2022 GDTA Annual Report

Presented by Doug Borthwick, President, and Kate Hamilton, Executive Director.


by Doug Borthwick, President

Wow! What a year. It started pretty rough for a lot of us on the Board. The changing pandemic situation was opening up travel, there were key life changes, and burnout experienced, and as a result a number of key, Board leaders decided they could no longer put in the time required to properly run this rapidly growing organization. Along with the normal 3 year turnover this was a huge drain and real moral letdown for the remaining and new Board members. But today I’m extremely proud of the way this Board pulled together after such a slow start and found a way to make things work to the point that in my mind this has been overall the most successful year ever for the GDTA and GDT.

Those amazing Board members, first with the ones retiring:

  • Kaustubh Parab (KP), Your time on the Board was limited but there was much valued accounting knowledge passed on, and the help with a major purchase was much appreciated.
  • Josh Edwards, Your strong voice and reasoned opinion will be missed.
  • Chase Holthe, Your 3 year term is up and having your level headed approach and legal opinion is something the new board is going to have to really up their game to replace.
  • Deb Yanchula, What can I say, I don’t think we could have done this without you, all the time you put in, your passion and your drive. A number of us have you on speed dial, so you are not getting away that easily.

The one standing for re-election:

  • Jeff Gruttz, I believe this will be your 4th term and you are absolutely a required need for the new Board, nobody has more knowledge and ongoing cred than this man. We’ve all learned so much from you and this is something that new board members will need for a seamless transition.

Incumbent Board Members:

  • Glenn Mason, Your political expertise has been, and is going to be so valuable in gaining higher recognition and protection for the GDT.
  • Meaghan Underhill, Securing funding is so important, and I will talk in a minute about that over the top Trail Supporter Campaign you led last year.
  • Austin Hager, Man did you step up when needed, you have taken a great Outreach Team in a little disarray, and shown what positive leadership can do.
  • Ben Millen, Your quiet exterior hides a fiery inside that shows itself at the opportune times, leading your Trail Protection and Advocacy Team to getting close to attaining some amazing goals which will only further the longevity of the GDT.
  • Gina Guild, Having someone so competent at keeping every monetary item in order, and patiently able to explain in the simplest terms is very underappreciated, and we are so thankful that you have stayed on as treasurer for as long as you have.
  • Donna Rutherford, Your organizational skills are amazing. Patience and understanding are a virtue and you have them in spades. The best secretary/records keeper I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

We would like to take this opportunity to show this Board of Directors our appreciation for the excellent job they did this past year.

Shortly after the 2021 AGM when the new Board was established and had a couple of meetings under their belt, things got rolling. First up was the year end Trail Supporter Campaign. It was disorganized to start, but an outstanding team was mobilized and Meaghan came up with a plan. The original goal was to shoot for $5,000 in donations, but in the end over 4 times that amount was collected. This was much needed funding to help ensure all of our programs for the coming year could be properly funded.

It was determined at the beginning of the 2022 New Year that for continuity in the organization and to ensure there would not be a chance for it to just die if again there was a void left by retiring volunteers, there had to be some sort of paid staff. It was decided the best course would be to hire a leadership position as this was the most vulnerable way an organization like the GDTA could get into a situation where it might have to cease to exist. The hiring committee met and interviewed 10 worthy candidates whom I’m sure would have all done a fine job. It finally settled on this amazing young woman, Kate Hamilton as the GDTA’s first Executive Director. In a short six months what she has accomplished and done for this organization is truly outstanding. I think everyone who has met or dealt with her feels that she is the right person and wishes she will continue leading this organization for many years to come. I now introduce to you Kate Hamilton our Executive Director who will give the last six months of this Annual Report.


by Kate Hamilton, Executive Director

Thank you everyone for welcoming me to be part of the GDTA. Every day I am amazed by the passion and hard work shown by the people in this organization.

In the spring one of the big things that happened was we gained the support of some amazing businesses to be able to offer benefits to our members.

Membership is extremely important for our organization, and others like it. It shows support for the GDT, making it easier to secure grants and gain corporate sponsorships.  Most importantly, it helps in our mission to gain recognition and protection for the GDT. Our sincere gratitude to these businesses for supporting us.

Thank you, thank you, to these businesses for supporting us. Members, please help to support them back!

Another cool thing that happened in the spring was that the Globe and Mail published an article about the GDT, creating some buzz about it. Things like this really help to get the word out about the trail, and we hope to keep up that momentum! If you haven’t had a chance to read the article yet, you can find it here: Globe Mail’s article about the GDT.

One of the GDTA’s key missions is to preserve the GDT and its wilderness for generations to come. A special environmental team completed two excellent documents explaining how to minimize impacts on wildlife and describing key wildlife habitats and environmentally sensitive habitats. These documents are now included in Trip Leader packages, and will be used as training and educational tools. They were created to align with trail building best practices, and follow the land use guidelines of our land managers. Thank you to the environmental crew for keeping environmental impact top of mind. In addition to this, the Safety Committee coordinated Safety Training and Emergency Response materials for Trip Leaders and crews for another successful trail building season.

The Outreach Committee led by Chair Austin Hager, had a busy spring and summer, which was kicked off by an amazing GDT webinar series all about how to get ready to hike the GDT. This series did a great job of bringing awareness to the trail, and helping people make sure that they were ready for the challenge they were about to attempt! We are already planning for next year’s series, so if you have any requests on webinar topics, please let us know.

