Hello there, Women Outdoors!
This is a long overdue explanation of our decision to return to Sargent Center for the 2017 Gathering. The process of choosing where we would hold the 2017 Gathering was far more complicated and difficult than you might imagine.
But first, here's a registration reminder: prices go up $50 after May 4. If you haven't registered yet, now's the time!
Before I dive into the decision-making process about the venue, I want to share with you some details on how this year will be different from past years in a few important ways:
1. We won't have the minimum Sargent Center payment of $10,000 hanging over our heads. That's important, because our attendance numbers have been sliding down, and it was getting to be a scary financial commitment.
2. We may be sharing the venue with another group. That's the tradeoff for removing the $10K minimum. We don't know yet who we might share it with, if we share it at all. But we do know that...
3. We won't have the run of the place as we've had in the past. As well, there will no longer be a discount for camping—Sargent Center doesn't make any money on it, so they've removed the discount and it now costs the same to tent as it did to stay in the Yurt Village. They'll figure out which lodges/dorms they'll put us in, depending on our attendance numbers. We can safely assume that we probably won't get to sprawl out in a cabin with just a few friends as we have in the past. Expect that we'll be in rooms that are shared with others.
We're well aware that returning to Sargent Center is a disappointment to the members who have to travel a looooong way to get to New Hampshire and were hoping we'd wind up in a more western location in 2017. Choosing a location that would give them a needed break on travel time was a core point of our deliberations. Before I explain what those deliberations entailed, let me tell you that we are now looking into signing a contract with a fabulous venue in Western Massachusetts, in the Berkshires, for 2018. They're checking to see if Memorial Day weekend is available. If not, we may explore other weekends at that venue in 2018. WE HEAR YOUR PAIN, NEW YORK AND ALL THOSE WHO'VE TREKKED A LONG WAY TO SARGENT FOR YEARS OR NEVER COME BECAUSE IT'S TOO FAR!!
What factors went into the decision?
To get to this point, the Gathering Committee researched 11 possible venues in 6 states: NH, MA, CT, VT, ME and NY. We focused on features including whether we needed to have our own insurance policy, accessibility for handicapped and elderly members, price, outdoor features such as access to boating or mountains, dates of availability, and more. All of the deliberations, and a good deal of haggling over prices, were done with an eye toward avoiding sharp price increases. We want MORE people to come, not fewer because of sticker shock!
We wound up with two venues that were neck-and-neck on all of those points. We picked Sargent for this year, and we're hoping to hold the 2018 Gathering at the Berkshire Outdoor Center in Becket, MA.
A HUGE THANK YOU...
...to the members of the Gathering Committee and the Board of Directors for their hard work on this project. They untold hours doing research online, by phone, and even visiting sites in person, throughout New England, as well as deliberating on conference calls. As an organization, we're simply blessed to have all these talented, passionate volunteers take so much time out of their lives and expend so much energy to do this on our behalf.
And of course, huge thanks go out to all of our members who lead trips, to our Regional Contacts for their hard work, to our web mavens Sandy and Kathleen for keeping the machinery of our site up and running, to Anna DeSousa for keeping her treasury magic going while we seek a new treasurer to step into her shoes and give her a well-deserved retirement, and to each and every one of our members who bring their warm, wonderful selves to outings and to the Gathering.
You all make this hard work worthwhile. Thanks for sharing your stories, your laughter and your gorgeous hearts.
See you at the Gathering!
Your Servant & President,