Minutes of Carroll Cave Conservancy annual meeting – 31 July 2021

The meeting was held via Zoom conference. Attendees were

Jeff Page
Bill Gee
Rick Hines
Dan Lamping
Jay Kennedy
Nick Kennedy
Marty Griffin
Julianne Ramsey
Seth Colston
Kristen Godfrey
Jim Cooley
Julie Cottrell
Martin Carmichael
Hou Zhong
Alex Litsch
Dave Foran
Bill Copland

The meeting was called to order at 10:04 by president Jeff Page.

Minutes from 2020 were approved.

Voting method chosen – Ask only for disapprovals. If no one disapproves then the vote carries.

Discussion about Pic campground. The campaign ends today. We don’t know exactly how much money we have yet.
The maps were published online last year. No problems have been seen.
The gate from the road to the field was moved into the field 50 feet. A major safety improvement. More gravel was added to the road, and it seems to be holding up well.
Trees planted around the silo. Some have died, which will affect a discussion about fencing.
Bill Pfantz’ area is mostly cleaned up. Our responsibility, whatever it was, is pretty much over for that.

Treasurer’s report – June 30 bank account $6683.00 of which $2640.00 is earmarked for campground. We have more that has not yet transferred to us. There are issues with transferring funds from PayPal. After July 1 a major donation from Rick Hines. The available general funds are about the same as last year. The only large expense was $350 to move the gate.

The Paypal issue is that money used to go to Jeff Page’s account. There are problems getting it transferred to the CCC account. Paypal assured fix by July 25. But that seems to not have worked. Now Paypal says it will be fixed by 25 August. Five different people at PayPal say it is working, but so far it has not happened.

If all comes through, then campground fund will be at $5313.00. There is a pledge by Pic’s family to match, so potentially around $10k. That will be a good start on what we want to do.

Question – Will Pic’s family match all donations or only the GoFundMe campaign? Jeff will present them with what we got, and take whatever they choose to donate. We should not assume anything until the money is in the bank. Seth commented that Pic’s family would also make a donation to KCAG.

Rick – The original GoFundMe for Pic (not campground) was to get Pic home. They raised nearly $50k. That much was not needed. We do not know what they are going to do with the remainder.

Jeff – This discussion is getting a bit ahead of the agenda. We will come back to it. Motion to approve the treasurer’s report, also a second. No disapproval votes, so the motion carries.

Survey committee – Bob Lerch could not attend the meeting. Dan Lamping covered the report. Two trips during the past year, mainly to fix blunders. Survey side passages in Mountain Room. There is going survey in all branches of the cave. All the leads are way out, so almost requires camp trips. 11 quads are defined and 4 are done. Two more are close to being done. Only one quad is not started. Younger cavers needed who can push the far distant leads.

Kristen Godfrey – Membership report. 59 current members. 57 was the number last year. Total members past and present is 640. With 17 on the call we have a quorum.

Safety and Rescue – Jay Kennedy – Nothing much has been done. No safety training in the silo has been done for over a year. The winch works well. We had several assisted exit incidents. The best method is to hoist all the way to the silo, then swing to the side.

A rescue cache was placed at the Mapped End. We need to visit the cache at Jerry’s Cairn which is likely to be completely useless. No obvious damage from mice in the silo. We could seal the bottom of the silo, but so far mice and rats have not been a big problem.

Trip leaders are recommended to take Red Cross first aid training.

Access report – Jeff Page. Since last year – 21 visitations to property. There may have been a few more. 6 were surface and camp only. 15 cave trips. There were trips for almost every project. The activity level seems about right.

Question from Marty – Has the site of the original sinkhole been sold? Is the sinkhole safe? Is it used for trash? Rick says the sinkhole is covered with steel, chained and locked. Rick no longer has a key to the lock. That 160 acre plot is still owned by Chris Danuser. It is leased to Tim and Stacy Brown who own the 160 acres west of the silo. We probably have no liability in regards to that site. Jeff thinks that sinkhole trash is not done much anymore. The sinkhole cleanups are getting old stuff. Most landowners seem to be aware of the issues with sinkhole trash. It might be interesting to get back in there just to see what has changed.

Conservation and Resto – Jeff says DJ Hall was our resto chair but has been inactive. Seth mentioned that we talked about doing some trail marking and also replacing the rope light. Trail markers – How did we make the ones that are in the cave? Dan says the survey team is trying to avoid flagging tape. Even so there is a lot left over from past years. Rick thinks that trip leaders should know the cave well enough to only rarely need trail markers.

