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Chairman Column Third Quarter 2001

[Published in Apex to Zenith #54 – Third Quarter 2001]
By: Roger Rowlett

It’s been an eventful quarter.

  • Our Backbone Mountain convention was the biggest ever.
  • Missouri has expressed interest in partnering on the Highpointers Museum.
  • Paul Zumwalt received our first Highpointers Cum Laude Award
  • John Mitchler and Dave Covill received the Vin Hoeman Award
  • Jakk Longacre led a successful fight to prevent Taum Sauk State Park from being flooded to make way for a hydroelectric plant.
  • The 2002 Convention in Oklahoma changed dates to Sept. 18-22
  • We now have members in all 50 states.
  • We were the cover article on U.S. Air’s inflight magazine “Attache” and got great national press in a couple other articles.
  • Illinois restricted access to its summit to “legitimate” Highpointers.
  • Delaware posted “private property” sign on its “true” highpoint.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

It seemed that everything turned out to be eventful at the Convention.

The Convention started with near record heat which was broken by one of the infamous Appalachian summer downpours that caused flooding and cut off access to Backbone on one day. This in turn was followed by a record cold spell that brought record temps in the low 40s.

There’s kudos all around. Our hosts Gene and Lillian Elliott along with Joe and Mary Howard put on a great convention. Even though Jean Trousdale and Bill and Lee Strickland aren’t supposed to be hosting until next year in Oklahoma yet they manned the Gazebo for the entire week and were up serving breakfast to the gang. There’s a lot more but they are being thanked elsewhere in this publication.

This blowing hot and cold didn’t put a tamper on the tone for our annual Board of Directors Meeting. For the first time in history all 15 Board members attended the Convention. Talk about pressure, I really think these folks were wanting to keep close tabs on the new Chairman (that’s a joke, I think).

Or maybe it was because we really had a hot topic — Missouri has opened discussions about partnering with us on the Highpointers Museum.

Or maybe it is simply that we have a great Board of Directors.

In order to raise money for this the Club may form a separate “Foundation” in which contributions would be tax deductible for individuals as and corporations to give us grants “for highpointing good works.” That sounds like a great idea but the devil is in the details and Board spent nearly 2 1/2 hours on those details.

You’ll find a survey in this newsletter asking for your opinions about the Foundation direction and whether you’re willing to contribute. IT’S VERY IMPORTANT YOU FILL IT OUT. You can submit it anonymously. We will be making several decisions based on your response.

I want to especially thank Ken Hunt from Oklahoma who provided us pro bono law advice and drew up the initial documents for the Foundation so we could debate it. And there’s thanks to Dick Padrick from Washington who has been providing “behind the scenes” advise on the Foundation. And adding to the mix are Tonya Saykes from South Carolina and Alan Ritter from Missouri and Nancy Starnes of Illinois who if they hadn’t come forward to volunteer for the Foundation we probably we would have abandoned it for lack of interest. We have had so many that volunteers that I’m grateful that Nancy and Tonya have agreed to become Volunteer Coordinators to sort it all out.

Finally, thanks to Diane Winger who tried to make sense of the discussion to work up the first draft of the Survey.

Discussion about finances played an important role in the meeting. Treasurer George Vandersluis reports that since we raised the club dues to $15 we haven’t had to borrow from one fund to the next to pay our bills as we had in the past.

Even our General Membership meeting was eventful. I was sure glad that Don Holmes agreed to stay as Club emcee to tell lame jokes, not have supper while he announced the winners of all the lottery prizes. There’s something warm and fuzzy about Don doing this.

We had the highest ranking politico ever at a Convention as Maryland DNR Secretary Sarah J. Taylor-Rogers was on hand to graciously announce she summited Delaware and to announce that the State of Maryland has a verbal right of first refusal to buy the Backbone summit. Unfortunately, Ms. Taylor-Rogers resigned less than 2 weeks after the Convention in a dispute with the Maryland Governor over other matters. We are assured that the commitment to buying the Maryland summit is still firm. None-the-less the Highpointers Club was mentioned in the Baltimore Sun article announcing her departure as it cited her popularity and active involvement.

