NJ-RTC September 2, 2015

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 - 6:00pm - 8:30pm
New Jersey Regional Trails Council
  • A presentation of about 30 minutes plus discussion describing what RTC's are and how they work
  • A short discussion of the Policy Council role and how the RTC's will be involved
  • The election of an RTC chair to serve through the end of 2016
  • Brief updates/reports from each local trail committee
  • Review/approval of new trails and major relocations
  • Discussion of problems, projects and opportunities for regional collaboration
  • Discussion of annual planning process

Sandwiches and beverages will be served.

Ed Goodell - Executive Director; Peter Dolan - New Jersey Program Coordinator; John Leigh - Volunteer Coordinator; Amber Ray - Communications Director; Estelle Anderson, Daniel D. Chazin, Chris Connolly, David Day, Monica Day, Gene Giordano, John Fudala, Bob Jonas, Ed Leonard, Howie Liebmann, Ron Luna, Paul Makus, Keith Scherer, Karl Soehnlein, Don Tripp.

1. Executive Director Ed Goodell called the meeting to order at 6:10 p.m. at the Trail Conference office in Mahwah, N.J.

Present were: Ed Goodell - Executive Director; Peter Dolan - New Jersey Program Coordinator; John Leigh - Volunteer Coordinator; Amber Ray - Communications Director; Estelle Anderson, Daniel D. Chazin, Chris Connolly, David Day, Monica Day, Gene Giordano, John Fudala, Bob Jonas, Ed Leonard, Howie Liebmann, Ron Luna, Paul Makus, Keith Scherer, Karl Soehnlein, Don Tripp.

Ed Goodell stated that the main purpose of today’s meeting is to discuss the reorganization of the Trails Council structure. He explained that outside consultants had recommended the establishment of a Steering Committee to oversee a process, which included two Summit meetings. He noted that the Steering Committee recommended a plan that was approved by the Board to establish four Regional Trail Councils, and that the Board also appointed an Implementation Committee. He stated that tonight’s meeting would be an informational and organizational meeting.

Ed Goodell reviewed the areas that the Steering Committee identified as in need of improvement. He discussed the recommendations made at the October Summit meeting, and he stated that the Regional Trails Council’s primary responsibility is to develop and implement an annual plan for the region. He also explained that a Policy Council was established to recommend policies to the Board, which is responsible for the proper functioning of the organization.

Ed Goodell explained that people do not have to travel quite as far to attend meetings of Regional Trails Councils. He stated that the scope of the Regional Trails Councils extends beyond trails and that the Councils will have representatives from each of the program committees. He explained that the membership of the Councils includes the Trail Chairs, Supervisors, Trail Crew Chiefs and representatives of program committees. Ed Goodell commented that there are some informal trail crews who may not have official responsibilities and thus are not official members of the Regional Trails Councils.

Ed Goodell stated that the Regional Trails Councils must meet at least twice a year, but that they can meet more frequently if they so desire. He explained that these two meetings need to take place during the first and third quarters of the year to provide input into the annual Plan and Budget. He stated that during the first quarter meeting, the Regional Trails Councils would be informed regarding the budget that was approved by the Board and would review the previous year’s accomplishments. He also stated that, during the second quarter, the Board will review the past year’s accomplishments and set priorities for the coming year. In the third quarter, the staff will meet with the Regional Trail Councils, discuss the recommendations of the Board, and prepare a draft budget for submission to the Board.

David Day stated that several projects that he is involved in are multi-year projects. Ed Goodell stated that the committees are encouraged to plan on a multi-year basis.

Bob Jonas commented that the meetings of the Regional Trails Councils should have some real content and interest and should accomplish something. He noted that, in his view, the discussion so far has not focused on anything of substance, and he stated that he would hope that additional supervisors would be attending these meetings.

David and Monica Day suggested that future meetings of the New Jersey Regional Trails Council be held in a more central location within New Jersey.

Ed Goodell explained that the Policy Council is charged with developing policies to present to the Board for everything related to our mission that goes beyond a particular region. He stated that each Regional Trails Council elects a representative to the Policy Council and that the other members of the Policy Council are appointed by the Board.

Ed Goodell stated that Regional Trails Councils and a Policy Council have been operating relatively successfully for about 15 years at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. In response to a question, Peter Dolan stated that invitations to tonight’s meeting went out to 36 people via Constant Contact, but that only about 60% of the people who received the invitations had opened them. In response, David Day commented that some people can view the invitations using Outlook without actually opening them.

