In 2022, the Delaware Valley Chapter will celebrate its 60th year of existence. In October 1962 when the chapter was formed, there were about 200 members in the Philadelphia area. Ten years later, the membership had grown to 620. By the time of the chapter’s 25th anniversary in 1987, there were 1187 members. As of January 2021, the chapter has 4,831 members.
In 2016, DV Chapter members became involved with leading chapter trips at the new AMC facility at Harriman State Park. The success of the Stephen & Betsy Corman AMC Harriman Outdoor Center has led to the addition of a second facility at Harriman, which is expected to open in 2023.
In 1999, the AMC opened the first Mid-Atlantic Regional Office in Titusville, NJ, which helped launch a more active collaboration between the DV Chapter and AMC staff. This has been a very beneficial arrangement thanks to staff Regional Managers like Tom Gilbert, Jad Daley, Kristen Sykes, and Mark Zakutansky. The office was moved to a downtown Bethlehem location in 2006 and to its current home at Illick’s Mill in Bethlehem in 2015. The Illick’s Mill location also serves as a location for various DV Chapter meetings and educational efforts.
The DV Chapter Leadership Committee was formed in 1997 in response to a clubwide initiative to have chapters take a more active role in establishing leadership standards and providing instruction for chapter members in how to successfully lead outdoor activities. This group has sponsored an annual Leadership Training Weekend each spring ever since, originally at the Mohican Outdoor Center, and since 2002 at the Nockamixon State Park Education Center. Since 2019, the program has expanded under Leadership Chair Jeff Fritzinger to include new and innovative online options connected with clubwide leadership initiatives.
The Chapter has also become involved in a number of other programs over the years. In 1992, the Lehigh Valley Group, a sub-group of the DV Chapter , was formed and has continued to run monthly program meetings and bring together members from the northern part of the chapter ever since. In 1993, AMC launched operations at the Mohican Outdoor Center in Delaware Water Gap. Kent Johnson, then DV’s Regional Director, discovered this property while involved in trail work efforts in the area, convinced AMC’s executive staff from Boston that it was a worthwhile project, and organized the volunteer committee that launched operations there. DV Chapter members were extremely active in the renovations and programming at Mohican in the first two years when it was a volunteer-run operation, and ever since in assisting the AMC staff-run operations there.
The Ridge Runner program on the chapter section of the Appalachian Trail began in the summer of 1992 and has continued almost every year since then. The program is a shared effort by the chapter, AMC, ATC, and the PA Department of Forestry and Parks, which helps provide major funding. A person is hired each summer to patrol and care for a 42 mile section of trail between Delaware Water Gap and Lehigh Furnace Gap. The program goal is to help protect and preserve the Trail experience for current and future generations through Leave No Trace education and on the ground monitoring of resources. Bill Steinmetz and Dan Schwartz have been co-coordinators of the program since its inception.
The DV Chapter has a long history of involvement in building, maintaining, and advocating for trails throughout our region. Advocacy efforts led by Malcolm White in the 80’s led to the Lehigh Tunnel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike Northeast Extension being twinned, rather than running a road through Lehigh Gap as had been proposed. The creation of the Perkiomen Trail in the 90’s was due in part to advocacy efforts spearheaded by Kent Johnson and Jane Shepard that involved many DV members. Trails from Valley Forge to Delaware Water Gap, including a section of the AT, have been the focus of volunteer efforts by DV Chapter members. In recent years, the chapter has been active in efforts to create the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network, which will extend the Highlands Trail (130 miles in New York and New Jersey) along the length of the Pennsylvania Highlands, from the Delaware River at Riegelsville, PA south to the Maryland border in south-central PA.
The rise in membership has been matched by a rise in the level of activity in the chapter. In 1972, then Hiking Chair Kenneth Graham noted in his annual report that there had been a total of 59 organized hikes that year. In 1977 Hiking Chairman Malcolm White noted that the response to the hiking program was disappointing: several of the 50 hikes scheduled had no participants and only four had more than ten people show up. In 2019, before Chapter operations were interrupted by the COVID pandemic, DV leaders led an average of 65 hikes every month. Nearly 1500 individuals joined and enjoyed these activities, and 135 members reached 100-miler status that year. In addition, numerous backpacking, trail work, biking, and paddling trips were part of the very active schedule.
From the mid 1970s until 2014, the chapter had a very active whitewater paddling program, often running more than 50 trips a year on class II to IV rivers. Introductory instruction courses for both whitewater and general paddling that drew more than 20 students, plus advanced classes in whitewater and sea kayak paddling were offered each year, For the past 25 years, swiftwater safety training classes have been full every year, For many years, the chapter also ran annual week-long whitewater trips along the Appalachians as far south as Georgia, plus weekend trips to the Adirondacks and New England The club once owned and maintained nine whitewater boats and still has three. Loss of leaders and general loss of interest in whitewater among members eliminated that program. Meanwhile, the flatwater program, once small, has grown, and now offers trips most weekends from late April to mid-October.
Ruby Horwood, DV Chapter Chair from 1969-70, went on to become the first female president of the AMC (clubwide) from 1974-75. During her time in those roles, she was active in the Tocks Island Dam battle, which led to the creation of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, and also in protecting Franconia Notch in the White Mountains from the proposed widening of I-93 to a four-lane superhighway. She celebrated her 100th birthday in the spring of 2017 at a special party with the female DV Chapter Chairs who had followed in her footsteps.
The LeRoy Smith Shelter was completed in November of 1972 off the Katellen Trail on the chapter’s maintenance section of the Appalachian Trail between Wind and Little Gap. It was built by a dedicated group of chapter volunteers and local residents led by Trails Master LeRoy Smith. A unique notched log construction technique was utilized for strength and durability. The shelter today looks much like it did following construction due to the ongoing work of maintenance and caretaking volunteers under the able guidance (for most of those years) of Ken & Pat Sacks.
Not everything in AMC has changed, however. Chapter Chairman Gardner Dean noted in the 1972 annual report that some of the issues facing AMC that year were “overuse of the trails and camping area, use of motor vehicles on foot trails, loss of wilderness areas to various usages, preservation and expansion of trail systems. A firmer position is being taken on conservation matters.” Many of these issues still face us in 2021, and we hope that AMC’s efforts to ”promote the protection, enjoyment, and wise use of the mountains, rivers and trails of the Northeast” will continue to have an effect on these problems in years to come.