We had good and bad news with Paul Zumwalt. The good news is that we gave him the Club’s first Highpointers Cum Laude award. There’s an article about that later on. Paul announced his plans to step down from the Board when his term expires next year. He was also not accompanied by his wife Lila Zumwalt who is bed ridden in Illinois following a stroke. Paul incidentally was written up in a wonderful article in the Chicago Tribune.

Dave Covill and John Mitchler drew sighs from the crowd as they hugged after getting the Vin Hoeman Award. I don’t even know where to begin on the kudos for them. John and Dave basically run the Club on day to day basis in addition to their responsibilities with the newsletter. I have exchanged so many emails with them when I first started the role as Chairman that I’m amazed that they had time for their day job. We’ll talk more about them in the next issue.

Dave and Beckie Covill also received the Club’s first Frank Ashley Award for their efforts in hosting the Hawaii Convention as well as Dave’s efforts in Hawaii. Pete Anderson was also awarded the Ashley for his work in Rhode Island and in Indiana. Don Holmes proved he has computer and artistic talents I never realized — he designed the Frank Ashley Award as well the Highpointer Cum Laude award.

This year’s Convention generated the biggest buzz ever. The Baltimore Sun covered it. Maryland Public TV was on hand.

More than 100 messages have been posted on our Highpointers Forum on the Internet about the convention. There were lots of kudos for everybody.

But one of the hottest topics (literally) has been the move of the 2002 Convention at Black Mesa from July to Sept. 18-22. There will always be people who don’t like the Convention date whenever it is. Many folks don’t like Conventions in the South in the Summer (our traditional date is the third weekend in July). However, we had a surprise in that the only available spot for the convention close to Black Mesa was booked for the entire summer so the Jean Trousdale had to move the Convention date to Sept. 18-22.

This will probably pose a hardship for families with children. We have been delighted that so many families have been able to attend the Conventions, but unfortunately our hands are tied. There’s no conspiracies or attempts to be “anti-family.” Besides Oklahoma in September will be cooler and those who choose to go on to Wheeler Peak in New Mexico will find it’s the best time to visit.

Even our 2003 Convention did not come off without controversy. John Mitchler — just hours after becoming this year’s only 48 completer — made an impassioned plea for Charles Mound and handed out Galena brochures. His dad a former Illinois state senator was also on hand for moral support.

However, before even being told about it, Jean Wuebbels owner of the highpoint sent a message to us and to the Galena Chamber of Commerce saying that they were closing Charles Mound to “tourists” although not to legitimate highpointers who make arrangements with them to visit and to walk from the road to the summit.

Within a few hours both John and I had further discussions with the Wuebbels. They are very gracious people and have done everything they can to make Charles Mound a fun destination. They are excited about the Convention.

Our Club has changed in its handling of private property issues. We have a better sensitivity to it and are quick to resolve problems before they fester and become bigger issues.

Speaking of nipping a problem in the bud, then there’s the situation in Delaware.

William S. Schenck from the Delaware Geological Survey has confirmed what Paul Zumwalt said in his survey — that the actual highpoint is in a trailer park just west of the marker at Ebright and Ramblewood. As this has become widely known the trailer park has posted a “private property” sign. The Club Board has voted to accept the sign as an official visit to the highpoint.

We couldn’t avoid controversy on state-owned highpoints. At the beginning of the summer the Ameren Co., which provides electricity to St. Louis, announced plans to build America’s largest pumped storage power plant just west of Taum Sauk on Church Mountain. The plant with its 100 foot high dam on Taum Sauk Creek would have flooded Taum Sauk State Park and obliterated the trail between the Missouri summit and Johnson Shut Ins. Jakk Longacre did a spectacular job fighting this. After the Missouri Governor announced his opposition, Ameren backed down and says it will not pursue the project.

O.K. so much for controversy. Let’s hear some kudos for the Club itself. Did you know we have members in all 50 states? I’m not sure exactly when that demographic occurred but I’m told it’s never been formally announced. So now it is!

Also, for folks flying in on U.S. Air it was nice to see that we were featured in a cover issue on their inflight “Attache” magazine. The Chicago Tribune had nice things to say about Paul Zumwalt and there was a very nice AP article about the Sterlers in Iowa.

There’s a whole bunch more I’d like to tell you, but I better go.

Kudos to you all and thanks for your patience!

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