Walter Graf From AMC retiring

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Sep 3, 2003
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Gorham NH
An article about Walters Graf's tenure and retirement from the AMC.

Walter was one of the folks who got to pick up the pieces after AMC upper management managed to alienate not just a few local employers but a large amount of the political establishment of the state of NH. The article does bring up some AMC history that many long term members were unaware of as it definitely was "whitewashed" to the membership if it was communicated at all. I knew a couple of the individuals on the other side of the hydro dam relicensing and it definitely understates AMC's role. AMC and Andy Falender were the lead on this and the clubs requested "ransom" for not objecting to the re-licensing was transfer of large amounts of private land (frontage on Lake Umbagog and along the Androscoggin) to be transferred to the club and even more land to be put in conservation easement. This ultimately led to multiple parties requesting a full EIS (quite costly) for the huts where the club needed to justify that it deserved to be able to continue their special use permits for the hut system. It also kicked off many years of attempts by state politicians to get back at the club via the hiut system. They also note hiring a local representative to work on north country affairs. I worked with this individual on occasion and he may have been sponsored by the Ford foundation grant but he definitely did not advertise who he worked for in public. The goal was to support any nascent attempts at outdoor recreation in the North Country but keep AMC's "fingerprints" off the project. It was obvious to the participants but allowed the projects to be supported by businesses and the press that would not publicly supply direct support to the AMC. The mills owner in Berlin and Gorham who the AMC gave such a hard time to was a sponsor of the Source to the Sea for several years so the dodge worked. AMC dumped Marcel when the funding ran out.

I have heard from several sources that the idea to have more huts on owned/controlled land was a direct response to the EIS effort. The club realized that the huts were a cash cow but they could lose them all except Lonesome Lake in another permit cycle and there was little or no opportunity to expand. The Mohican Center partnership never really picked up the level of traction the club wanted plus it was at the whim of the NPS so it wasnt an option. Maine Huts and Trails had the territory from Western Maine to Greenville staked out. If not for the convenient need of Plum Creek to "greenwash" their development proposal in the Greenville Maine area, the AMC Maine woods initiative probably would not have happened. I suspect it was not a spontaneous offer on Plum Creeks behalf. The reported success of the Maine Woods Initiative may be successful as a land protection campaign but various sources claim that they are not getting the traffic they planned for at the lodges. One source commented that they have used it quite successfully for fundraising so endowment revenue and logging revenue from logging operations covers the expenses. Having the illusion of viable facilities just allows them to do more fundraising. It is interesting that director of this area headed over to BSP earlier this year to be chief ranger. Its not unusual for movement of mid level management between non profits but usually at this level there can be other reasons usually related to lack of advancement in an organization.
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Yes, the aggressive pursuits of self righteous extremists like Ferlander was fodder for the term Massholes and there is still some resentment of our license plates up north which, at least partially, stem from this history. Hopefully, time will heal all wounds and the good work done by various chapters and field employees will outshine the shadow cast by these corporate extortionistas.

Walter Graf was a bright star in my modest observations ... and I'm not just talking about the time he picked up my son and me hitchhiking a leg of our Presidential backpack. He helped reverse the PR disaster in New Hampshire and did what seems a great job assuring it did not repeat itself in the Maine woods where I believe AMC is viewed more as a partner and not a dictator.