Gene Giordano questioned how this meeting would be helpful for him as a Trails Chair or Trails Supervisor in taking care of things on the ground. He stated that people will not want to come to meetings that discuss things that do not interest or concern them. In response, Ed Goodell stated that he believes that it is more efficient to plan as a group. Estelle Anderson suggested that some of the Regional Trails Council meetings should be networking meetings.

Chris Connolly stated that he does not have a full understanding of the resources that are available to him as a Trails Chair or what funding is available. He commented that the Trail Conference has too many meetings that do not matter.

Bob Jonas suggested that we discuss methods of problem-solving.

Karl Soehnlein questioned how the former Trails Council functioned and what we could learn from that group.

Bob Jonas commented that many organizational issues could be resolved by e-mail discussion before meetings and that meetings could concentrate on more interesting matters.

Chris Connolly nominated Howie Liebmann as Chair of the New Jersey Regional Trails Council through the end of 2016. Don Tripp seconded the motion. There were no other nominations, and Howie Liebmann was unanimously elected as Chair.

Keith Scherer was unanimously selected as the Council’s representative to the Policy Council

Ed Goodell stated that Peter Dolan would be contacting each Trails Chair to get input on the 2016 Plan and Budget.

Chris Connolly commented that he does not believe that the Regional Trails Councils need to approve all trail relocations. He noted that, in most cases, all relocations that are submitted to the Trails Council are approved. Daniel Chazin stated that he agrees in principle with Chris Connolly on this issue, but that all relocations need to be promptly communicated to all those affected, including the Publications Committee. Ed Goodell stated that this matter should be considered by the Policy Council.

Chris Connolly stated that, with respect to the adoption of new trails, the relevant question should be whether we have the resources to maintain the trail in question. Gene Giordano stated that the real issue is maintainers who do not adequately fulfill their responsibilities. Chris Connolly also commented that we need to improve our signage at trailheads to make people aware that the Trail Conference maintains the trails. David Day discussed problems with the relationship between the Trail Conference and Stokes State Forest in the 1980s, when the leadership of the Trail Conference at that time refused to maintain trails in Stokes State Forest because bicycles were permitted on the trails in the forest.

Peter Dolan reported that the Trail Conference is likely to receive a Recreational Trails Grant that would fund trailhead signage in state parks and forests in New Jersey, and he showed the Council examples of proposed signage that could be placed at trailheads. He stated that input would be solicited from volunteers and representatives of the parks before the signs are finalized. Ed Goodell pointed out that, through a prior Recreational Trails Grant that was received by the Trail Conference, our cartographer, Jeremy Apgar, has created new maps for each state park and forest in northern New Jersey that are available at each park and online. Bob Jonas stated that he was interested in a simple disk that could be nailed to a tree at trailheads.

Peter Dolan discussed a proposal to fund a four-person AmeriCorps crew that will inventory, assess and improve the entire Highlands Trail in New Jersey so that volunteers will know where to focus their efforts. Chris Connolly noted that Glenn Oleksak has been frustrated with the poor performance of maintainers assigned to maintain sections of the Highlands Trail.

Ed Goodell stated that the Conservation Committee has become more active in New Jersey in the last few years. He noted that the Trail Conference has a contract with the Land Conservancy of New Jersey to assist us in land acquisition in New Jersey.

Don Tripp questioned the viability of local trail committees and suggested that this topic be discussed at a future meeting of the New Jersey Regional Trails Council.

Gene Giordano reported that because he needed to come up with a better reporting system for the A.T. in New Jersey, he created an e-mail list that includes all maintainers, and he requests all maintainers to report their work to the entire list. He also noted that a designated volunteer goes through all the reports each month and creates a summary of the work done and the number of hours worked. He stated that this not only has improved the collection of data but also has improved the morale of maintainers and has created a sense of unity among the maintainers. He recommended that this system be adopted by all local trail committees, replacing the existing system whereby maintainers submit written reports twice a year.

Howie Liebmann suggested that best practices be included on the agenda of the next meeting. Chris Connolly commented that each Trails Chair should receive a list of contact information for each park under his jurisdiction.

Bob Jonas suggested that since many volunteers who live in New Jersey do trail work in the West Hudson area, they should also be included in the New Jersey Regional Trails Council. In response, David Day commented that the Regional Trails Councils should be based on the area where the work is being done. Monica Day suggested that all maintainers be invited to future Regional Trails Council meetings.

Chris Connolly stressed the importance of sending out an agenda for the next meeting. Howie Liebmann commented that if a Trails Chair cannot attend a meeting, someone else should represent him. He suggested that the next meeting of the Council be held in October or November and that the following meeting be held in March 2016.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:25 p.m.


Daniel D. Chazin