Springs).
Some of our partners overlap these designations and may be mentioned in more than one category. Our relationship with each partner is unique and needs to be cultivated in a different way.
I. Managers of Government Owned Land
A. National Park Service (NPS)
The NPS’s Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) is the landowner for much of the 140 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for which CMC is responsible. CMC has negotiated an agreement with the BRP covering the trail–building and maintenance we do on their land. (Link is available on CMC homepage, under Trail Work.)
The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is a unit of the NPS. The NPS delegated responsibility for maintenance of the A.T. to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), which in turn delegated that responsibility to CMC and thirty other A.T.-maintaining clubs. Our relationship with ATC is discussed in the next section. However, the 93.5 miles of A.T. for which CMC has responsibility is on Forest Service land – the Appalachian Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest and the Cherokee National Forest. Our relationship with the Forest Service is discussed below.
B. U.S. Forest Service (USFS)
CMC maintains trails in four Forest Service Ranger Districts, the Pisgah and Appalachian Ranger Districts of Pisgah National Forest, the Nantahala Ranger District of Nantahala National Forest, and the Nolachuckey District of Cherokee National Forest. We have negotiated a five-year agreement with Pisgah Ranger District (PRD) covering our maintenance activities in their jurisdiction, and in the process of negotiating similar agreements with Appalachian Ranger District (ARD), and the Nantahala Ranger District (NRD) of Nantahala National Forest. We maintain many miles of trail in ARD, and about sixteen miles of Mountains-to-Sea Trail in NRD.
The signed agreement with PRD can be found on the CMC website at http://www.carolinamountainclub.org/index.cfm/do/pages.view/id/294/page/Pisgah-Ranger-District-Agreements.
The Appalachian Trail and its access trails are the only trails we maintain in Cherokee National Forest. Our activities on the A.T. are covered by agreements between ATC and the Forest Service.
Three of the four Forest Service Ranger Districts in which we do trail work are in North Carolina and the responsibility of the National Forests in North Carolina Office. We approached that office with a request for an umbrella agreement to cover all our work in North Carolina, but the Forest Supervisor decided that since we were negotiating five-year agreements for the first time, individual agreements would be more appropriate. In 2018 or 2019, when these agreements come up for renewal, the issue of a single agreement covering all of our work in the National Forests of North Carolina should again be raised.
C. North Carolina Department of Parks and Recreation
We maintain trail in four NC State Park units:
- The Mountains-to-Sea Trail,
- Mount Mitchell State Park,
- Gorges State Park, and
- Chimney Rock State Park.
At present, we do not have agreements covering these maintenance activities, but plan to approach the NC Department of Parks and Recreation to explore the feasibility of crafting a suitable agreement.
D. North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission (NCWRC)
CMC maintains 13.7 miles of trail in the Green River Game Lands and has a maintenance agreement with the NCWRC covering this activity. (Link is available on CMC homepage, under Trail Work.) This agreement, which is dated June 1, 2015, is open ended, but calls for the parties to review it at least every five years.
E. Town of Hot Springs, NC
A little over a mile of the A.T. is in the Town of Hot Springs, most of it on streets and roads. Currently CMC’s relationship with the town is through the A.T. Communities Program, which is described below. These relationships are low-level but friendly.
II. NGO Land Owners - The Nature Conservancy (TNC)
The MST traverses TNC’s Richland Balsam Preserve for a short distance. In 2009, CMC signed a 10-year agreement (Attachment 1) covering its maintenance activities on this section of trail. Two aspects of this agreement have been highlighted. The first is an obligation to communicate with TNC at least annually about how we are fulfilling our obligations under the MOU. The second is an obligation to include coverage of TNC if our general liability insurance policy includes trail maintenance. Future Club leaders need to be aware of these obligations and the need to renew the agreement in 2019.
III. Umbrella Organizations
A. Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC)
Note: ATC publishes a Volunteer Leadership Handbook (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/docs/default-document-library/atc-volunteer-leadership-handbook-(february-2013).pdf), which provides more detailed information on the topics covered in this section.
1. Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
CMC’s relationship to ATC is defined in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two organizations signed by CMC’s President on August 22, 1997 (Attachment 2). The MOU, which has no expiration date, is still in force. However, some of the terminology and designations in the agreement either have changed or are no longer applicable.
- The Appalachian Trail Conference has become the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, but the abbreviation ATC is still in use.
- The abbreviation ATPO is no longer in use. The Appalachian Trail Park Office is referred to by its official NPS abbreviation, APPA.
- ATC’s governing body is its Board of Directors, which replaced the Board of Managers referred to in the MOU.
- The ATC’s Trust for Appalachian Trail Lands no longer exists. Its functions have been assumed by ATC’s Department of Conservation. There are no trust lands in CMC’s area.
