bob goeckel

Wooden Canoe Maniac
i recently attended my first get together of the local chapter and there was a long discussion on moving the assembly. there was discussion about Pokagon st. park and i brought up the idea of the city where i live as a possible site(river, college,camping,lodging). it was suggested that i look into it. i spent time getting local interest from the mayor's office, the convention and visitors bur., the college and the local river protection group. i then tried to contact some members about this. i was greatly dissapointed in my failure to get call backs from a number of members and only speaking to one boad member who only directed me to the site requirments on the website. makes one wonder if the average member is just not that important. i wonder if other members have also been ignored and perhaps found other places to send their dues. well i've given up on the idea. perhaps a few of us could start a separate canoe group in our local area. :mad: :( :( :confused:

Though I won't make any apologies for the Board - the discussion of alternate Assembly sites comes up all the time, and quite franky it's a pain in the rear to do the work - I know, I've researched three alternative sites and all three fell through in the end.

If you are serious about following through with an alternate site plan, be sure you read through the Assembly Site Guidelines and have all your ducks in a row before you call Tom - the Assembly Coordinator.

He's heard from dozens of members over the years who generally start out by saying "I have this great Assembly Site in mind" and in the end the costs are prohibitive, the logistics unworkable, and the timeframe is not acceptable.

The Assembly has been held at numerous sites however, and each time it's because a member has taken the initiative to do the work required for the logistics - working with Tom on any agreements of course. A Local Assembly Committee will ultimately be required to manage all of the logistics of the site and the area - as any new site poses numerous challenges that we don't see at an annual site, simply because they have been worked through already.

It's not an easy task, though remember we are ALL volunteers - even the Board members who appear to not be willing to give you the time you request. In addition, we VOTE the Board Members into power, so don't hesitate to name names and list specifics so that we are all better informed as to who is helpful and who is not.

It is OUR organization, run by volunteer members for all of our members, and as such is only what we - the volunteer members - make it.

If you are jazzed about an alternative site, by all means contact Tom and go through the steps. Be forewarned however, he will not take your site recommendation and then do all the legwork to see if it's a viable site - you will be expected to bring that to the table; in excrutiating detail.

The last two sites that I looked at were way too expensive - an Assembly would have cost $1500 per person to attend once lodging, site rental, site liability insurance and food were taken into account. One of these sites even had a hidden parking fee that would have cost us $20 for each vehicle on campus for the weekend, and a launching fee that would have cost $15 for each canoe! On top of that, one site would not allow us to boat OR swim without their lifeguard on duty at a cost of $250 a day!

It was a very frustrating and eye-opening exercise for me to say the least.

Don't let that disuade you however, there are some great site opportunities out there for sure.

thanks for the reply tim. sometimes i vent more than i should. didn't think about it being all volunteers. :eek:
thank you to the people who have emailed me about starting a new organization. while that may get the powers that be to pay some attention i don't think there are enough of us to make that a viable alternative. i have heard from a few who have spoken with their feet and walked, but i don't think that gets any attention.
For anyone who wants to quit the WCHA and start your own organization, I can tell you it's a lot more work than you think...

You would be much better off from a return on investment perspective to get involved in THIS organization and change the things you don't like.

Just run an Assembly - one time. Take an active role on the Assembly Committee - my wife and I organized the Assembly Program for 5 years I think - and you'll quickly realize that there are far more people who talk about doing something than there are who do something. Hundreds of volunteer hours are required just to manage the Program - not to mention all the rest of the logistics.

Remembers it's an all-volunteer organization, and all of YOU are the volunteers.

There is no group of people consipiring in the dark to decide what happens - these are the Board that YOU elect. They represent a cross section of the WCHA community from the owner and enthusiast to the hobby builder and professional - and all of them can be replaced with a simple vote. Your vote.

Want to change how it works - then volunteer! Run for the Board. Volunteer to serve on a committee. Volunteer to create your OWN NEW committee - that's what I did.

