We asked Rick Levine, Life Member, an active Board Member, and member of the Stakeholder Action Team, why the Darlington Schoolhouse project is so important to the Trail Conference.
When I first joined the Board, I was not expecting the scope of the Trail Conference and the exacting professionalism of its volunteers–the Board members and the trail construction/maintenance volunteers that produce amazing results. My first wakeup call was when I queried my hiking friends; not only did most of them have a very limited view of the Trail Conference and its mandate, but many did not go further than pointing out “you get a 10% Campmor discount with Trail Conference membership.” (Early in my membership that tidbit of information was my full understanding as well!) It also became apparent to me (as my learning curve rose) that our future success will need constant adaptation to both the environment and how we operate as a non-profit organization. It was immediately obvious that my new exposures uncovered the following (amongst other things):
- The Trail Conference is involved in many more projects than I previously perceived.
- The Trail Conference needs at least double or triple the office flexi-space it currently has in which to operate efficiently; we have problems accommodating most functions and meetings in a place we could call “home” (and that’s without our constant anticipated growth), not to mention our paid staff.
- Expanding and clarifying the perception of the Trail Conference requires a visible “home” which its volunteers deserved and the Trail Conference needed for future fundraising.
Then came the Darlington Schoolhouse opportunity; not only a win-win situation for Mahwah (our partner in the venture) and the Trail Conference, but for our volunteers, environmentalists, architectural conservationists, membership growth, fundraising, historians, etc.–the list is too long. AND, the location couldn’t be better at the gateway to a vast hiking range and in the bucolic setting between the Ramapo Reservation and Ramapo College of New Jersey.
My excitement about the future Darlington Schoolhouse headquarters became even more intense as my exposure to the workings of the Trail Conference matured. I could go on and on, “But [per Kipling] that’s another story.”