- ATC no longer has a Vice Chair for the Southern Region. Any questions that might have been referred to that officer would now be referred to the Chair of ATC’s Board of Directors, or to the Chair of the Board’s Stewardship Council.
- ATC’s Regional Representative for GA, NC, and TN’s position has been upgraded to the Regional Director for ATC’s Southern Region.
2. CMC’s Commitments Under the MOU
The MOU requires CMC to develop a Local Management Plan (LMP) for its portion of the A.T. The contents of the LMP are discussed in ATC’s Local Resource Management Planning Guide, which is on the web at (http://http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support/volunteer_toolkit/local-management-planning).
CMC developed an LMP in 1992, which is available only in hard copy and is too voluminous to be included in this manual. ATC expects LMPs to be updated every 10 years. CMC has not updated its plan, but is committed to doing so in a timely fashion. When the updated LMP is available, it will be posted on CMC’s website and a link included in this manual.
The MOU also commits CMC to maintaining its section of the A.T. according to the standards set forth in ATC’s manual: Appalachian Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance. CMC’s Councilor for Maintenance and the Trail Facilities Manager have copies of this manual.
Additional informational about approval procedures for non-routine maintenance (e.g. trail relocation, installation of replacement shelters, signage, etc.) is available on ATC’s website (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support). Any questions about these procedures should be directed to Trail Resource Manager in ATC’s Southern Region Office.
Discussions have been underway since 2014 on developing an updated MOU. Since 1997, ATC has greatly expanded its program, and the issue being debated in these discussions is how much of ATC’s expanded program should Club’s be obligated to undertake. A Sept. 20, 2015 draft of the updated MOU, and CMC’s position on the draft, appear as Attachment 3. There is no firm timetable for completion of the updated MOU.
3. ATC’s Regional Partnership Committee (RPC) and Stewardship Council
On a day-to-day basis, CMC’s partnership with ATC operates through informal contacts with ATC’s Director for the Southern Region and his staff. More formally, CMC’s partnership with ATC is through the Deep South Regional Partnership Committee (RPC), a committee of the five A.T.-maintaining clubs in ATC’s Southern Region. The rules for governance for the Deep South RPC are shown in Attachment 4. ATC’s other three regions have parallel RPCs, and the Conservancy has published expectations for both RPC officers and members (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support/volunteer_toolkit/volunteer-leadership-handbook).
CMC’s President is responsible for appointing a representative and an alternate to the RPC. Both are expected to attend RPC meetings, but as indicated in Attachment 4, CMC has only one vote in RPC matters.
Also, as indicated in Attachment 4, the chair of the RPC serves for a two-year term, with the position rotating among the five clubs. CMC is slated to have the chair in 2015-2017. Lenny Bernstein served the first portion of this term, but had to resign for health reasons. GATC, which had been serving as Vice-Chair, took over the Chair.
The RPC serves several functions:
- It provides a link in the communication chain between the clubs and ATC’s Board of Directors.
- It advised the Regional Director on regional issues.
- It is a communication link between the five clubs in ATC’s Southern Region.
The link between trail-maintaining clubs, such as CMC, and ATC’s Board of Directors is established through the RPC’s representative to ATC’s Stewardship Council, a committee of the board that is chaired by a board member. The Council also has ten at-large members, who may be, but usually are not, board members.
The Stewardship Council’s responsibility is to recommend policy and procedures that are directly related to club activities: trail and camping standards, education and community outreach programs, volunteer leadership and development, and external threats to the A.T. Draft policies, whether originating at the Stewardship Council or elsewhere, are referred to the RPCs, and through the RPCs to the Clubs for review and comment. Individual clubs can also refer issues to their RPCs for consideration by the Stewardship Council.
The RPCs meet twice a year, in spring and fall, before the Stewardship Council’s spring and fall meetings. In the spring, the Deep South and Virginia Area RPCs meet together in the Spring Partnership Meeting (SPM). This meeting rotates between the Deep South and Virginia. The Deep South RPC’s fall meeting is in our region.
CMC’s RPC members are responsible for keeping the Council and the Club at-large informed about issues brought before the RPC. They may do this by written or oral reports to the Council. Such reports should made as soon after RPC meetings as feasible.
CMC is part of the ATC organization, and once ATC policies have been fully debated and approved, CMC should support them. If CMC cannot support an ATC policy, its reasons for non-support should be communicated to the Chair of ATC’s Board of Directors and to its Executive Director. There have been no instances since 2005 when CMC disagreed with an approved ATC policy.