I wanted to see the WCHA on the World Wide Web back when the web was just beginning - hard to believe it was that long ago... There was no money from the WCHA and nothing but resistance from the Board. Few if any of them even had computers at the time, and no one thought there would be any interest in wooden canoes on the Internet.

I brought a mock-up of the website to an Assembly and gave a presentation off my laptop. The College did not have the right equipment to hook my computer up, and I spent the first day scrambling for hardware. I showed what a WCHA website might look like, and some of the things we might do. I was met with skeptism and anything but enthusiasm from all but a small group of members. That was enough though - that glimmer from a few that said this could work.

The WCHA Website was born.

I drafted Benson in the first year, and Dan soon after, to help with the management, content creation and promotion of the site. We've since added Bill to run the Virtual Bookstore, and all of you as adicts :). We know what happens when the site is not available - now. None would have missed it in the early days if I had taken it offline for weeks at a time...

It's been a labor of love - that started with Board tolerance, no Board support and no money.

We decided early on that we would not plaster the website with commercial ads. That meant the first 5 years the site ran well into the red - and I paid the bills out of my own pocket. The site has had years when it's broken even over 12 months, but not lately, and not over it's lifetime.

That does not change the commitment that myself and the other volunteers have to the success of the website and it's continued growth.

We've had Board members tell us that the website is hurting membership. We've had Board members tell us that we are giving away all the knowledge and secrets of the WCHA for free and that we should charge for access to the website.

I believe - and I'm sure that most of you do to - that the website is vital and only works to increase membership and make the lives of our members easier and more productive. Increasing communication to a two-way dialog with prospective new members will only increase membership.

We know it works.

We have the data to prove it - and the Board is now on our side, though there are still skeptics and still stone-throwers among them, as well as among the membership in general.

I expect this. We are a diverse community.

If you want to make change happen in the WCHA - at any level - don't run away and start your own group, that's been done once already with limited if any success.

STEP UP. Volunteer. Figure out how to make your changes part of the WCHA today - and recognize that you will not get your way just because you ask. You have to work at it, like anything else in life. There will be support and there will be skepticism, but if you believe, you can make change happen, and for the better.


Well said, Tim... I, for one, would never have become a member if it wasn't for the web. I found the organization on the web and I have learned a bunch just from reading the posts. Any questions are promptly answered and I know of nowhere you can go to get any better. The only complaint is that the magazine is not a monthly... I would love to read it more ofter... KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK...
tim, not to sound argumentative but i think that is what i was trying to do. get involved. perhaps not in the best way. but i thought i could offer a possible solution to the assembly location. site locations was brought up at the local chapter meeting and i was trying to put in my 2c worth. i spent some time getting some local people interested then hit a bit of a brick wall with some people in the wcha. promises to call back(not) no returned phone calls after repeated attempts at leaving messages. i wasn't trying to "get my way" just trying to offer an alternative. if that is not an attempt to get involved.... anyway i am a member and will stay a member. i use the web site alot. my vent was an attempt to say Hellllllloooooo is anybody out there?
Bob - I think you missed my point.

If I had simply taken the first response from the Board and some very senior members of the WCHA when I proposed the website - we would not have a website today.

If I took the criticism that has been leveled at the website by some Board members over the years - as recent as last Spring - we would not have a website; or at least not one like we have today.

Don't quit just because you've received some push back. Remember Tom and those Board members who have been around a while have had hundreds of members say things like "This will make a perfect Assembly site" with no intent of doing all the work needed to actually make an alternative site work. They are definitely jaded when it comes to alternative site proposals. You'll have to prove to them you are willing to do ALL the work in assembling the data on a site - not simply part of the work and then pass it off to someone else to complete.

If you are serious about an alternative Assembly site - keep at it. Don't let up simply because someone did not return your phone call.

That's too easy.

It's very hard to put on an Assembly. When an alternative site is selected it will take a Local Assembly Committee - an entity that DOES NOT CURRENTLY EXIST - months and months of planning and work to pull it off. This committe typically has 10-15 people on it, and many hundreds of hours if not collectively thousands of hours will be spent by this committee to make an alternative Assembly site happen.

