As GCRG continues to mature, what we think, say and
print seems to carry a bit more weight. In the past year we have gotten feedback on a few
pieces we have run with criticisms of the industry. Both were written by past or present
board members and the question was, Do these represent the views of the board, GCRG
as a whole, or just the authors of the article? Shouldnt you make that a little
We all know that getting 500 boatmen to agree on anything is unlikely. And
even within the GCRG board, there is usually some dissension on most everything. And just
about everything we run, to some extent, has a bit of proselytizing and shooting off of
mouth. Cant be helped. And a lot of the same people with the energy to serve on the
Board are the same ones with strong opinions and the motivation to write a story. Gray
areas are what were talking here.
We held a Board Retreat on St. Patricks day, and we batted this issue
around. What we realized is that the whole journal is an editorial section, and the bottom
line is that we must continue to maintain an open forum. We invite all points of view.
That is our policy.
A couple of us loudmouths at GCRG were recently called into a meeting with
some local outfitters and managers. There were a few problems with a few guides, and our
input was sought on what sort of policy should be adopted. And of course our policy is
usually no policy. It was a good discussion and what came out of it was a
better understanding of each others strengths and difficulties.
Heres the way I see it. Boatmen dont like policies. This
industry, more than most any other I can think of, is composed of rugged individualists
who make their living showing people a good time out there on the edge. Pretty much every
situation is unique; every circumstance is extenuating.
Policies are always set at the lowest common denominator, often implemented
as a reaction to one problem or one person. What usually happens is that everyone else is
offended, and the problem is still a problem that needs to be dealt with. In other cases a
policy may be used as thin excuse to get rid of someone that an outfitter wants to expel
for more basic but perhaps undefinable reasons. This, too, causes more ill will than an up
front, one-on-one handling of the problem would cause. Boatmen dont like policies.
Outfitters and managers, on the other hand, get various problems thrown in
their laps. Bad letters. Hints and allegations. A boatman blowing it chronically. Fear of
litigation. And its hard not to want to just make a few blanket polices. And I can
see their side pretty easily. Because, the bottom line is, an awful lot of these problems
could have, and should have, been dealt with on the river. And by letting things get to
the point that they land in the bosses lap, we do each other and our passengers a
We have the misfortune to live in the litigation-happy 90s. And were in
the business of having fun. Oil and water. How do we make this work? We have to work at it
a little harder. All of us.
Bad letters dont usually come from an isolated problem. Its often
a series of incidents, personality problems and so on that escalate. We need to make an
added effort to nip it in the bud. If weve got a buddy with a chronic problem, be it
grumpiness, drinking, or something, its not right to look the other way. As hard as
it may be to deal with, we need to let them know its a real problem and try to help
them address it. Because its a problem for all of us.
And when I am creating a chronic problem, its not just me versus the
outfitter. Its affecting all my pards as well. Ive got to bear that in mind.
We ended the meeting with a couple pledges- The outfitter and managers agreed
to deal with problems on an individual basis, and we agreed to urge boatmen, through an
increased effort at on-river management, to give them less reason to want more policies.
We as guides take pride in being problem solvers. And our job dictates that
we push the envelope on a regular basis. We can do them both at once.
Our policy: No policy. Deal with it.