Pack Llama TrAil Association
In June of 2014 the previous president of the PLTA concluded that it was time to end the Pack Llama Trial Association. She had been president for seven years and during that time carried much of the burden of keeping the organization running. She felt that given the apparent lack of members’ interest and declining membership, the best course of action was to draw the existence of the Pack Llama Trial Association to a close, archive the database and disperse the funds. Without consulting the membership, she put her decision to the Board of Directors.
Counting the president and myself, there were six members of the board at the time. Three objected. The vote to disband was tied. Since I was the person most adamantly objecting, the president told me that if I could find enough people to fill the requisite five positions on the Board of Directors by the end of the month, she would allow the organization to continue.
In a mad scramble, I found three people who were willing to dedicate a significant amount of their time to making the organization work. We brainstormed long and hard about what was ailing the Association and what we could do to revitalize it. We decided on a course of action to broaden the scope of the PLTA by providing support to activities beyond pack trials. Most especially, we wanted to focus on providing educational materials and activities that would help people build the best possible relationship with their working llamas, as well as inform non-llama people about the abilities these llamas posses. It seemed very straightforward. It wasn’t.
Because the annual reports to the IRS had not been filled out, the PLTA had lost its non-profit status years earlier. There were no clear financial records. There was no budget. The website was a mess and, due to lack of payment of the hosting company, had been closed down leaving no access to files and no backup. The database design was ineffective. Data entry and maintenance had been a long standing nightmare. Bylaws were in need of revision. Access to financial accounts was unavailable. There were no administrative policies in place to ensure the smooth running of the Association.
With the help of two more new members the Board of Directors began rebuilding. This required tremendous dedication and investment of time. Board members literally put their lives on hold just to steady the boat. The long process of regaining non-profit status was begun. Financial accounts and records were cleaned up. A new website was constructed. The bylaws were revised. Administrative policies were established. Work was begun on Standing Rules, a document that outlines the procedures of the Association with specific details that are not included in the bylaws. The name of the Association was changed from Pack Trial to Pack Trail to conform to a typographical error on the part of the State of Idaho where the Association is incorporated, and in the hopes of reflecting a broader scope for the Association. The Mileage Program was re-instated. A new curriculum for the Packer’s Primer training program was begun. Two new programs, GeoLlama and the Challenge were designed as vehicles for fun and education. The Challenge was tested and formally put into operation as an official PLTA program. Members willing to manage the Mileage Program and Challenge were found and trained. Committees necessary to support the goal of broadening the scope of the Association were identified and began to be established. Driving llamas were recognized as under the umbrella of PLTA working llamas and a new committee began a project to evaluate and promote them. Database research and designs are underway for construction of a new, more sophisticated system. The organization has taken steps to simplify the process of becoming a pack trial certifier and has added three new certifiers in the past year. Additionally, PLTA has stepped up to formally comment on attempts at national and state levels to limit the access of llamas to the backcountry, helping to reverse this proposal regarding national parkland in Alaska. Finally, members were polled to determine what their priorities are and how the Board can best support them.
Rebuilding is a major ongoing effort that has taken a toll on Board members. Trying to rebuild as quickly as possible has, at times, caused confusion. A mismatch between the dream, the continuing work, and available labor has caused board members to be overwhelmed with PLTA duties, family responsibilities, and real jobs. This has resulted in several resignations leaving four vacancies on the Board. Dedication to the PLTA's mission remains strong with the five remaining board members, however help is needed.
The Pack Llama Trail Association is special. There is no comparable llama organization in the world. The mission of the PLTA to preserve and promote working llamas, through education of the public and members of the association as to breeding, raising, training, care, and safe and humane uses of working llamas as companions is noble and necessary. The PLTA is designed to be member driven and the Board needs to hear more from you, the members. With only one member participating in the 2014 members’ meeting the Board replaced the 2015 meeting with a questionnaire sent out via email. A number of PLTA members responded and we thank them, but we are anxious to hear more.Support, constructively criticize, question, but become involved. Step in to replace the lost Board members, participate through committee work, writing/editing, program management and project efforts. Let’s not allow the previous president’s assessment that nobody cares and that nobody really wants the PLTA to ring true. If you have ever considered stepping up, voicing your opinion, and helping the PLTA move forward, now is the time. The couple of hours you volunteer per week will be rewarding for you and helpful to the PLTA for years to come.
Please visit the PLTA web site at http://packllama.org to join the organization, renew your membership, or contact any of the current members of the Board of Directors about how you can help. We are looking forward to working with our members to promote additional opportunities to train, test, and use working llamas and educate people about the joys of doing so. Thank you for your time.
President, Pack Llama Trail Association