The Local Assembly Committee for Peterborough worked for two years making that Assembly happen - and it STILL required the regular amount of work from the static Assembly committee on top of that.

If you still want to do this, by all means keep up the effort. Getting the WCHA Board to approve your idea is the easiest part. Following through on all the remaining hard work will be much more difficult - and take a huge commitment.

When I researched alternative sites I easily spent 100 hours on each site over several months - only to have them fall through with not meeting one or more of the objectives. Agian - an Assembly that costs $1500 to attend will not happen.

I gave up.

I'm not suggesting that you do - quite the opposite.

If you really want to make it happen, you can.

That's all I'm saying.


So then we have you to blame (or credit) for the addiction that has taken hold of us so hard, :) and the piles of loosely assembled, half rotten wood that collect in the garage such that we can no longer get the cars in?

I, like I'm sure many others, wouldn't know ANYTHING about W/C much less have some and be involved with them without the existance of the WCHA web site. Prior to building a stripper and learning about W/C, the only canoe I was ever in was a Grumman.

As far as I'm concerned, far and away, the most valuable "activity" that the WCHA does is the web site.

A special thanks to you, Dan and Benson for creating and maintaining this resource.

As for the offerings of alternative Assembly locations. It seems like there should be an alternative "process" for providing ideas, with maybe a little "give" on both sides. I was at the Assembly and listened while requests were made for ideas for alternate locations, and I don't remember any discussion about desiring a large amount of info to support an alternate location.

The quickest way to shutdown ideas is to reject them or ask for a lot of additional data before they are accepted for consideration. People just won't do it.

The problem with alternative Assembly sites is really simple. Everyone "knows" one or two, but no one knows enough about them to really propose them.

There are some hard and fast issues, and they are pretty simple.

From memory:

Must handle 500 attendees with both indoor and outdoor program areas - classroom, auditorium and lawn effectively

Must have lodging and parking

Must have boat access to an appropriate paddling area for the program

Must be available last week in July/First week in August time frame

Must have adequate access, security and insurance

Must be cost effective.

Most of the locations fall out on the last one - as they simply are not cost effective.

There are thousands of locations aound the country that will be happy to host us for $1500-2500 per person for the 4 day period. No one will come.

When I was on the Assembly Committee, we received literally dozens of suggestions on places to have the Assembly, but no one was willing to do all the work required to see if the site met the goals.

Lots of thinkers and no doers.

The Assembly Committee is not there to do all the research. It's a huge task - trust me, I've done it.

I know it sounds crass, but it's simple fact. Tom isn't going to do the research. He'll be happy to share with you all the logictics AFTER you prove that you are serious and not simply throwing out an idea.

I think at one point we had 20 different locations on the table as suggestions, and NO ONE offered to do the research on "their" suggestion to see if it met the requirements.

As I said, I researched two of them and it took me hundred of hours, countless phone calls - on my own dime and they were all long distance - only to eventually discover they fell out.

The Local Committee is no joke either once a site is chosen. The logistics of going to a new place for the Assembly are huge. HUGE.

What generally happens is that someone suggests we move the assembly, then someone else suggests a site that is "perfect" and everyone expects "The WCHA" to research the site and all the logistics and then move the Assembly.

I'm telling you it just won't happen that way.

You can certainly try to replace the Assembly Coordinator and change the way that Assemblies are planned, but that's not likely to happen.

If you - the generic you - want to move the Assembly to another location, you will have to step and provide all the resources to do so.

I have to stand up for Bob here. As one who has volunteered (for Assembly functions, to promote the WCHA, to coordinate or perform activities...), either to be ignored or actively rebuffed, I know from where he speaks. True, it is much easier to throw out ideas than to proactively work for solutions. But Tim, to suggest that there are "lots of thinkers and no doers" cannot possibly be accurate (I know you were specifically referring to your experience with Assembly organization, but using it in this context suggests a broader belief). If thinking didn't translate into doing on the part of at least some of those thinkers, we would have no WCHA.

