Talk about a winning combo: AMC was delighted to recognize two outstanding representatives of its hardworking volunteers and staff at the 2018 Annual Summit in January.
Ann Phair, AMC’s sales and guest services manager, says receiving the 2017 Joe Dodge Award came as a surprise. But Paul Cunha, vice president of operations, says Phair was a natural choice for the honor, which goes to the AMC community member “who best exemplifies Dodge’s high-quality public service and hospitality.” During her 10 years in resis, as the reservations department is fondly known, Phair has never stopped looking for ways to improve AMC guests’ experience.
Twenty-one-year-old Benton MacKaye Schwartz—named for Benton MacKaye, a founder of the Appalachian Trail (AT)—says receiving AMC’s 2017 Emerging Conservation Leader Award pays homage to a larger outdoor legacy. Although his namesake casts a long shadow, Schwartz has made a name for himself on the AT, where he has been a trail maintainer since the age of 3. After graduating from the University of Maine in May, Schwartz hopes to become a land surveyor, continuing to follow MacKaye’s storied boot tracks.
AMC Outdoors caught up with Phair and Schwartz to find out what motivates them to be such stellar ambassadors of AMC.
How did you get started with AMC?
Phair: At the time, I was between jobs and I saw a help-wanted ad for the reservations department in the local paper. As I come from a family of outdoors enthusiasts, I thought AMC would be a welcome change, giving me the opportunity to assist folks in planning outdoor adventures. My son says this is my dream job, and I think he is right.
Schwartz: My parents are AMC members, so they would take me on work trips when I was young. I also have to credit Sally Naser, the conservation restriction program manager for the Massachusetts-based Trustees of Reservations. She introduced me to AT corridor monitoring at a workshop she led for AMC’s Delaware Valley Chapter in 2007.
What’s your fondest AMC memory?
Phair: Meeting AT hiker Cimarron in 2011. He celebrated his 89th birthday with AMC staff at Pinkham Notch during his second AT hike. We have stayed in touch ever since.
Schwartz: After I finish a trail work project—especially in a muddy section, like a bog bridge replacement—I enjoy hearing hikers [say], “Thank you for the work you did,” instead of complaining about the rocks and mud.
What’s your favorite part about volunteering?
Schwartz: I enjoy corridor boundary monitoring. It’s an off-trail treasure hunt. I look for illegal activities within the AT corridor, such as hunting, logging, and the use of all-terrain vehicles. I enjoy monitoring because it helps to protect the hiking experience and it promotes hiker safety.
What’s your top AMC destination to visit as a guest?
Phair: Joe Dodge Lodge. This is where I work, and I get to see nature change from day to day. Sometimes a moose will be grazing in the lodge’s wildflower garden, or maybe it’s the first day I’ll hear frogs in the spring.
What would you like to learn from Benton?
Phair: I’m amazed at how quickly a difference was made in the quality of the trail just by cleaning debris. I would love it if Benton could teach me how to do more trail work.
What would you like to learn from Ann?
Schwartz: I’d like to know how she’s able to handle so many reservations at once.