First off, we’re continuing to monitor the COVID situation and follow state guidelines for social distancing, which translates to no group hiking for the time being. Stay safe and hang in there!
Meanwhile, some of us are trying to stay virtually connected with events like our CVT “Rona Readers” book club. Currently they are reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail and will meet online to discuss on Tuesday, May 26th. This isn’t on the official CVT calendar, but you can find out the details in our Facebook group. Thanks to Karen for putting that together!
And now the big news…this lull in activity presents an opportunity to make a few changes that I have been contemplating for a while now. The changes involve redesigning our website and offloading some of its features to other places. The changes will affect how you sign up for events and interact with your fellow Trailblazers, so please take a few minutes and read through this:
- We will begin using EventBrite to create and manage our events. EventBrite is a popular event ticketing service that has been around for years. There is no costly subscription fee and it has all the features we need to create and promote events, track attendance, and contact our members. We will have wait lists for full events, and attendees will get email confirmations and reminders as usual.
- One nice feature of EventBrite that deserves its own paragraph…mailing lists! We can create mailing lists based on different kinds of activities…so for example if you are only interested in backpacking trips or local hikes, we can add you to only those specific lists. This should cut down on the clutter in your inbox.
- Brace yourselves…CVT Points and Trail Bucks are being discontinued! CVT Points were just a fun way to reward participation in the group, but over the years I think the novelty has worn off. In fact, I removed the points a month ago and so far no one has noticed. 🙂 As for Trail Bucks, believe it or not, EventBrite does not recognize these as a valid form of currency, so we’ll have to revert to more traditional means. More details below.
- The CVT website will contain only publicly viewable content – things like our group policies, tips about hiking gear and safety, external links, and of course our event calendar. There will be no “members only” content and no need to log in with a user name and password.
- The social media components of our website will move to Facebook. Events will be posted on our Facebook page, where you can post event related comments and photos. For general group discussion, we already have a pretty active Facebook group with lots of hiking related news and articles, online events, and fun stuff. (More about Facebook pages and groups)
One thing we hope will not change is our commitment to maintaining a close-knit community vibe. If you’re reading this, you are a member of the CVT family…and as such, we value your friendship and support and hope to be your #1 source for hiking and fun outdoor adventures in RVA!
Why the changes?
After years on Meetup.com, in 2017 we went live with our own website as a one-stop shop for all things CVT. Since then I have discovered that running a full featured website is a bit pricey and time consuming. By offloading some of the functionality to well established platforms like EventBrite and Facebook, we will reduce our expenses and hopefully provide a more user-friendly online experience for members and organizers.
How will I find out about CVT events?
If you currently receive emails about new events, that will not change. The emails will now come from EventBrite and will look a little different. But just like before, there will be a link to the event page where you can read the details and sign up. You can also follow our Facebook page and follow or bookmark our EventBrite page. We are also on Twitter and may look into using that more in the future.
What about events that are already on the CVT calendar?
Thanks to COVID, there aren’t many left except for a few Sunset Hikes, and I have been cancelling those every week. If there are any events still on the calendar after restrictions are lifted, we’ll handle those on a case by case basis.
What about privacy?
In EventBrite, event attendee lists are seen only by the organizers. If you would like to let others know you are going to an event, go to our Facebook page and click on the “Going” or “Interested” buttons for that event. Note that this is NOT a commitment to attend – you still need to go to EventBrite to sign up and reserve a spot.
For events where personal safety is a concern (think backpacking, camping, etc.), we may require you enter an access code on the event page when you sign up. In those cases, the access code will be included in the email announcement. After you sign up, you will receive an confirmation email with the meeting location and Adventure Specialist contact info.
Also, our Facebook group is now private – you must answer a few questions and be approved in order to view and post content.
How do I get added to mailing lists?
Again, if you’re already a CVT member, you will continue to get those delightful emails. For others we’ll have a mailing list sign-up form on our website. For everyone’s safety, mailing lists for events like backpacking trips may require approval from the leadership team. More to come on that.
How will you handle no-shows and troublemakers?
Repeat offenders will be removed from our mailing lists and from our Facebook page/group. This will make it far less likely for them to find out about events. And even if they do, they will not be able to sign up for all events unless they have the access codes.
What does all of this cost?
The simplified website will have less “overhead” which will allow us to downgrade to a cheaper web hosting plan and save around $15 per month. Basic plans start at around $5 per month, plus an extra dollar or two per month for the domain (“cvatrailblazers.org”).
We have always charged a dollar (or a Trail Buck) for most events to discourage no-shows and help cover expenses like our website and annual holiday party, and that will continue. With EventBrite you can pay with either PayPal or a credit or debit card. For most events you’ll be able to enter any amount (minimum is $1). EventBrite takes a small percentage, so that is an additional expense.
What about my unused Trail Bucks?
Some of you will get refunds in the coming days. Check your Trail Bucks balance on the website…if it’s $5 or less, you won’t get a refund unless you contact me and request it. Otherwise I will send you a refund with $5 deducted ($2 of which were freebies when you registered on the website and another $3 to keep me out of the poorhouse). If you paid me cash or prefer to get the full refund, you know how to reach me.
What if I’m not a Facebook user?
Many people have concerns about privacy on Facebook, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk – for example, creating a strong password and updating your privacy settings. You can also consider creating an email address to use exclusively for Facebook. (More about Facebook security)
When is all of this happening?
Soon! If you’re due a refund, you should get that in the next few days. The biggest changes will be to the CVT website – that will take a week or three. I hope to have everything up and running by the time the COVID restrictions are lifted.
That’s about it. Sounds complicated, but I think it will be a positive change. But mull it over and please let me know if you have questions. I’ll keep you posted. And thanks in advance for your patience. Cross your fingers for a smooth transition, and more importantly, stay safe! And read Wild!