Bob's original post indicates that he was, in fact, doing much more than just thinking- he was selling the idea and asking important questions of the mayor, convention/visitor's beaurea, the school, etc. Dan said it well- to simply reject ideas or not even give the slightest enthusiastic consideration without prior "hundreds of hours" of legwork is the quickest way to kill proactive involvement.

Unfortunately, I have become increasingly convinced that the dispelling of member enthusiasm has become a self-fulfilling function of the WCHA. We have a Board that is largely in the northeastern US (or has moved elsewhere from the NE after being elected) despite having members the world over. This also despite (my belief that) we could have far greater membership in other parts of the US and the world if the power structure would only reach out and encourage enthusiasm and participation in areas far-flung from the northeast.

The fact that the power is concentrated in the northeast leads to greater Chapter activity there, which in turn helps ensure that the power structure stays there. The least that the WCHA can (and should!) do is encourage members outside the northeast to be a strong part of the organization. Even if the DIScouragement is not overt, it exists. The fact that it may come in subtle form is no less harmful to the long-range future of the larger WCHA.

Let me give one specific example (I could discuss a variety of others)- Board candidates' statements of interest in serving have often included the statement "Why, I've attended the last 942 (or so) meetings of the WCHA Assembly." Sure- if it's always held in your backyard and there is little real incentive for moving it elsewhere. What about that amazingly productive wooden canoe enthusiast in central California?...unlikely to attend every Assembly held at Paul Smiths (wonderful place as it is), and unlikely to ever get very encouraged about doing much to bring the WCHA to the west coast, particularly if neglected or, worse yet, discouraged from participating. The highly biased Assembly attendance, and the highly biased importance that Assembly attendance takes on, all by themselves are forms of discouragement to at least some members. And it gets worse.

Tim, I very much applaude your vigorous defense of all those who have worked VERY hard to make this organization as great as it is- I begrudge none of them anything. And like everyone else, I appreciate, admire, and thank you profusely for your selfless work on this website. But members can feel a genuine sense of loss at not being taken seriously when trying to give of themselves. I read and appreciated your statement "I'm not suggesting that you [give up] - quite the opposite", but it can get increasingly difficult to dredge up enthusiasm after it has been squashed, whether intentionally or through benign neglect.

Michael, I'm sorry you feel that way.

To say that the Board is made up of members from the Northeast is not the fault of the Board. We elect the Board - not prior Boards. If you don't want New Englanders or New Yorkers on the Board - don't vote for them. There is nothing clandestine going on here.

If you look at the current Board, we have:

Bill Conrad - PA
Tom MacKenzie - SC
James C. Altemus - NY
Al Bratton - PA
Bill Hall - NY
Paul Knuth - PA
Jack McGreivey - NY
Dave Rappe - CT
Pam Wedd - Ontario

Interestingly enough this also pretty much represents the membership density. The majority of the membership fall in the areas from where the majority of the Board members come. Not surprising that the largest pool of potential candidates has the best representation.

We have had Board members from outside the Northeast, and certainly nothing precludes anyone in the organization - from anywhere in the world - for running for the Board.

It's a thankless job, unpaid, many out-of-pocket expenses, and I'm thrilled we have people who are willing to step up and take the job. They get dumped on more than any other organization I've ever been a part of. The definition of thankless as far as I'm concerned. I've been asked countless times to run - virtually every election cycle. I have no interest at all. Sounds silly, I know, but I feel I can be of more use to the organization outside of the Board and it's boundaries.

I'll counter your argument for moving the Assembly to California however and argue that Washington State would be better. Why? They already run their own Assembly every single year. I attended one year - probably 6 years ago now as I have family out there - and will probably go again. These guys have experience running an Asssembly - and it was a good one. They have a standing Assembly Committee however and a very active chapter. About as far from New England and the "power base" as you can get, and they have been very successful.

California can certainly do the same thing. Why not? All chapters are encouraged to get together, and regional gatherings are encouraged as well. Al Bratton has made that his primary mission and his role on the Board - the Chapter Coordinator. I know when I started the Chapter here in Maine, Al was very helpful. We did not get enough people to volunteer to keep the chapter viable so it ultimately folded, but 120 people signed up to be members... If only 10 of those had signed up to be doers we would have had a great chapter... Everyone expected someone else to do the work, and after 24 months or so it folded.

