Monday, April 05, 2021

VTA MINUTES

 

VTA Co-ordinating Council Meeting

March 28 @ 7pm

Attendees:          Mark Crofts, Matt Borutski, Kees, Van Frankenhuyzen, Ruth Beaumont,

Danielle Beaumont, Chris Leale, Steve Dominy, Andy , Doug Elson, Carolynn Reid,

Chris Kuntz, Harvey Lemelin, Kelsey Johansen, Martin Turner, David Nesbit

Chaired by: Matt Borutski

____________________________________________________________________________

1._Accidents/Incidents: None reported.

2.  Guidebook Committee:

Presented by Steve Dominy.

Ondago update -  report emailed today.

-Guidebooks all sold.  Some stragglers may be kicking around in retail.  Retailers have been reaching out requesting more.  Webstore indicates ‘out of stock - digital app in progress’.

-Moving forward with app.  6/11 maps done in demo form to review.  Different clubs have been given beta versions to test and report on any issues before final published version.

-Other 5 maps are WIP, but coming along well.  Should be in Ondagos hands by mid-April ideally.

-Still a question around advertising.  Some calls have been made for assistance to take that on.  Need a policy around how we will manage advertising, what we’ll charge, what type of businesses align.  Local clubs have offered to approach retailers.

-Once app is released, there will be a marketing side to this.  Need to communicate how to access, what it is, etc.

Advertising & Marketing endeavors need someone to take these on.

MT - asked if we’re limited in amount trails shown. Penewobikong have incorporated many, can all clubs incorporate as much as they’d like?  E.g. local trails that aren’t necessarily VTA trail.

SD - only trails are VTA trails, only those will be included.

MT- what about off-trail lookouts?

CR - asked about which P. trails he was indicating

MT - was curious if connecting loops were included.  He wants to know whether he should include alternate routes, lookouts or loops that are near VTA trail.  Their group uses these frequently.

CR - prioritized lookouts that attract interest so that it brought attention to VTA, also included links to recreational trail within Blind River community.  Trying to bring attention to us.

SD - all loops are distinctly VTA on the app.  No others added.

MB - perhaps in the future, others can be added. But to start the app off it will solely be VTA.

DI - does Ondago have any document available for advertising that can be reviewed by someone interested in taking that on.

SD - Ondago offers banner ads, he can provide a bit more detail via email.

KvF - would like to acknowledge the incredible amount of work Steve has put into this. His commitment has brought this project to life. His efforts have been visionary, his leadership brings the VTA to a new generation of trail users.  Thank you Steve!

MB - thank you to all the other volunteers putting time in to make this app what it is.

3.  Membership Committee:

Membership Report - prepared by Chris Kuntz

-Chris is stepping down.  Ruth will be filling his shoes.

-Membership is at historic high - over 300 members. Ruth will be training to do year-end report.  Calculations for AGM and insurance reporting - individual counts as 1, family counts as 2.

-Largest increase is in Saulteaux Club, including the towns east of SSM.  SC is taking over maintenance of these areas, which is why they are being rolled in.  SC is over 200 members.  Year end will be higher, as more renewals are trickling in.  CK has never seen it this high.  Could be because people want the guidebook.

MB - a lot of people coming from Southern Ontario or Manitoba travelling here to hike. We’re a member of Superior Country tourism.  CI gets a lot of new Ontario inquiries vs. the usual USA inquiries.  Will likely see further increase this summer.  Hoping to draw attention to VTA as more hikers seek this hobby.

Membership fees and benefits - for decision - presented by Steve Dominy

SD - tried to build a good case for the motion.  Curious if people were happy with what was proposed, as there wasn’t a lot of email exchange.

-Did an analysis of challenges re: membership as well as non-member use of trails.  In selling guidebooks to non-members, people don’t feel the membership is important. -Issues arise when they don’t adhere to trail users code or our policies, garbage, graffiti, etc are an issue.  This has led to landowner issues, some of whom are now demanding membership cards when they see hikers.