Thought from Bill Gee – True about trip leaders, but if a trip leader is injured then how will other team members find the way out? Also, no trip leader can know the entire cave.

Biology – Bill Gee presented slides regarding the biology project in 2020. In October 2020 we placed an Anabat Roost Detector in the Mountain Room. This device records bat calls which can later be analyzed for species and usage patterns. The data was retrieved in March 2021. Analysis shows fewer bats than expected. Also a surprise visitor of one eastern red bat. We have the roost detector on loan from USFWS for at least a year and probably longer. At the bat census trip in October 2021 the detector will be aimed in a different direction.

Hydrology – Bill Gee presented slides regarding the hydrology project in 2020. There was one major flood in early January 2020. Everything else was under 3 feet at the ladder. Bill is collected radar-estimated rainfall from Climate.com now for comparison with our rain gauge. Over the first six months of 2021 the difference is profound. Is our rain gauge in need of service? Or are the radar estimates that far off? More investigation needed.

Rick Hines – Discussed landowner relations. Rick has paperwork for Greg Fry granting cave rights under his property to CCC. Getting these signed has been delayed due to adverse family events with Fry.

Planning a landowners trip for October. Details to be announced.

Web site discussion – Secondary admins. DNS admin changes. Marty Griffin and Bill Gee both have admin access to the WordPress system which produces our site. They are working to get shared admin access to our DNS registrar.

Old Business – Mounting the plaque honoring several people.
Second key for hatch locks. Not done yet. Where to locate it? Maybe a second lock box? Purpose is to have a backup.
Surface mapping. Nothing has happened. Alex raised a question about using LIDAR data. Dan Lamping thinks the LIDAR data currently available is good enough.
Doing more radio locates. Do we need more? The existing locates have not been tied to survey data yet. The reading at DL7 did not agree with survey. If we want to use it, we should run new trips.
School house – are we done with it? Rick was there a few months ago. The membrane on the roof has torn in another place. The new owner is stacking some stuff on the empty side. We have about 1/3 of our stash of lumber still left to denail and haul. The lumber may not be very useful for more than firewood. A small crew and an afternoon could get it all out of the schoolhouse. We want to get out of a state of limbo with the new landowner. If the lumber is not at the silo in a few months, then we might offer it to the landowner for firewood.

Fencing off the campground. Do we want to fence off part of our area to protect pavilion, trees, etc? The for argument – we don’t want to bother the cattle and we don’t want the cattle to bother us. Against – If we have a fence then we have to mow. We would not fence off the whole six acres. Our handshake agreement with Rusty Clark lets him run his cattle on our land in exchange for occasional mowing. Putting up a fence would abrogate that agreement.

Mowing is the big problem. Can’t be done with push mowers. The Rusty Clark has mowed for us on occasion. A pavilion can be made fairly cattle-proof. Also – If we are going to pass on to another organization, we should pass them the current state instead of a fence and a mower.

Some of the oak trees may still be alive. The tomato cages are nearly invisible. We need to do something to keep the weeds down a bit. Rita Worden placed some tiles around the base of the red cedar trees to keep the grass down a bit.

The consensus was no fence for now. We can do it later if need be.

Jeff discussed a potential future for Carroll Cave Conservancy. A merger with MCKC might be a good idea. MCKC is in the business of managing caves.

CCC is a Kansas corporation registered at Rick Hines’ house. Merging with MCKC would bring the ownership back into Missouri. Jeff then let everyone talk about their perspective.

Rick Hines – It has been talked about in the past. Rick put in the time and effort he did so that Carroll Cave could be opened to the wider caving community. Eventually CCC as a single-cave organization cannot continue. A merger of some kind is inevitable. It is time to start thinking about moving in this direction.

The donation agreement with Chris Danuser requires that the land continue to be managed by a non-profit with similar goals. MCKC qualifies in that respect.

Bob Lerch – who was not in attendance – hates to see 20 years of effort go away. Willing to have a merger, but would like to keep access on a permit basis. Bob seems to be worried about our giving up control.

We would give up some control, but the successor group would be managing it in much the same direction. CCC members would still be participating.

Alex Litsch (current president of MCKC) – A manager would still be needed. Most other MCKC properties do not have the level of involvement that we have at CCC. Alex would like that to continue. He thinks the current management would continue much as it is now.

Jeff – The idea was to extend the invitation to grottos – but not just any old caver. There needs to be some accountability. Jeff would like to see more long-term participation and fewer “pay dues/one trip” members.

MCKC has a separate board for Berome Moore. CCC could become that same kind of board within MCKC. CCC would dissolve and the property becomes Carroll Cave Preserve or something like that.