There are very few doers in any organization. Sorry to say it, but it's true.

If more people stood up and did, then more things would get done.

I don't buy the "benign neglect" argument at all, I'm sorry. It reeks of victim mentality. I'm not a victim, and I don't recommend that anyone else play this role.

There is a public forum right here to air your honest grievances and stir up support for any activity you wish to have the WCHA support. We don't censor anything unless it's a personal attack - and though I have been asked in the past to remove posts that some felt were not kind, as long as they were not personal attacks and stayed on the issues - they were left here.

If any member wants to get involved, I know that Bill Conrad will be thrilled to hear from you. Anyone. If you are not tenacious enough to stick with something through adversity however, it will never happen. Like it or not, this is not an easy organization to move.

Look at the Journal. How long has color in the Journal been on the table? Do we have color in the Journal? I wonder if we'll see color in the Journal in my lifetime. Years ago, Quenell stated that we could publish the Journal for roughly the same costs in color as in black and white. John is gone. The Journal is still in black and white. If you wanted to make that a litmus test for the Board - it could be. No one wants to fight that hard however, so it's a non-issue. The majority of the membership really don't care to change anything - they are happy to accept things just as they are, in whatever direction the organization goes.

There is a wide enough range of personalities and agendas in the organization that you must be thick-skinned and strong-willed to get anything done that is out of the standard flow.

Is that optimal? Of course not. If we had a paid Board of Directors we would never stand for it.

We don't have a paid Board. We have a group who ask for the abuse - for whatever reason. If you want to change the makeup of the Board - you have that opportunity at every election. I would love to see 20 people run every time there was a Board election - but look at me; I won't do it. How can I judge anyone else if I won't do it.

I encourage anyone to get involved. If you think you are being put off by a Board member, call Bill Conrad. He's a very reasonable man and will listen to any honest complaint.

I can guarantee however that no one will take your idea and run with it. If you have an idea you want to see executed - you are the one who will have to do the executing.

Please, please don't misconstrue me, Tim- I never even suggested in the slightest way that I don't want northeasterners on the Board. I hope you read my satement: "...all those who have worked VERY hard to make this organization as great as it is- I begrudge none of them anything."

I think our Board has long done a geat job in so many ways for the organization. I have many wonderful friends in the northeast- WCHA and otherwise. Those wonderful Board members you listed certainly don't make me think of conspiracy. But you did re-state my point- we have a northeast-centric organization. Of course Board members are going to come from the area of greatest member density - the northeast, and therefore the greatest member density is likely to stay in the northeast. Self-fulfilling activity- nothing clandestine needed or suggested. I accept this as a normal consequence of natural human behavior. But I believe that we can and should encourage broader participation.

Further, I did NOT suggest moving the Assembly to California, or anywhere else for that matter. To reiterate, geographic bias, whether intentional or not (it is not) perpetuates geographic bias. I simply trust Bob that he made a sincere effort to answer a call from the WCHA, and whether or not anyone else trusts his feelings, he apparently FEELS like he didn't get due consideration. When I read his post, I didn't think of him as a victim, and I certainly don't have victim mentality myself. My only mentality with respect to the WCHA is "this group is great- I want to be more a part of it!" I read the same thing into Bob's original "vent".

Last edited:
ya tim you are to blame for this god aweful addictive website!!!!! :D ;) jeez that helps take some of the heat off me. :cool:
Fair enough.

I guess having been on both sides of the Assembly site issue, I'm sensitive to it.

Though I'm certain that Bob has done much to date - to give up because of a roadblock - real or perceived - is not going to get it done.

My message here is simple. If you believe in it and are willing to fight for it, it will happen.

We did it with the website, it can be done with an Assembly site. It's not going to happen just because it's a good idea, and with the difficulty of moving the Assembly adding to the challenge, it's a non-trivial exercise and anyone attempting it needs to understand that it's a very long and all-uphill struggle.