-Proposing that app be restricted to some degree from general public.  Suggests it should be a member benefit.  Due to the costs of app (building plus maintenance and changes) we want to monetize to recoup expenses and generate additional revenue ($2000-$3000/year).

Proposal: Revise member benefits & make maps available to only members.  Increase fees to allow us to recoup additional expenses/offset expenses.  Review benefits offered and how we can more effectively attract members.

-Includes the website - a members only password protected portal, as not all members want to use an app.  Make website options available for them too (.pdf versions extra cost).  On general public side of site, suggests we do a ‘teaser’ map that encourages people to become members to get full map access. General VTA marketing will also be there.  Trail information should be limited on this side (tips, changes etc. become members only).

-Fee increase on page 8.  Recommends 2-tier increase. May 1st proposed $10 increase to individuals, $20 increase for families.  Look to accommodate cases where people want maps but don’t live near trails - option to purchase a partial membership for map access (non-resident fee).  Second increase in 2 years or so, giving us opportunity for review.

Chris Kuntz has seconded this motion.

MB - does membership give app access for free?

SD - yes, members get a passcode sent to them as part of their membership package.

MB - can we see whether members are sharing their passcodes?

SD - we cannot control that completely.  That happens when one person buys a guidebook and shares with their friends too.  Ondago has suggestions for publishing new versions with new passcodes at different time periods so that those who want the updates have to renew their membership.

KJ - supports annual passcode change to support this as a member-only benefit.  It is a built in reminder to renew.

SD - suggests a one-time per year renewal date if we go this route.

KJ - this would tie in with the member tags she  proposed. We could line up the timelines so that renewal dates coincide.  Also offers clear visual indication that hikers are members while on trail.

CR - does renewal have to be a Jan 1 date or can it be the anniversary of when you join? KJ - that’s how it has historically been done.  If we move to tags, we need to stick to a calendar year.  Over 1.5 year process could get everyone synced up.

MC - motion is for fee increase, does that mean we will put aside the decision on how we’ll make the maps available?  Is that a separate decision?

SD - document goes over pros and cons of member-only access, thus fees are part of that conversation.

KvF - motion should indicate that we are addressing option 2, member fee increase otherwise

SD - Modification to be made to say we are voting on Option 2, being the 2-tier increase.

KJ - can we discuss non-residents paying less?

KvF - residents have regular access

DI - what is our definition of non-resident

SD - Ruth will be defining these categories more clearly, defined by postal code.

>100km from trail by postal code makes you eligible for non-resident fee.

KJ- do non-residents have voting rights?

KvF - residence could be defined as Thunder Bay - Sudbury, beyond that would be non-resident.

SD - Agreed, then within 100km north or south of trail.

MB - if they’re willing to pay fees, let’s take that.

KJ - different benefits for resident vs. non-resident?

SD - there is more to uncover in that.  May be complicated if we divide website by resident vs. non-resident.  Restricting further information could be tricky.

KvF - main benefit for non-res is access to trail maps.  By default, residents will be able to take advantage of local benefits as well.

MB - Members and hikers can get restaurant or hotel discounts.

KJ - wants to define the member benefits to go with this motion more fully. SD - maps and discounts have been noted, but also access to tips and tricks, information about local trails that aren’t widely known, seasonal tips, etc. could become a member benefit too.

MB - discussed having short hikes put up on FB site, could have insider treks as membership benefit.  Someone passing through might be more interested in that. SD - might be a way to put those short-hikes on app too.  Pdfs a good option too.

Adjustment to be specific to Scenario 2 added to Motion.

KvF - benefits can be worked out over time, as this will also entail approaching local businesses.  Believes this motion should be fee-specific. Non-res pay less because they are less able to use their benefits as frequently as residents.  Favours keeping this simple.

