It was with mixed feelings that we read this morning’s email from Larry Thomas announcing his upcoming retirement. In his characteristic modesty and sense of humor, Larry writes:
“Knock, knock. Who’s there? Not me as of 1/3/13. I am retiring! Wow, that’s a huge statement to make! But, after 33 ½ years with the Forest Service and nearly 3 years in the military, it’s time. I can’t begin to put into words, how blessed I feel to have been given the opportunity to “care for the land, and serve people”. And, to all the wonderful people I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from, I can only say, “thank you!” However, this is not goodbye. I plan to stay actively engaged as a volunteer team member in CoTrails and Team Conasauga, and doing what I can to help make the volunteer program on the Chattahoochee-Oconee NFs the best in the nation. It’s been a pleasure.” – Larry Thomas
We will miss Larry in his role as our FS partner who has done so much to lead the volunteer objectives of CoTrails. But we welcome him as one of us, a dedicated and committed CoTrails Volunteer!
Close volunteer and Agency cooperation has always been a vision and a reality for Larry. He began his career with the US Forest Service in 1979 in Virginia. We were lucky that he transferred in 1990 to the Cohutta Ranger District (now the Conasauga Ranger District) in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, where he served until his move to the Supervisor’s Office last year.
Shortly after his arrival on the district, Larry led the formation of “Team Conasauga,” one of the finest examples of multi-user trail maintenance collaboration in the system. It was the model that served to create many of the CoTrails volunteer initiatives, programs and events we have executed this year. The most recent of these was the 1st Annual CoTrails Volunteer Appreciation & Awards Picnic last Saturday, attended by the Regional Forester of our Southern Region, USFS Region 8.
We thank Larry for his vision to have all users of forest trails, some with very different and often conflicting interests, working side by side toward a common goal. It is the essence of collaboration and of CoTrails: conservationists, environmentalists, equestrians, mechanized riders, and mountain bikers all caring for the land and working hard together on trails in the Forest. Today we call it “collaboration.” For many years, we simply called it “Team Conasauga,” and that said it all.
Volunteers have spent many hours working with Larry performing trail maintenance on forest trails, learning from him about the Forest and a land manager’s responsibilities, making many new friends, sharing stories about our love of the outdoors, and contributing much sweat equity to keep Forest trails in good repair.
Thank you Larry for your friendship, partnership and leadership. We will miss seeing you in FS uniform but look forward to many more opportunities to work together on CoTrails projects, and on the trails of the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest.
Our very best wishes for many long, healthy and happy retirement years!
CoTrails Working Group