The first in-person event in 2 years took place this spring in Kelowna! Led by our Board President, Doug Borthwick, this event was another success in teaching folks about the GDT. This particular event reached a group of people who were new to the GDT.

A good amount of merchandise was created this year, including buffs, hats, and special commemorative mugs for the High Rock Trail (HRT) grand opening. We now have two places that sell GDT merchandise. In person you will find GDT stickers at the Friends of Jasper National Park Gift Shop, and online at Geartrade you will find stickers, patches and buffs. We have actually just launched our official online store hosted by Geartrade. Any merchandise we have will be available for purchase there.

The Trail Building and Maintenance Committee, chaired by Dave Hockey, kicked off the trail building season at the end of June, starting with the first of many trips to the High Rock Trail. There were exactly 7 trail building camps on the HRT, plus a special project to build the Allison Creek bridge, and one to do some additional clearing.

Speaking of the High Rock Trail, this summer was the official opening of the High Rock. To celebrate the past 7 years of its creation, we held an event at Chinook Lake Recreation Area in Coleman, Alberta. The Pass Brewery in Blairmore even named a beer after the trail for the occasion – the High Rock Mango Blonde. Seventy-five people made their way to Coleman to attend, including Crowsnest Pass Councillor Lisa Sygutek, and Livingstone-Macleod MLA Roger Reid, who were there to say a few words and support the GDT. Thank you to the event team for organizing this event, and to everyone who came to support it.

In addition to all the trips to the High Rock Trail, we had many other successful trips:

  • First was the successful completion of the Collie Creek Bridge.
  • The Oldman bridge building trip where the crew built a brand new bridge on the Oldman River as well as trail clearing and maintenance to the new bridge site.
  • The Colonel Creek clearing trip was in collaboration with BC Parks and Backcountry Horsemen of BC to clear the hundreds of deadfall that resulted from a previous burn in Mount Robson Provincial Park.
  • The Jackpine trip cleared 15 km of very tight bush, that now hikers can enjoy a beautiful river walk through.
  • A collaboration trip with Friends of Jasper National Park worked on clearing bush in Maligne Valley with hand tools.
  • David Thompson Heritage Trail clearing which cleared a temporary route through two avalanche paths, clearing over 200 deadfall to Lambe Creek.

All told, over this trail building season, the GDT saw:

  • 117 total individual trail work volunteers 
  • 6,950 volunteer hours building or maintaining trail 
  • 4 km of new trail built and
  • 9 km of trail rebuilt or rerouted over 
  • 106 km of tail maintenance 
  • 3 brand new bridges

This is amazing. Thank you everyone for all your time and hard work. I cannot communicate our appreciation enough; this could not be done without you.

Another summer happening was that new bear lockers were installed in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park with the purpose of being a new GDT hiker resupply location. This was a trial project, and we are hoping that this process can be repeated in other areas that are challenging to resupply. Thank you to Alberta Environment and Parks for working with us to complete this project, and thank you to Nicole Sharpe for running the resupply service.

We have started a trail adopter pilot program. Led by Jim and Annette Schieck, we have partnered with Crowsnest Bible Camp, who have adopted the High Rock Trail. Jim and Annette have taken the group hiking to teach trail standards, and what to look for as part of maintenance. We are confident that this program will be successful, and lead to other trail adoption programs in other areas. This will help us stay on top of any maintenance that needs to be done.

The Trail Protection and Advocacy Committee, led by Chair Ben Millen, is making progress with our BC, Alberta and Parks Canada strategies. They have been able to strengthen relationships in all these areas, and are looking forward to this fall, when we have been given an opportunity to present about the GDT to Banff, Lake Louise/Yoho and Kootenay Parks staff and volunteers. This is a great step forward in recognition for the Great Divide Trail.

The Ensuring Financial Capacity Committee currently led by new Chair, Alex Northey, and for most of the year, past Chair Meaghan Underhill, has grown from a 1-person to a 5-person committee, and has had many successes already. The December 2021 Trail Supporter Campaign substantially exceeded our fundraising target and we also received grants from the Alberta Equestrian Federation, Columbia River Basin Trust, Community Initiatives Program and BC Parks. Most recently we have received a corporate sponsorship from Sawyer Products Inc. Here’s to many more to come!

Thank you to all the committees for all the time and effort you have put in this past year, and to the committee chairs for leading the charge.

Speaking of thank yous, in addition to the Board, committees, and trail building volunteers, I would like to thank some more of our supporters from the past year.

  • Alberta Environment and Parks
  • Alberta Parks
  • Alberta Culture
  • Alberta Equestrian Federation
  • Columbia Basin Trust
  • Stihl
  • Teadore Co.
  • Alberta Forest and Garden
  • FarOut Guides
  • Sinister Sports
  • Sawyer
  • BC Parks
  • GearTrade
  • Yellowhead Helicopters

You all have made generous contributions this past year, and we want you to know we really appreciate it.

Lastly, the table below shows signs of the GDTA’s growth over the past 6 months. We’ve seen significant increases in our membership and in our followers on social media

 March, 2022September, 2022Increase of
GDTA members260382122
Instagram followers2,8703,174304
Facebook followers – Great Divide Trail Association3,4743,605131
Facebook followers – Great Divide Trail Hiker’s Forum5,1515,500349

This really shows that the interest and knowledge of the GDT is growing. I look forward to watching this continue to rise as we move ahead.

Again, thank you to everyone who has contributed volunteer hours, expertise, connections, donations, any kind of support to the GDTA – we could not have done it without you.

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