HL  - not comfortable working that out in the future

KvF - believes fee increase is inevitable, important to revenue.  No matter what we did about membership or trail maps, this would be a discussion. This is not necessarily linked to benefits.

CR - if we’re expecting businesses to support a program, we need to be clear on what the affinity program is going to be.  Supports taking a step back to discuss further and flesh this out more fully.  Timing is of note.

CK - fees have been the same for 12-17 years so far.

MB - we are due for an increase.  Do we need to justify an increase in benefits to increase fees?

KJ - wants to have a communication point for members about why the increase is happening and what is included with that, more than just saying ‘costs are high’. DB - before you start an increase, we need to have ducks in a row.  Fee needs to have all of the background benefits and app release behind it.

CR - concerned about renewal date.  If Jan 1st is the date then we can start a campaign to have everything building to that.  We’re not in a rush.

MB - what is the tentative date when the app would be live?

SD - need to discuss our effective date, because if it’s a membership benefit then we need to decide whether we’re grandfathering current members but any new members, when will they see the increase?  If they want the maps in July, do we give them access and then have new members coming in trying to get their status before the fee increase?

MC - wondering if enthusiasm for fee increase is tied to a better definition of benefits. Could we back up to page 3 and focus on Ondago rollout. Tonight can we give Steve a vote on the maps being members-only?  This would then give us a test of the system with current members, then later this year the fee increase comes out after members have had a chance to use and appreciate this new system?

SD - if we don’t want to do the fee increase right now, that can be deferred till benefit questions are answered.  Who will take that on?  Will involve evaluating included discounts, etc.  A lot of work to be done there.  Could tie in with Kelsey’s idea about the tags.

KJ - would people be in favour of current members having access to maps once live, that will expire at the end of the calendar year and be updated at the end of 2021 to align with new membership package.  Carolynn, Ruth, DanaĆ© work together to flesh this out, Danielle also interested.

DB - points out that January is an expensive time of year.  People have a lot of renewals around that time of year.  Perhaps could we consider a March/April (Spring renewal date).

KJ -  agrees that March 1st would follow with newsletter

CK - final date for reporting is March 31st.  Proposes that if all members are going to be renewing at once, that will be a heavy task.  Jan 1st would be a difficult date for that.

Proposes April 1st.

KJ - existing members will have access to Beta till we settle on that date.

SD -  Motion to accept option 2 in proposal (members only access).  Don’t charge for maps, only members have access, make our portal easier to access/sign up through, examine fee levels, website overview.

KJ - wants to include that we have an annual passcode. KvF agrees.

SD - Ondago can’t just change the passcode, we have to publish a new version each year.

KJ - perhaps with new sponsors.

SD - advertiser renewal dates will tie with this. Wants to point out that trail re-routes/closures should be updated on an ongoing basis for safety reasons. Proposes that Chris/Ruth think about how annual renewals can be pro-rated if new members join mid-way through our year.

KvF - Sault Cycle Club does not pro-rate.  Probably for a good reason.

KJ - Waterloo clubs don’t either.

MB - do we need to accept this as a resolution?

RB - if we’re doing this annually, how would the 3 year membership - just get the code every April 1st, essentially?

KJ - track those, mail new tag each year

KvF - could do away with a 3-year management to simplify tracking.  Does 3 years provide enough financial incentive?  May not have enough advantage to be worth the renewal trouble.

MB - would need to decide on something for those who already have a 3 year.

KJ - perhaps after existing 3 year expires, we move them to annual.

Revised Proposed Motion:  The Voyageur Trail Association effective immediately will restrict Ondago access to members only using an annual passcode, with no charge for individual maps.

Seconded by Chris Kuntz.

All in favour.  None opposed.

4.  Financial Report:

Presented by Kees Van Frankenhuyzen

-Verbal update re: end of fiscal year.  $9000 in operating account.  We are growing that account even while spending.  $7000 in guidebook account. Proposes that come April 1 should move Guidebook Funds to Operating, as Ondago is being paid via Operating to pay expenses.  Guidebook acct no longer functional. SD - does not see an issue with that.