Rick thinks the landowners around us would like to have some assurance that the new owners would have similar goals as CCC with the same people involved.

Bill Gee – Strong parallels to SCCi in how they work. There is no reason we have to be exactly the same as all other MCKC properties.

Alex – There would be a custom MOU (memorandum of understanding) for the property. Also MCKC needs a better “nerd” filter. They sometimes get people on trips who are not really able to handle the situations.

Dan Lamping – Supports merge with MCKC. Thinks getting rid of membership would save a lot of paperwork. One big fear is having wide-open unfettered access. Carroll Cave is too dangerous for that.

Jeff – MCKC can set up access methods to be unique for each propertly.

Jim Cooley – No objection to starting negotiations with MCKC. Historically MCKC has been run rather loosely. The character of the two organizations is different. MCKC is recognizing that they need to step up their game – become more professionally run organization. Alex is doing a great job getting that job started.

Jim thinks that Bob Lerch’s objection, though not said in those words, is recreational caving. Jim thinks this is not a big problem. Some sort of permitted caving should be set up. CCC is not governed by members. How is MCKC governed?

Alex – MCKC governance is board of directors only.

Jeff – We would not just hand it over and walk away. Current CCC people would continue to be involved. There would be continuity. It is not an emergency now, so let’s take care of inevitable changes before it becomes an emergency.

Jim – question for Alex – How would a recreational trip to Berome be handled? Alex – A request would go to the Berome managers who would check dates, vet the participants and then send a permit.

Jim is going to cave and karst management symposium in November where he will learn more about how other conservancies do things. Jim thinks access for recreational caving will be the big sticking point. Maybe we just don’t use the “R” word.

Alex – MCKC board of directors would be the final authority. Some level of control would be delegated to a board of Carroll Cave managers. Details to be negotiated.

Jay Kennedy – Concerned about loss of autonomy about being able to screen people. Carroll is not a beginner’s cave. How to pick trip leaders? How to do trip leader training? Security of rescue supplies? What would reaction of landowners be?

Jeff – He does not think MCKC will open to anyone and everyone. Details of access would be part of the MOU. Access control is delegated to the cave managers.

Rick – One possible way to structure the MOU would be to take CCC bylaws and make that the basis for how the manager under MCKC operates. MCKC does not have resources to take over completely, so participation by current CCC would be required. The new management method can be made to look just like the current method. It all depends on how the MOU is created.

Jim – MCKC and CCC have slightly different goals. Ozark Regional Land Trust has goals that are VERY different from either CCC or MCKC. If we merge with them, we could possibly lose access to the cave. Jim thinks MCKC is the best candidate for a merger.

Jeff – The land trust idea was his preferred idea at first, but then he moved more toward MCKC. The land trust would require a more carefully negotiated MOU. Another possibility is the NSS Land Trust which is a caver organization. SCCi is also possible. Jeff would very much like to keep it local (based in Missouri), which NSS and SCCi are not.

Jeff would like MCKC to put this idea on the agenda for their next meeting.

Jim – The NSS is a large organization, but is mainly made up of recreational cavers. That made a big difference in how access worked when WNS became a thing. MOUs are not enforceable documents.

Kristen – Supports the idea of merger with MCKC.

Jeff – Our treasury would be turned over to MCKC. Their treasury has ways to keep track of separate funds. Our assets would be dedicated to Carroll Cave needs.

Dave Foran – Glad to hear the discussion is happening in the open. He is a founder of MCKC and thinks they are a good organization. It makes sense to explore the options.

Julianne Ramsey – She has worked through an MOU with NSS regarding a cave in Tennessee. In the southeast SCCi is the default organization. The focus is much more on recreational caving. Dealing with NSS can be frustrating until the right person is found. She found the right person and got a deal done in a few months. Julianne thinks that some management changes in NSS will change some of their focus. The MOU is more oriented to management-related caving, though recreational trips are allowed. Talking with NSS is not as far out as Jim thinks.

Jeff – Is anyone opposed to having Alex place this on the agenda of the next MCKC meeting? If MCKC board is amenable, then we will have a meeting to start negotiations.

Jim – If we proceed with merger, we should postpone or slow down changes such as the Pic Walenta Memorial Campground upgrades until we come to a decision.

Rick – The new organization is assumed to manage things almost the same as what we do now. No reason to slow down any more than we already have.

Alex – He is willing to move forward. It will go on the agenda for next MCKC board meeting.

Motion to adjourn – Seconded – Carried. Adjourned at 1328.

Submitted by Bill Gee