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01 July 2005


It is indeed a sad truth that club membership is aging. I have belonged to two tramping clubs over the last 5 years in different places. One does offer regular trips but few weekend and the most interesting day trips are on wednesday's. The other has a small active membership but few tramping trips other than the ones I put on the program that gets little interest. How ever in times of declining interest in clubs it is usefull that older members keep the clubs going as some would fold up with out that commitment by those who may nolonger actually do any tramping. I was once on a CTC day trip that had 70 people on it. With rising transport costs we may well see a return to clubs to help defray costs.

Good web site Frank,
Cheer's Alan.

Alan. Thanks for your comments.
It's saddest in small clubs where a decline in participation can see organised trips whither to nothing.
Even the CTC, which still thinks of itself as a big club, has declined to around 200 members now (minus the inactive associate members).

Hi Frank You may remember me meet at CTC Hut at Arthurs Pass am active did work for DOC on Maud Chetwode & Long Islands in Marlbourgh Sounds also Biked the Otago Central Rail Trail as well as trips and Rides in the local Tararua & Rimutaka areas. Clubs here are hard to get into seem a very closed shop for us older people so we go out by ourselves into the hills and bush. Still as now 65 & 70 we plan to wear out not rust out Regards to Honara

Michael, I sure do remember you and Jean. Great to hear you're both still out and about in the hills, and doing really interesting stuff too.
A few people have told me they can only get onto club trips they find boring. It's a shame when they don't have a companion they can do their own tramps with.
Keep well and look after each other.

Just to add a few cents, I guess I'm relatively young for someone in a tramping club. I'm also a late starter, not having really gotten into (overnight) tramping until my mid-20s.

The club I joined seems to be the only non-university tramping club in New Zealand I'm aware of that doesn't feel as if it's dominated by an ageing membership. I know there are older people around, but the active membership tends to be made of people who are probably mostly under 40, and are often in their 20s.

I at least have theories about why this is. My guess is that it's partly due to a thing about Wellington, and there's also a way of organisation that helps. The Wellington comment is because there tend to be a lot of relatively young professionals who shift to Wellington to work but want to get outdoors on the side. Then, because it's Wellington, they live somewhere near town and rely on public transport to get to work, but don't own a car. Looking for a club is one of the automatic things these people do to solve the transport problem, and I think the number of active members who've joined within the last few years tend to fit this description. People don't always stay forever, but sometimes they do, and they'll bring along friends from work (often more migrants). I guess it's less likely to get these types of people in smaller centres, especially since there are less migrants outside cities, and people in those areas will tend to own cars so are less dependent on others.

It's definitely not just the club's location that matters, though. There are several largish clubs in Wellington, and demographically those clubs are very different. When we anecdotally looked around clubs a few years back to figure out the differences, the first one we checked out was very hard to get involved in, even though everyone there was trying to be nice and helpful. During the first daytrip, we had to phone the guy organising (not annoying by itself) and he acted very surprised, and kind-of put out, that someone he'd never met or who wasn't in his club should want to turn up to a trip he was running. He was doing his best to be helpful, but it was obvious that he wasn't used to new people, and at times it was fairly awkward. For the second trip, which was a family graded daywalk, the organiser was very helpful but also confused about how we'd even heard about the trip. (We told her it was listed on the club's schedule, which it was.) We showed up, and for a family trip there weren't actually any children -- it turned out that the children had all grown up and moved onto other things long ago, and the family group was now made up of parents of grown-up children who were so used to going on trips together that they still always did. The thing about the club, though, was that all the grading groups seemed to be like that. Each grade had its staple group of people, and they (apparently) didn't mix n' match much. They just figured out between themselves what they wanted to do, and someone outside this would draw up a schedule. At least that's how it seemed. True to this, at the end of the day as we reached a carpark, the people in the family group all got together and started arranging a celebration of someone's birthday in the next few days. My girlfriend and I were apologetically shunned off to the side.

This experience was very different to my current favourite club, which seems to be much better organised, and (for me) it's just a million times easier because everyone uses email and computers to organise everything, and everyone actually checks their email on a frequent basis -- that probably helps to attract younger people, but it's not that alone. People shift and change between the trip grades, and rather than rely on some people taking cars, the club provides vans (formerly a bus) for shared transport, so that even people who tend to stick with particular grades get to know people in other grades very quickly. There's no question that the club relies on volunteers to get stuff done, but there's a lot of support and structure in place to help people do things. It's unusual for relatively new people to be involved for longer than a year without ending up involved in some way, whether it's on the committee or organising trips or writing for the newsletter, or in some kind of supporting role.

I suppose having a few younger people tends to help attract more younger people, but it's by no means the only thing that matters.

Thanks for a great contribution Mike. Your club does sound like it's on the right track. I especially like the way new people are allowed into the running of things.
Your experiences with other clubs bring a smile too. Of course mostly these would be nice people. They just seem to have lost the plot a bit.
I remember when I was my clubs' trip organiser. Right at the start I set out with the (unannounced) aim to double trip participation in two years. I got to 97%. Some of the easy, more social, trips started getting quite large. The club vice-president wanted to place a cap on trips, she said to make them more manageable. I took her at her word and pointed out how group management on large trips needn't be an issue. I also added that I thought it best to leave these trips unrestricted because they were ideal for attracting and inducting new people into the club. That's when she delivered what was a bombshell to me. She said she didn't like the way the club was growing. She didn't like coming along on club night and "feeling like a stranger in my own club." (!!!) Simple soul that I was til then I'd thought everyone was just in it for the tramping and glad to share it. :)

Hah -- if newer people get involved to help with the boring admin stuff, it means everyone else can do less. :)

Oh yes, they're nice people. I think there was just a contradiction in the efforts to get new members along, which clashed with how the club actually worked. We may also have just been unlucky.

I know if I go away for 6 months and come back, the people will often be different, especially since people show up for different reasons, but the staple poeple tend to stick around. Even on many trips, it's common to have maybe a person or occasionally two who've not been around very long. Then every so often I meet someone who I think is new, but they've just been away for 10-15 years getting a family, or something like that. I've only been around the club for 4.

As for large trips, I think I feel more awkward going out in larger groups, not least because it's possible to inadvertedly take over places when visiting them if others are around. Our club probably wouldn't have more than about 10-11 people on a trip, and that'd be large. (It's also partly constricted by transport capacity.) I think if there was enough interest though, it'd be easy to run several trips to different places... there usually seem to be 2, 3 or 4 trips on a weekend of various different grades already.

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