Well, it was another busy year for the GDTA, and I would like to give you an update on all the progress.
First and foremost, I would to thank the Board of Directors for all the work they have done to make all this happen, it has not been easy, but everyone has pitched in to move the organization forward. The biggest highlight has been our work on the Strategic Plan, which is nearly done. We have dedicated half of our board meetings to this document that will clearly guide us for the next 3 years.
Our focus on building great relationships & partnerships continues to serve us well. Our Key Sponsors continue to show faith in our organization. Mountain Equipment Co-op needs to be highlighted as a long-term sponsor of the GDTA, and this year they more than doubled their financial support. I can’t thank them enough for this huge show of support. Teck, The North Face, Stihl continued their generous support this year also. Columbia Basin Trust and the Alberta Equestrian Federation are new supporters this year and we hope to develop a long-term relationships with them too.
Alberta Environment and Parks continues to support our trail building and maintenance especially in the Livingstone Public Land Use Zone. Their office in Blairmore lost two key supporters of our work and I was concerned but this year the support has been amazing, and we are so happy to have them as a partner. Recreational Sites and Trails BC has also worked hard to support our efforts to maintain and improve the David Thompson Heritage Trail.
Our work with the Jasper Trails Alliance on the Maligne Pass Trail is continuing to build and at the same time strengthen our bond with Jasper National Park. For the first time I am really hopeful for a breakthrough with a National Park, time will tell.
There are many more relationships such as the Willmore Wilderness Foundation whose equestrian users who do maintenance on remote sections of the GDT, we could not do it with out them.
To all of them and big Thank You!
As usual, our Outreach Team has been busy throughout the year. It started with talks such as the presentation to the Junior Forest Wardens and a busy winter with the Best of Banff Film Festival. We not only had booths in Calgary but Edmonton, Red Deer, Olds, and Lethbridge. Sounds easy but you would not believe in the logistics to make that all happen with volunteers. The successful events continued with Chasing Sunsets, Backcountry Emergencies, and the Dan Durston GDT Yo-Yo presentation. All great events that not only provide much needed exposure but contribute financially as well. Of course, their work continued with a great AGM in October. To all involved thank you!
Ensuring Financial Capacity is another committee that took off this year. Building on some of the long term grants we do, the committee brought in the Columbia Basin Trust and Alberta Equestrian Federation grants. They are also working on more grants with a plan for a solid financial future. I was very excited to see the application for Charitable Status submitted. This will be another big step forward for our organization, good work team.
It was also another busy season for the Trail Building and Maintenance Committee. With all the trips planned they hired a Trip Coordinator to handle most of the trip communications and logistics. This was a good decision as it can be overwhelming trying to keep up with all the emails and questions for 14 trips. The committee hopes to expand this position next year. We started with our largest scouting trip to date trying to increase capacity in this area followed up with 8 successful trail building trips on the High Rock Section. After two years of heat and fires we moved our trips to start earlier in the year, only to be met by a very wet and cold spring, mother nature always wins.
Next it was on to the maintenance side of things. We want to show that we can operate in many areas and take care of what we have already established. We held a maintenance trip on the original section of the GDT in the Lost Creek area and held two concurrent trips on the David Thompson Heritage Trail, installing much needed handrails on a bridge over Lambe Creek and improving tread as well. We also continued to work with the Jasper Trails Alliance and Jasper National Park to maintain trail in the Trapper Creek area. Dan Durston was able to put up reassurance markers in the Kakwa region and Alberta Parks were installing them in the Castle Parks as well. It’s great to see more of the trail marked every year.
One of my great takeaways of the season was reading the volunteer surveys and see the results of our safety committee, it seems as though the volunteers felt our safety focus was the best yet. And to wrap up the season another scouting trip confirming trail alignment and marking trees to be felled by Alberta Environment and Parks last week.
Why do we do all this work? To support all who hike the GDT but specifically our thru hikers. This year was another record with close to a 100 thru-hikers. This continues our rapid growth trend and I can tell you there are way more coming, so let’s keep working to provide the best experience we can.
As this is my last President’s report I would like to again thank everyone on the board and the committees for all your efforts. To my mentor Wayne Marshall who in 2010 said to Brad Vaillancourt and myself that if we wanted to see the GDT survive, the organization needed to “grow up”, well in the last 9 years I think we have come a long ways.