On September 18, the IAT held its Annual General Meeting at Gîte du Mont Albert Hotel in Gaspésie National Park, Québec. The event was held in collaboration with the Québec Hiking Federation and SÉPAQ (the Société des Établissements de Plein Air du Québec), and followed the 14th edition of the Québec Hiking Festival on Saturday, September 17.
The AGM weekend was hosted by the Québec Chapter of the International Appalachian Trail (Sentier International des Appalaches) which was celebrating the 10th anniversary of the completion of the IAT in the province. The festivities began Friday evening, September 16th, with the opening dinner at the park's Discovery Center. Official welcomes were extended by IAT Québec Honorary President Andrew Wake, IAT Québec President Gaétan Roy, IAT Québec Director Eric Chouinard, IAT Chairperson Paul Wylezol and IAT Founder Richard Anderson. Maine Chapter representative Will Richard concluded the meeting with a slide presentation on Iceland (proposed site of the 2012 IAT AGM), on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge separating North America from Europe and Africa.
The 14th Annual Walking Festival and 10th Anniversary Celebration of IAT Québec began Saturday morning after breakfast, with IAT members and festival participants departing on four different hikes. These were followed by exhibits at the Walker's Village organized by the Québec and Maine Chapters of the IAT, the Québec Outfitter’s Association, the Gaspésie Tourism Association, the CLDs (Centres Locaux de Développement) of Avignon, Matapédia, Matane, Haute-Gaspésie, and Côte-de-Gaspé, and Télécommunications de l’Est.
Also on Saturday a group from IAT New Brunswick and Newfoundland Labrador traveled by car along the scenic north shore of the Gaspé Peninsula to Forillon National Park, where they walked to the easternmost point of IAT Québec and the site of the 2001 commemorative plaque.
Saturday's activities concluded with dinner at the Discovery Center, followed by discussion and presentations by Dave Startzell, Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, who was recognized for his long-standing leadership of the AT and his steadfast support for the IAT
and Paul Wylezol who showed a short video on Flagler Films’ recent filming in Newfoundland for their upcoming one-hour IAT North America documentary (www.iatnl.ca).
Eric Chouinard also took time to introduce special guest Armand Ducornet of the French and European Ramblers’ Associations, who was scheduled to give presentations Sunday morning at the Annual General Meeting.
The day’s official activities ended with a special musical presentation by Guillaume Arsenault ... while the unofficial activities ended in the lounge of Cabin #4!
The Annual General Meeting of the International Appalachian Trail (Sentier International des Appalaches) got under way Sunday at 8:30am in the auditorium of the Discovery Center. After a welcome by Andrew Wake, presentations were given by François Boulanger, Director of Parc de la Gaspésie, who provided a succinct overview of Quebec’s National Parks (so-called because they meet the rigorous criteria of Canada’s National Parks), and Daniel Pouplot, President of the Québec Hiking Federation, who reviewed the activities of the Fédération Québécoise de la Marche (http://www.fqmarche.qc.ca) with highlights from the trails and special annual events that support and promote the activity in the province.
Armand Ducornet, Secretary General of the French Ramblers’ Association, then gave presentations on the Fédération Française de la Randonée Pédestre(http://www.ffrandonnee.fr) and the European Ramblers’ Association (http://www.era-ewv-ferp.com), focusing his presentations on both the network of trails that crisscross France and Europe, as well as the management structure, programs and materials that these associations use to promote rambling (i.e. walking and hiking) throughout the region. (See related story: IAT Welcomes France at AGM.)
Pierre Gaudrault (Managing Director) and Pierre Hersberger (President) of the Québec Outfitters’ Association - Aventure Écotourisme Québec(http://www.quebecadventure.ca - http://www.aventurequebec.ca) gave a presentation on the Quebec ecotourism industry, including the system of certification employed to ensure travelers and clients that the services provided by their members are of the highest quality.
The afternoon session began with Maine Chapter President Don Hudson and IAT Chairperson Paul Wylezol providing an overview of the history of the IAT, from its founding in 1994 to recent developments in Europe, with an emphasis on the autonomy of individual chapters to determine trail routes and management strategies that meet their individual needs. Don included a brief review of the important geological evidence that links the ancient Appalachians in North America with their counterparts in Europe and North Africa.
The afternoon continued with a series of brief presentations by chapter representatives from Maine, New Brunswick, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Labrador. The North American chapters continue to work on a full range of trail building and maintenance activities, making steady progress to create a seamless network of well-maintained trails through the northern Appalachian region of North America. Recent extreme weather events have had a huge impact on bridges along trails in New Brunswick, and Chapter Coordinator Poul Jorgenson reported that he and his colleagues at NB Trails have had a busy summer and early fall to address repairs. PEI representative Leo Gill noted that the focus is on promoting both the Trans Canada Trail and the IAT, making sure that proper signage is in place from one end of the province to the other. Nova Scotia Chapter President Jim Vance described progress in routing the IAT along a scenic coastal pathway that will bring the hiker through an historical Acadian corner of the province, along the way to Cape Breton and the Newfoundland ferry terminal at North Sidney. Paul Wylezol concluded the chapter reports with a brief history of the French Shore of Newfoundland - the final boundary of which encompasses the IATNL - and an update on recent trail developments, including the official opening of the new Overfalls Trail in Gros Morne National Park.
Following the chapter reports, long-distance hiker Charles McNair gave a brief account of his Journey of Hope from Crow Head, Newfoundland - the northern terminus of the IAT in North America - to his home in New Brunswick, to raise awareness for the rebuilding of Haiti and the sacrifice made by NB RCMP officer Mark Gallagher, who lost his life while serving there during the 2010 earthquake. He then described his use of the gps SPOT used to pinpoint his position and communicate it to those following his progress, including the IAT who updated his progress in the News Briefs section of the website.
Next up on the agenda was the review and approval of the IAT Structure and Responsiblities, a document drafted at the April 2011 Council Meeting which delineates the basic organizational structure of the IAT and the responsibilities of its chapters and executive. After a thorough discussion, the chapter representatives present voted unanimously to approve the document with the following additions:
A preamble that introduces the document and outlines the mission of the IAT.
A clause outlining the process for future amendments.
This was followed by the election of the IAT Chairperson, two Vice Chairs, one each from North America and Europe (including Greenland, Iceland and the Faroe Islands), and two Geology Directors:
Chairperson - Paul Wylezol, IAT Newfoundland Labrador (IATNL)
Vice Chair North America - Eric Chouinard, IAT Quebec
Vice Chair Europe - Magne Haugseng, Coast Alive (including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and England)
North America Geology Director - Walter Anderson, IAT Maine
European Geology Director - Hugh Barron, IAT Scotland
The meeting adjourned at 5:30pm with participants gathering again at 6:30pm for a special banquet in the dining room of the Gîte de Mont Albert, at which the Mayor of Ste-Anne-des-Monts spoke admiringly of the work of the IAT, as well as the notable history of the region and its importance to life on the Gaspé Peninsula.
Thru-hiker Simon Bourk presented a short film of his 2009-2010 journey from Cap Gaspé to Florida, after receiving special recognition for his hike from IAT Quebec's Eric Chouinard and Gaétan Roy. Andrew Wake made special note of the founding group of the SIA in Quebec, and was thanked for his help with translation throughout the 3 day event.
Special thanks also goes out to Eric Chouinard and his committee for organizing a très enjoyable and successful event. We look forward to meeting again next year in Iceland!