Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Reaching Out to Young Members

hikers on the NCT (photo by J Young)
based on a news article in the Albany Times-Union, "Hikers take steps to find young blood," by Alan Wechsler, Feb 18, 2009

Last fall, Bruce Matthews, Executive Director of the North Country Trail Association met with hiking volunteers in upstate New York. He commented on the average age of the participants. “It is striking, the paucity of young people attending these events,” said Matthews, while chatting with the group at a Delmar restaurant.

He noted that the average age appeared to be mid-60's. This is a demographic of many outdoor clubs. The Schenectady Wintersports Club is attempting to reach out to younger participants by starting a chapter for 18-30 year olds. A Taconic Hiking Club member, Colin Campbell– age 72, said, ““If you’re in your early 40s, you’re a young member in our club.”.

One problem is that younger people often have less time, juggling work and family responsibilities. Even the Adirondack Mountain Club is working hard to bring in younger members by planning more family-friendly activities. “We’re aging out,” said Deborah Zack, director of membership and development at the ADK.

There are plenty of young people hiking, paddling, rock climbing, skiing, etc. It just seems to be difficult to get them to join existing groups. Some clubs are trying new ways of making contact with people, for example through social sites like Facebook. Young people generally don’t want to have structured meetings, or perhaps even designated leadership roles.

Groups need young members to take up the reins of advocacy for trails as well as building and maintenance of the actual pathways. Yet the differences in outlook can create friction between the groups. The future of trail creation and advocacy depends on bringing the generations together.

“We love these [older] folks — they’ve got expendable income and they’ve got time,” said Matthews.“ But the reality is we have 10 to 15 years left with them. If we had a 20-year-old, we’d have a lifetime.”

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