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Chattanooga Hiking Meetup Message Board › Group Size Limits

Group Size Limits

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Rhonda
user 14091160
Acworth, GA
Post #: 21
There are several reasons that we limit group sizes on our hikes.

In some cases, certain wilderness areas specifically limit group sizes to smaller groups (often limiting us to bringing only 12), and actually fine groups that are larger. We have ensured that our group is always in compliance with local regulations, but I know of a certain meetup group that informed me that they had actually been fined before. Our group has made great efforts to develop relationships with local parks and park rangers, so we want to make sure that we are in compliance. Several states, including Florida, Massachusetts, Arizona, Washington, etc. often limit group sizes to between 12 and 15 to ensure that the ecological footprint of the group does not leave a large impact in the wilderness area. Although many of the places we visit may not have established limits, we set limits for similar reasons.

Ultimately, the safety of our members is also a concern. Though each hiker assumes responsibility for their own safety when joining in on event, we follow the principal that all hikers are looked after and all return to the trailhead together. If an injury were to occur on a hike (ex. a twisted ankle), the trip leader makes every effort to ensure that all hikers, including the one injured, gets back to the vehicles safely. With larger groups that can be a more difficult task.

Keeping group sizes smaller also helps reduce damage to the trail, minimizes social impacts on other visitors, and protects wildlife habitat. When we have larger groups, we also utilize more of the parking areas, and in areas where parking is limited, we don’t want to hoard all of the spots, as we want everyone to be able to enjoy the trails, and not just members of the Chattanooga Hiiking Meetup.

Larger group sizes also affect wildlife in the area. A large group can’t help but make a bigger noise, visual, and physical impact as they travel. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we are really loud, but even when mere ongoing conversations take longer to pass through an area because there are more of us, it makes for more noise. The impact of feet on the trail, perhaps stepping on a stick or tree root, etc. This will likely cause wildlife to stay away from the area. Thus with large groups, we are less likely to see wildlife, as they will stay clear of us. For those that may like to see, and take pictures of, deer and the like, this opportunity will be lessened with larger groups.

Group sizes of 15-20 are also much more manageable for the trip leader than a group of 30 or more. Trip leaders ensure that the group stays together, and is often doing numeric head counts to make sure that everyone is accounted for. You may or may not realize this, as we don’t get people to line up for the count. It’s just something that we do mentally several times during a hike. A variety of levels of hikers show up at the different events as well, so trip leaders determine a reasonable pace for the group, while also ensuring that the group stays together. This can become a little more difficult to do with a larger group. As well, those that are newer to leading events may be more comfortable leading a smaller group.
Smaller group sizes also make it easier for newer folks to get to know other members, and vice versa. Our members are an integral part of our group. Therefore, we don’t want folks to just show up at a hike and feel like just another person there, and that they show up, hike, and just leave. We want members to be able to get to know other members, and feel like part of the group, rather than feel like just someone that attended an event.

If we find that a specific hike fills up quickly, we may opt to add that hike to the calendar again in the future so that others may enjoy it as well.

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