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Changes at the Trail Center

Spotlight on Volunteers: Equestrian Volunteers Make Trails in San Mateo County

Good Day, Sunshine: Staying Safe in the Sun

A Bike Ride Through Coal Creek Open Space Preserve


From the Editor

Park News

Trail Notes

Along the Trail: Member Notes

The Trail Companion

Summer 1999

Changes at the Trail Center

     Changes? What changes, you may ask. Let's start with the most obvious one:

The Newsletter is Going Quarterly

      Why? Most Bay Area environmental organizations have been doing their newsletters quarterly, or less frequently, for a long time. We've been different because we've included an activity schedule that needed to be up to date. However, in the last year or so, most of what's gone into the activity schedule has just been transcribed from the activity sponsoring organizations' Web sites. This means we've been putting a load on volunteers, finances, and the environment (paper) to support a need that's dwindling. So we've decided to change the goal of the newsletter to providing information on the Trail Center's accomplishments and more long term information related to trails, parks, and the seasons of our California year. We will focus on a different theme for each issue and hope to include short literary works as well as articles (see below for additional information). Watch for this shift beginning with the next issue.

     Our website now has a list of links to organizations sponsoring hikes and other activities, and we will continue to provide information about important activities scheduled well in advance, including Trail Days, mapping, and Crew Leader Training Seminars. We will provide an annual (or possibly more frequent) activity schedule listing agency and group contact information, as well as regularly scheduled ongoing events, such as Bay Area Action's Arastradero restoration project and the Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Association's maintenance workdays.

     In tandem with the changes to the newsletter, we are undertaking a major change in our website with an expanded Trail Companion as the centerpiece. We aim to provide more comprehensive information about Bay Area outdoor recreation and opportunities with expanded hikes and rides, maps, photos and links. Check us out in the upcoming weeks.

We're No Longer Regularly Staffing the Office and Have Gone Out of the Retail Map Business

      Why? Office personnel costs have been consuming all of our member dues, and most of our additional income from trail building contracts and grants. When we analyzed where the office time was being spent, at least half was on activities directly or indirectly related to providing a mail and phone ordering service for maps. Furthermore, most of the maps we carried were from sources other than the Trail Center, and most of those are carried in retail stores already. The sales margins from the maps (many of them free) came nowhere near covering the related personnel costs of the activity. We also discovered that most of the requests were from non-members, and that (as with activities) more and more of the map information was becoming available online.
      The ounewsletter/tcome is that we are no longer directly selling or reselling maps. We've signed a contract with Pease Press to handle distribution of the maps authored by the Trail Center (Peninsula Parklands and Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula) to stores, and they will also provide a limited mail order service for those who can't get to a retailer. Our remaining stock of other maps will be distributed as premiums to members and volunteers.
      We then realized that without map orders to fill, the amount of office work no longer justified having an employee. Having then eliminated accounting for retail sales, sales and payroll tax and other employee issues, the finances of the Trail Center were not only solvent, but simple enough for volunteers to handle, while funding a significant level of trail building and mapping activities.

Our Funds Will Now Go to Directly Fund Trail Building and Mapping Activities

      These changes are already having an effect. We are in the black, and able to directly fund activities we care about: trail building, mapping, and providing outdoor information via our website and newsletter. We have funded pre-press production of a new edition of the Peninsula Parklands map, without having to look for grant money. This will let us go directly to an outside professional publisher to get wider distribution for our volunteers' work. A brand new Central Peninsula Trails map is lined up and ready to go next.
      We've undertaken a large pro bono trail project at Castle Rock State Park, rebuilding the Castle Rock Trail to make it more accessible and less damaging to the environment. Since the state parks system has almost no money for facilities improvements, this is an important project we can undertake only because we have our own funding. While we'll continue to work with agencies that can provide contract monies to support our activities, we have a new flexibility. Your membership dollars will go further towards building and maintaining trails in the parks that need the most attention, instead of only in parks that have money.

In Summary

      Many of these changes were painful to contemplate and make, since we wanted to continue providing services and information that we and our members have become accustomed to. The internal discussions were often challenging, and have cost us the services of a few of our board members. The positive ounewsletter/tcome is that have greatly simplified the organization, and now have a clear focus on connecting parks that need trails and maps, volunteers who want to do the work, and members willing to help fund the activities and give back to the Bay Area outdoors.

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