2017 President’s Report

By Dave Hockey

The following is the President’s Report as presented by GDTA President, Dave Hockey, at the 2017 Annual General Meeting on October 2nd as a summary of the GDTA’s activities over the past year. 

November 2016 to April 2017 the GDTA held many great outreach events such as: having a booth the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Best of Banff in both Calgary and Edmonton, providing presentations to MRU Etol students along with various outdoor clubs in Southern Alberta, hosting a fundraising concert with Julia Lynx, a medicinal plant talk with Dr. Shannon Budiselic at MEC Calgary and thru-hiker talk with Jake and Liam about their journey on the the divide to Mexico. An outreach highlight being the Charlie Russell Event, an entertaining fundraiser which added nearly $6500 to GDTA coffers.

GDTA marketing efforts we also supplemented by a great article on the GDT in Backpacker Magazine, one of the most influential backpacking magazines in the world.

In December 2016, the official GDT app was released helping hikers plan and carry out their hikes, as well as increasing the visibility of the GDT to the hiking community.

The GDT was included in the Jasper National Park online reservation system, the first for our National Parks.

The GDTA also met with all of our sponsors to continue strengthening our relationships, and worked on improving ourselves as a board through various board development and planning sessions.

The GDTA was invited, thanks to the Alberta Hiker’s Association, to be involved in the Castle Management Plan working group, charting the future course of both the Castle Provincial Park and the Castle Wildland Provincial Park. The crowning achievement being the GDT showing up on the draft Management Plan map, essentially making our trail official in the eyes of the Government of Alberta. 

April 2017 to June 2017  planning for the summers work really started to ramp up with meetings with land managers for permits and meetings with Alberta Parks staff because the new section of GDT (High Rock Trail, HRT) enters into the proposed High Rock Wildland Provincial Park.

More marketing success as the Great Divide Trail Association Facebook page reached 1000 likes and now the GDTA is only 2 shy of 1000 members on the Great Divide Trail Facebook Hikers Group. The community continues to grow at an encouraging rate!

After what seemed like a 1000 people emailing the GDTA trying to find Dustin Lynx guidebook, Dustin announced the 3rd edition was in the works which will also include a few changes to the official route and several alternate routes.

As the Castle meetings wound up, the GDTA was again invited to be at the table as a member of the Southern Alberta Recreation Advisory group providing input into the future of recreation planning in the Porcupine Hills and the Livingstone area. Considering the new HRT being the biggest reroute of the GDT that goes right through the Livingstone area, these meetings were important. The amount of attention and consideration the GDT received at these meeting was amazing and assuming the Planned Land Use Zone comes into effect soon the GDT will be official and protected within that area, which goes from the top of the new Castle Park to the Northern border of the Beehive. This makes our trail officially recognized by the GOA in 2/3 of Southern Alberta, a first for our organization!

With trips planned on the original section of the GDT and 3 back to back trips planned for the HRT involving nearly 60 volunteers our trip planning capabilities were definitely  tested.

July 2017 to September 2017 was a blur with scouting trips to lay out and flag the trail, the completion of the first Trail Building Workshop training GDTA Crew Leaders, purchasing many new tools and supplies for trail building work, and dealing with a record snow year.

Then began the trail maintenance and building trips including trips to clear the Cataract Bridge of debris, the construction of a fantastic new bridge over Baril Creek, and three back-to-back trips working on the HRT. With the financial and manpower support from the Government of Alberta, bridge supplies were flown in by helicopter and a massive 40-foot bridge was started over Dutch Creek.  As the dry summer proceeded, work became more complicated but our volunteers persevered. Following the HRT Signature Trips, two volunteers returned to backpack in supplies and tools to finish the railing and decking on the nicest bridge on the GDT.

Eventually the GDTA’s work was shut down in respect of forest closures due to the saddening Kenow fire in Waterton Lakes National Park.

At the last minute possible the forest closure was lifted and one more snowy scouting trip was completed to flag and lay out 10 km of trail for next year’s trail building. The GDTA also did another 20 km reconnaissance walk and some flagging from Window Mountain Lake to Chinook Lake in preparation for future HRT design.

Along with all of this on the ground work, our membership grew from about 160 to over 200 members. Nearly a 30% increase from last year! Thank you all for renewing or signing up to be a member and support the work of the GDTA.

Lastly, the GDTA received an award from Alberta TrailNet and the Government of Alberta recognizing out “leadership and accomplishments in the development and operation of recreation trails as a means to encourage physical activity, healthy living, and interaction with the natural environment.”

All of this was great news, a lot of positive energy and forward movement for the GDTA. All of this could not have been done without the support of the Government of Alberta, our amazing sponsors like MEC, The North Face, Stihl, Teck and DIRTT Environmental Solutions, not to mention a dedicated board of directors, and countless volunteers and members. Thank you all.

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