Rural System, Inc.
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits




The Wildland Walkers
A Hiking and Campcraft Group



This enterprise markets the resources of the region for recreation of all types. It is interested in the diverse activities of the entire field of outdoor recreation. It concentrates on hikers and campers but advances computer-enhanced decision making, models of recreation activity, encourages improved in-the-field behavior, and uses rapidly-accumulating knowledge on effects of horse and riders, hikers, bikers, and others on the wildlands. It, along with other groups, attempts to reverse the flow of money out of the county and region to national environmental, forestry, wilderness, conservation, and ecotourism-related organizations and to concentrate it locally on developing a world-class demonstration of modern, sophisticated natural resource management.

The Outdoor Industry Association has said that preserving wild lands is not only good for people who like to hike, bike, and raft there but also for the businesses that sell them gear. The association represents 4,000 companies that make and sell outdoor gear and guide city folks on backcountry trips. These businesses employ 500,000 people and generate $18 billion a year in sales.

The very beauty and quality of the region depend on stabilizing a rural atmosphere and viewscape. For this to occur, there must be viable financial opportunities for the owners of those lands. There are opportunities to encourage hikers on the Appalachian Trail to use owned trails on Pivotal Tracts and to create special sites for them. Trails built by Stoneworms on Tracts can allow local users to train for and prepare for longer hikes.

Hiking and carefully regulated biking, select area use of the off-road vehicle, horse-back trail riding, adventure treks, challenge runs, and a new sport of timed walks through the wilderness - the pivotal route, secondary scouting trips, hiker schools, campcraft schools, animal watching (unscheduled and not related to the planned or programmatic action of the other Rural System, Inc. enterprises) - these are all part of the group activity.

Funds are gained from admission, fees for guided hikes, permits for activities, publications, special gear sales, Ruffs, food sales, membership fees, flags, emblems, equipment rentals, photography (action photographs to take home), web site access, exhibit space rentals for companies selling approved equipment and clothing, free-lance writing, photo sales, insurance, guide services, outfitting services. Funds from advertising opportunities within The Wildland Walkers abound. Specialty groups may be developed for healthful walking programs.

The Wildland Walkers work with landowners, outfitters, retail outlets, and all regional enterprises to sustain and improve local economic and employment conditions, preserve and enhance nature and the wildlands, and promote high quality outdoor recreation. Not a preservationist/protectionist group, the system advocates sophisticated computer-aided decision-making to sustain the many diverse benefits available to hikers in the region. It employs new knowledge-based approaches to outdoor recreation. The group is apolitical. It may seek certain regulatory and/or legal means to achieve its objectives, but it will not take "stands" on certain issues. It does encourage its members and their groups to do so as their responsible citizenship.

The Wildland Walkers (somewhat like other units of the Rural System, Inc.) consists of:
1. Diverse objectives of area users - a unique development and presentations of recreational objectives.
2. Hiking and Walks - many types, length of stay, objectives, reports and experiences; group, solitary; horse; nature based; adventure based; winter; work based.
3. Membership fees
4. Newsletter
5. Annual rendezvous
6. Work parties and voluntary fire fighter training
8. Security patrol
9. Signs
10. Trail construction and maintenance
11. Fire-site management
12. Publications
13. First Aid and emergency/rescue
14. Contract studies and research
15. Consulting
16. Seminars, speeches, and workshops.

The concepts that make the recreation system special and assure profitable successes are:
1. Using a tested systems approach with new improvements
2. Using computer-based economic optimization
3. Using ecological and natural resource models
4. Contact "Sierra" in relation to night-hikes and studying affiliation (e.g., American Hiking Organization)
5. Affiliation with the vast resources of the National Forest and state areas in the region
6. Locating with large private capital land resources
7. Being remote but with high quality highway access
8. Relating to a well-established hunting and tourist industry
9. Bringing 40 years of tax-based wildland research, information, software and models and concentrating it on the region.
10. Offering opportunities for Virginia Tech and community college students (and many others) for meaningful work
11. Providing a variety of employment opportunities and profit inventories for citizens
12. Offering new, meaningful, year-around recreational and nature-study opportunities to a growing urban citizenship
13. Offering areas and associated programs of activities and challenges to meet personal needs such as ease of hiking, areas for the handicapped, viewscapes, remoteness, fishing, and specialized nature-study areas.
14. Offering land owners controls which they desire over responsible use of their wildlands by recreationists
14. Balancing controversies over long-term sustainability of rural communities and commodity extraction and interests in wildlife and preservation
15. Encouraging that conventional sports and activities be practiced elsewhere, retaining the wildlands for their special uses
16. Providing new internet registration services to campers and members
17. Continuing comprehensive, diverse management of other natural resources on the same areas, that is, of total systems management.

Components:

System Leader - responsible for overall operations, policy, leadership, and developments

Membership Director - recruits members, produces a newsletter, and holds an annual conference and develops membership services and programs including employing and supervising directors of special member-related projects. Supervises publications.

Security Director - develops a security system (or uses one created elsewhere in the System Central, namely Safety and Security), including safety, surveys, analyses, education, record of safety and employs advice as needed for insect, disease, health, snakes, etc. potential problems. Secures an appropriate insurance program for the system and for individuals.