-We have operated without a budget this year.  Typically this is prepared by President and Treasurer.  2020 has not had a budget, but we went at same rate as previous years with no major expenditures or changes.  This year will be different (e.g. chainsaw training).  We need to create and approve a budget for 2021.  Proposes he prepare a draft and pass it to Presidents E & W in advance of next council meeting.

No objections made.

-Coureurs des Bois requested $1000 in trade signage expenses.  KvF does not recall a request for support to subsidize trail signage.  Asked if this is an expense that we typically cover.

KJ, MB - does not recall anything to confirm that

MT - there hasn’t been a request as far as he knows. David would be the one to speak to that.

KvF - suspects that in the past CdB did not use provision that VTA will pay for maintenance costs, they have not typically submitted expenses.  Thinks that they are requesting under this miscommunication - trail maintenance expenses cover gas, chainsaw supplies, etc. for a few $100/year per club typically.  Signage projects need to be specific requests and must be pre-approved, e.g. Casque Isles.

Motion to approve this expense, considering that they have never submitted for expenses in the past but will clarify that ongoing requests align with VTA policy.

KJ - do we know if what they ordered aligns with our VTA signage visual identity. MT - typically use yellow circle with arrow indicating direction.  VTA is marked with yellow.  Lookouts are marked with blue circle and arrow.  Local marked with white.

Using this system for about 10 years.

MC - He believes we did have this discussion 2-2.5 years ago with David.  There may be a connection between the minutes and this invoice. Carole was encouraging them to access Trail Maintenance monies.  Should be a time limit on these things. KvF - anything over $500 should be considered via a motion to approve.  Does not know if this is a formal policy or just how things have been done.

MB - CI realized they hadn’t put expenses in for past 11 years, those were submitted and approved because they had not historically accessed those funds.

KJ - from our Constitution, treasurer can use discretion.

SD - proposes that we give benefit of the doubt that they got pre-approval and supports paying it.

KvF - typically there is record of that.  Noted that clubs that are part of VTA, there are benefits that are covered.  It is general, not amount specific, but he believes this is a circumstance where he is not opposed to paying this to them while clarifying how expenses should be brought forward in the future to avoid situations like this.

MC - seconded motion to pay the expense. None opposed.

5.  Insurance Committee: No report.

No update from Hike Ontario.

HL - others were on that call.  HO was informed by our broker that our current insurance provider is not happy with HO.  Possibility of fee increases are likely.  They are shopping around.  Haven’t heard anything from broker since then.  Freya is on top of things, but it is on the broker.  HO is very frustrated with our broker currently.  They’ve never had a claim and are being penalized because insurers are becoming more risk averse, especially with COVID.

MC - broker made the point that hiking groups are locked in with broader class of recreational groups like hockey and soccer associations, so we may be penalized for having a low risk activity but we’re being put in a high risk activity category.  Broker was trying to explain fee hike through this.

KJ - another trail group she’s with has a riskier trail approach but pays lower fees.

HL - this came as a surprise to HO.  Possibilities for other options, perhaps a fragmented approach to insurance coming.  We should not be lumped in with higher risk activities.  Will provide an update as soon as he has it.

6.    Strategic Planning Committee: N/A

7.    Trail Reports:

Casque Isles Report:

Saulteaux Report:

Stokely Section:

Coureur de Bois Report:

Nor’wester Report:

Hike Ontario Rep:

Penewobikong Report: Marathon Report:

8.    Other:

a)Newsletter/Social media: (Reference email on March 24, 2021) Presented by Kelsey Johansen

KJ - biggest highlights are uptick in SM platforms in follows and likes.

FB 1077 followers, 38 new followers which is a 32% increase.

IG shows a 6% increase.

Highest level of engagement with #MeetTheVTA and stories from Spring Newsletter.