4. ATC Support for CMC
Sawyer Certification: Before CMC trail-maintainers can use chain saws, they must be certified. Certification requirements include completing a two-day sawyer-training course, as well as first aid and CPR courses. Certifications must be kept up-to-date with recertification training. ATC organizes sawyer-training courses for CMC and the other clubs in our region. More detail on sawyer certification can be found at: http://www.appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support/volunteer_toolkit/information-for-a-t-sawyers. A list of CMC’s certified sawyers is on the Club website at: http://www.carolinamountainclub.org/index.cfm/do/pages.view/id/20/page/Sawyers
Trail Assessments: ATC’s goal is to assess 20% of the A.T. each year (100% in five years) to update its database of trail features and deficiencies. ATC staff carries out these assessments and make their results available to clubs. CMC uses the information to help plan its trail-maintenance work.
Konnarock Crew: ATC supports the trail-maintaining clubs in the Virginia and Deep South Regions with the Konnarock Crew, a volunteer trail-building crew that is active for eight weeks during the summer. Volunteers typically work for a week, and their projects are broken into weeklong segments. This crew typically camps near its projects, and is therefore more suited to carrying out projects remote from trailheads, such as the relocation of the A.T. into the Rocky Fork tract, than CMC’s trail crews, which would have to spend much of the day hiking into and from the work site. ATC has developed a set of procedures for prioritizing requests for support from the Konnarock Crew. Since these concern CMC’s trail-building projects, they are discussed in the section on Trail Building and Maintenance.
5. Other ATC Activities
ATC conducts a number of programs of interest to CMC, including AT Communities, TTEC, and natural resource monitoring and management.
AT Communities: This program is a partnership between ATC and communities near the Trail to:
- Maximize the benefits of the Trail to those communities, and
- Build awareness of and support for the Trail in those communities.
Hot Springs, NC, in the middle of CMC’s section of the AT, was the first AT Community. Julie Judkins, ATC’s Community Programs Manager, is responsible for maintaining relations with Hot Springs. Over the years several CMC members have also worked with the Town of Hot Springs. Currently Jack Dalton is the active CMC member most involved in this effort. He and Julie would be responsible for informing CMC if our help was needed in support of the partnership with Hot Springs.
Trail To Every Classroom is a professional development program for K-12 teachers which provides them with tools and training for place-based education and service learning using the A.T. Three CMC members have been active participants in this program. The Club’s role in this program is to encourage teachers to participate and to provide support, if needed, to the teachers who do.
Natural Resource Monitoring and Management: ATC’s Southern Resource Management Coordinator organizes this work in our area, and periodically requests CMC volunteers to help in the effort. ATC maintains an inventory of rare species found in the A.T. corridor. Volunteers carry out most of the work. The results are not made public to protect the plants from damage or poaching.
ATC also maintains an inventory of invasive species along the A.T. and conducts periodic workdays to attempt to control them. Invasive species control is an excellent way to use groups that want to work on the A.T. for a single day, provided that an ATC staff member or a knowledgeable volunteer is available to guide the effort.
Phenology: Phenology is the tracking of plant and animal seasonal life cycles, e.g. the arrival of migratory birds or the first appearance of flower buds. ATC has several phenology monitoring programs. CMC is not involved in these programs, but individual CMC members participate.
B. Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (FMST)
CMC’s relationship with FMST is far less formal than our relationship with ATC. The MST is a North Carolina State Park, administered by the NC Division of Parks and Recreation, but that agency has not delegated responsibility to FMST for building or maintaining the trail, and therefore FMST cannot delegate authority to CMC.
According to Trail Profiles and Maps from the Great Smokies to Mount Mitchell and Beyond, a guide to the MST by Walt Weber, the MST was first proposed in a September, 1977 speech by Howard Lee, Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources and Community Development. Two years later a Memorandum of Agreement was signed by North Carolina, the US Forest Service, and the National Park Service to cooperate on building the MST. Subsequent to that agreement, task forces were formed, including CMC’s South Pisgah Task Force in 1983, to actually construct the trail. However, there is no indication that there was then, or at any time since then, a formal agreement between CMC and the state on construction and maintenance of the MST.
CMC now takes responsibility for 152 miles of the MST between Oconaluftee River and Black Mountain Campground.
While we do not have a formal agreement, CMC maintains a close relationship with FMST. CMC member Danny Bernstein will be on the FMST Board of Directors until the end of 2016, and will be responsible for keeping the Council and Club-at-large informed as to FMST activities during that time. The Chair of the CMC’s Maintenance Committee is a FMST trail supervisor and responsible for keeping FMST informed of any plans we have for MST construction. We also report hours worked on the MST to FMST and some of our members have received service awards from them.
IV. Peer Organizations - Other Hiking and Environmental Organizations
CMC is the oldest and largest hiking and trail-maintaining club in Western North Carolina. However, there also are many smaller hiking clubs in our area. CMC does not have an active program to maintain contact with these clubs. What contact we have is usually maintained through individual CMC members who are also members of the smaller hiking club. The following table is a partial list of these clubs.