I just want to say a hearty amen to Tim’s comments. Nothing would illustrate better how valuable the WCHA is than an effort to start something like it. In maybe forty years, you’d be right where the WCHA is now!

The main thing always to keep in mind is the WCHA is a 100% volunteer shoestring operation.

I have been a member for 10 years, attended several assemblies, and written for Wooden Canoe and primarily been active in the local chapter. I have made a lot of good friends thru the WCHA and learned a lot about canoeing and canoe camping thru these folks. Ninety per cent of what I’ve gained from the WCHA has come thru these friendships and I can’t begin to put a price on the value of the return I’ve received for my membership.

I don’t doubt for a minute that the process of organizing an Assembly is an extremely arduous labor-intensive effort. I’ve worked in and for non-profits for 30 years and have been involved in organizing events like it. If you tried to hire a non-profit consulting organization to develop and put on an event like the Assembly (and there are companies that do such work), you’d get a bill from them for something like $25,000-$35,000. Instead all the volunteers who make it happen donate the equivalent of that amount so folks can go to an assembly for a couple of hundred bucks out-of-pocket.

My hats off to Tim for making the website work. I enjoy it and it’s a valuable tool for the WCHA.

With a 100% volunteer organization, there’s always a lot of slippage. Nobody’s paid to mind the store 40 hours a week and people on the Board have jobs and families. I have brought a few issues to the attention of Board members and have always gotten prompt, thoughtful and courteous attention. But I wouldn’t expect any one of them to drop everything they’re doing and go to work full-time on my brainstorm.

I love going to assemblies and have attended only a few because I just haven’t had the time to go. I will tell you I think its one of the best all-volunteer organized events I’ve ever attended and a bargain, money-wise, for the participants. Next time, you’re at one, don’t stop saying thank you to the folks who’ve made it happen. It’s a jewel.
couple of comments

i think membership is biased to the NE because the population of the country is biased to the NE and canoe history is heavily biased to the NE

this is reminiscent of the time when people thought WCHA was run by the WI mafia. (Chris, Dan, me and Ralph 'cuz people in the NE put MI and WI in the same neighborhood -- somewhere out by Chicago)

Bob called to talk to me about the Flint site, i referred him to the website for the details of the site description because that's where it is

i asked Ralph Kohn (from Flint) about the site (he's been to Assemblys at several different sites) and he didn't think much of it, so i saw no reason to pursue it.

Some years ago, Gordon Orr and i chased sites in WI for several days. We came up with two, used them both a number of years ago. Could return to Green Bay, but the one in Madison is now too small. (unless it's changed over the years)

do you think it would help if the Assembly site criteria were put in a "fill-in-the-blank" format?

There's hope for renewal! Mary and I have stepped into the role of planning the Children's Program at the Assembly. They even moved the planning meeting to suburban Buffalo to accommodate us -though we have never minded driving 8 hours to attend the Assembly. Also, we promise to cease attempting to instill Canadian values by showing the French version of Harry Potter. Well maybe not. Yo hablo espanol tambien. And, we know where canoes really come from.

New this year, the Featherston's have begun coordinating a Teen Program.

If the young have fun, it will be only a few years before everyone wants to be a doer.
WoW! looks like we've reached a peak of emotion! Before the vigilance committee forms to lynch the board; let's all step back and remember why we're here!

As an association, we all have different reasons for what we do, or don't do. I'm half way through 8 years of college payments. I work full time and spend another two hours driving back 'N forth. There just ain't enough time to do what I'd like to do let alone become more involved. I'm sure it covers most of us.

It is a shame that the same few unsung heros are the ambroid that binds us together. They have two full time jobs unless they hapen to be retired from their paying job.

At the same time it looks like the membership needs a way to communicate with the board. It is impossible for the board to do everything for everybody. Some measure of our success is the diversity of our members and the board needs to remember that too!

The organization exists to document, preserve and promote wooden canoes. If we were all square pegs in square holes; we'd all settle for a Grumman!

I suggest we have a throw the baseball & dunk the board member stand at the next assembly...