Special Products and Services - with the Outfits develops clothing certification projects; develops and tests equipment (staff, hat, Ruffs, Reds, flags, emblems, foods, equipment)

Field Director - conducts hikes, develops sites and services, develops trails, monitors and manages sites, develops sport and field events, plans special hikes or employs hike/camp masters, develops contests; assists in developing membership levels and tests; recruits and supervises guides; sponsors and guides research.

Secretarial, accounting, and computer services will be from System Central of Rural System, Inc. Computer services are developed, including accounting, publishing, addresses and memberships, but also computer maps, ecological site analyses, allocation of camper units of impact, campsite analyses, and user satisfaction analyses.

Making strong use of past research in outdoor recreation and wilderness area recreational use, the system concentrates this knowledge and demonstrates how it can be used for private profit in a sustained manner.

See The Wildland Crew that is closely related.

Income

The system profits are derived from a changing combination of sources, all private, namely:
1. Day-use or trail-specific fees
2. Conference and group camping fees
3. Membership fees
4. Educational and publication fees
5. Advertising fees
6. Contract trial building and stream improvement (The Fishery)
7. Guide service fees
8. Commissions from sales of (for example)

9. Certification of clothing (after testing) of hiking clothing (Outfits) 10. Special hikes and tours - fee (e.g., coyote, bear, deer, owl tours)
11. International tour fees (select nature tours in China, etc. with The Tours Group)
12. Race fees
13. Special new sporting events.

Costs

Staff of the system recruit land owner cooperation, conduct programs and projects, conduct education, employ consultants, develop a guides service, work with other components of Rural System, Inc., develop publications, and promote and advertise the system and the region. Cooperative programs with Hudson Trails, L. L. Bean and others will be sought. A small security group represents one of the higher, less-conspicuously-productive components of the system.

There will be additional gains if land under contract has ponds or streams near campsites. The intent is that the system be profit-driven, with feedback to all participants and incentives for cooperative efforts by small land unit owners (recruited nearby owners whose lands are not in the Rural System, Inc. but who are willing to participate for reasonable financial gains). These owners have previously been excluded from much intensive forest land management because of the problems of scale.

Incentives are for (1) customers and members (discounts as memberships and participation increases; awards for scores and safety); (2) Employees (all receiving a high percentage of profits); (3) Rural System, Inc. itself and all associated support functions; and landowners (for use of their land for non-consumptive use by educated hikers); and (4) enterprise-related research and development
A Denver, CO article by Gil Rudawsky, Nov 7, 2000 was titled:

Youths not exactly rushing to explore the so-so outdoors. Study finds decline in hiking, biking, climbing.

He said that representatives of the outdoor recreation business got a hard lesson from their next generation of customers: Outdoor activities are losing to the indoors. A youth panel at the Outdoor Recreation Coalition of America's regional meeting, held in downtown Denver, gave a variety of reasons that they are not participating in outdoor recreation or buying outdoor gear. The reasons primarily had to do with weather, cost and competing urban activities. "I don't like to get cold or get my shoes dirty," said one East High School student, age 17. "Plus, it's too complicated and too expensive." A Denver student, 17, gave a less traditional but equally emphatic answer: "That Blair Witch thing - my friends and I are scared to go into the woods."

The seven panelists, ages 17 to 24, included high school students, a college student and two bicycle messengers. "This is ground zero for the industry," said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of ORCA. "If we lose this market, we lose the business and we possibly lose their votes to protect these outdoor activities."

A preliminary study found that youth participation is declining in 13 of 14 outdoor recreational activities. The categories include backpacking, road bicycling, mountain bicycling, dirt road cycling, camping, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, rafting, rock climbing, cross-country skiing, telemark skiing, snowshoeing and trail running.

The only area that showed a slight increase was kayaking. Craig Mackey, public-policy liaison for Outward Bound USA, pointed out to the panelists that a day at Six Flags can cost as a much as a day of skiing at Vail. "That may be true, but I've never seen a Vail ad directed at me or my friends," Fordham responded. "They are probably going after the white, rich market." More than one panelist pointed out that of the approximately 75 participants at the meeting, few, if any, were minorities. Mackey conceded that "We have to reach out to a younger, more diverse market to keep outdoor recreation vibrant," Mackey said. "This should be a wake-up call for people in the room."

Hugelmeyer said one solution would be to encourage outdoor recreation businesses to do a better job of bringing outdoor recreation to the urban environment. One Panelist, age 18, said he has tried a climbing wall but wouldn't consider going to the mountains to rock climb.


Because of its proposed location, natural resources, approach, and diversity it seems that The Wildland Walkers can participate in positive change to the suggested trend and gain a leadership role. See also the Run Along Group and The Line.

See the backpacker magazine.

See the Coalition fun out doors.

See the Tread Trail Group draft proposal (2004).

Estimates
Development estimate: $ 50,000 Profits:


Perhaps you will share ideas with me
about some of the topic(s) above at

RHGiles@RuralSystem.com.

Maybe we can work together
... for the good of us all
... for a long time.

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