-Seeing uptick with people using #hiketheVTA or #hikeNWO.

Upcoming Campaigns:

1- education - hiking safety, importance of ethics, bear hunt safety

2  - notifications - trail openings and closures, rerouting

3  - engagement - updates on Ondago app, 2 new #meettheVTA posts for new CC members; video vignettes for SM, “Everything I take on the Trail” (what it is, why it’s important; video scan on bag contents)

-Looking to appeal to ever diverse membership.

-Same content challenges.  Thank you to those submitting. Please continue to let her know of trail openings/closures etc.

Interesting to note that we have international readership in the US, UK, Italy & Australia.

Reminder: Summer newsletter releases June 1, submission deadline is May 1.

Looking for 1 trail feature, longer 750 article with 2-5 photographs.  Would like a club other than Saulteaux, as they have the majority of trail highlights.

250-500 words on geo caching, water trails, spring gear recs, shoutouts to a trail business, hidden gems or culture and history of region - those are all topic recommendations.

-Recommends upgrading our newsletter software, as it only has 2 free publications/year.  Starter membership priced out, $19/month, 6 publications per year. Can have ads that we select.  Possible revenue from this.  If we purchase 1 year at once, would cost $160 USD plus tax which reflects a discount vs. the monthly subscription/payments.

Proposes we save the upgrade till after Summer newsletter.

b)  Website:No report.

c)  Trailmaster Report:

DE - multiple issues with south end of the Echo Ridges section.  Will be monitoring logging situation.

d)  VTA Closed Claim (Reference email on March 2, 2021):

DOL Aug 16/16

Confirmation from our broker that the VTA "potential" claim of August 2016 is now closed. Not sure if you were aware, a lady broke her ankle on a boardwalk on the Kinsmen property in Sault Ste Marie back in 2016, and threatened to sue. The VTA apparently used an access trail on the Kinsmen property to access the VTA trail.”

HL - Mark wanted to get further information on it.

MC - worth noting, but can defer to next meeting.

MB - Carole and Larry to provide report for next meeting.

 

e)  Proposed motion re:  Chainsaw Training (reference email March 10)

 

Motion: that the VTACC support local clubs to obtain chain saw certification to a

maximum of $5500 for 2021. “Support” includes cost of the registration plus any

travel/accommodation costs for the instructor/ candidates as per existing VTA

reimbursement rates.

 

Further, the VTACC recommends that Clubs re-imburse chainsaw owners for fuel/wear

and tear based on out of pocket expenses with receipts provided.

 

Criteria for VTA support: (Some items to be further discussed at future meetings, not

included in current motion)

-No more than three members per club or inactive club but more can be considered if

there is room in the budgeted amount above.

-Must be a member of the VTA, in good standing

-Has a history of helping with trail maintenance

-Candidates commit to at least two maintenance outings per year over a three year

period.

-Must own their own PPE, fitted and compliant

-Should have their own saw or make arrangements to use a VTA owned saw

 

KJ - Members should have to provide their own PPE.

 

MC - That makes sense.  We may have to discuss a subsidy. Will further discuss

 

owning their own PPE later.

 

SD - Opposed to $50 flat rate, prefers we reimburse based on receipts

 

DI - Agreed, only wanted to address wear and tear.

 

HL - Can we put in writing what ‘committing’ means?

 

MC - Open to ideas.

 

KvF - Shall I budget $5500 to this?  Plus misc. operational expenses are already billed

 

as trail maintenance.

 

MC-  Confirmed.

 

MB - Confirmed that Ministry of Labour has been spoken to, the 1 day course will meet

 

HO requirements due to the experience these operators already have.  Will likely

 

develop a check sheet for standards.  Will put it out to find out how many have interest

 

in joining.  Need to act now to get our group in, as trainers are being booked up quickly.

 

 

MC:  Propose motion

 

SD:  Seconder

 

 

Next Meeting:

Sunday May 16 - 7pm

MC chair