Louisiana Hiking Trails Operations Manual

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Welcome to the Capitol Historical Trail. This trail runs through the city of Baton Rouge and is hiked mostly by youth groups. You are probably reading this manual because you have accepted or are considering accepting the responsibility of operating and maintaining the trail and its parent corporation, Louisiana Hiking Trails, Inc. This is a large and tough responsibility, but one which can be quite rewarding if you do a good job. If you have not yet hiked the trail, we recommend that you do so immediately. This manual expects a basic familiarity on your part with the layout of the trail, its literature, and the awards. The purpose here is to help you to operate those aspects of the trail of which most people are not aware.


Here is a simplified version of how the outside world interacts with the trail. A youth group (such as a Boy Scout troop) decides that they want to hike the trail. The leader will either call you or the Boy Scout office and ask questions and request literature. Soon they will hike the trail and will answer the trail questions. Then they will complete the Award Application and mail it to you along with the answers and a check. You will check the answers and prepare a package with the awards and mail it back.

Presently the parent corporation, Louisiana Hiking Trails, Inc., only operates the Capitol Historical Trail. Therefore, when you take the responsibility of running the trail, you are also going to be running the corporation. If, in the future, the corporation adds additional trails, then the task of running each individual trail and the task of running the corporation can be separated.

Here is a basic list of the things you will do to maintain the trail and the corporation. When people wish to hike the trail, you will mail them the literature. When they send in the Award Application, you will mail them a package with the awards. Every month you will deposit the checks simply by mailing them to the bank. About once every two years, when your supply runs low, you will order new awards. You will print new literature when your supply runs low. You will prepare an annual report at the end of each year and mail it to the Boy Scout office.

In addition, you should be excited enough about the trail to always be on the lookout for ways of improving the trail, such as changes in Baton Rouge which might affect the literature.

First Things First

There are a few things which must be done immediately after taking charge of the trail. The most important thing is to keep the operation running smoothly. Therefore, spend time learning about the trail and answer all mail the same day you receive it. Don't fall behind. When you mail anything out, make sure you have scratched out the old address and replaced it with yours. (In the future, when you print more literature, you can print it with the new address.) Whenever you have some free time, go through the filing cabinet and look at all the "stuff" which has collected over the years. You'll be amazed by the history in front of your eyes. Feel free to organize some of the material if you have the time to do so. We ask that if you throw some old papers away, keep at least two copies of each item for historical purposes.

You will need to contact the bank and inform them of the new address. You will also need to get registered with the bank for signing checks (or someone who helps you, such as a parent, will get registered). All the bank stuff will probably be done for you or with you before you take complete charge yourself, because much of it requires the approval of the previous operator.

At some point soon after taking charge, let the various contacts know of the new address. For example, the Boy Scout office and Girl Scout office both help distribute literature for the trail. These two organizations should know of the new address immediately.

Mailing Literature

Mailing literature is very simple. The literature consists of a single pamphlet, and there is space on the back for the destination address. Simply write on the address, attach a stamp, and drop it in the mail. The postage will be the same each time (assuming the postal rates have not increased), and you will quickly memorize it. Weigh the literature on the postal scale the first few times you mail literature and determine the postage from the postal chart.

Telephone Calls

Most telephone calls boil down to a simple request for literature. However, most people do not come right out and say this. They explain how they have hiked it before and want to hike it again, or wonder how they can find out more about the trail. Generally, you can kindly inform people that we have a complete pamphlet which explains everything and we would be happy to mail it to them.

Sometimes you will receive other types of calls. A person may wonder how soon they will receive their awards, or they may have some other type of question. Try to help them to the best of your abilities. Don't be afraid to be honest and explain that you just took charge and don't yet know the answer to their question.

If someone is unhappy about our service (for example, they are upset because they have not yet received the awards), then be nice and explain that Louisiana Hiking Trails is run by volunteers and that you are doing the best you can.


Mail can be classified into a few simple categories. Literature requests are the simplest, and they are handled by sending the person our literature. You may then throw away the literature request.

Bank statements appear each month, and you should simply open them and make sure everything is in order and then stick them on the mail rack. We clear out the rack at the end of each year.

You will receive award applications after people have hiked the trail. Handling these is explained in the next section.

Sometimes you will receive miscellaneous mail. For example, a person may write and provide suggestions for the future. Or someone may ask some questions. Answer such mail immediately and either throw it away or put it in the mail rack (depending on how useful or important it is). Other mail includes new catalogs from emblem manufacturers or price quotations from emblem manufacturers. If the catalog replaces an older catalog, then throw away the older one. In general, save mail like that because you will need to look at it later.

Award Applications

The most difficult and time consuming activity is handling award applications. It is very easy to put these off, but this will only cause problems. Always handle them immediately upon receiving them. Louisiana Hiking Trails is known for immediate responses and must keep that image. You should have been mailed three items: the Award Application, the Answer Sheet, and payment. Often the Award Application and the Answer Sheet are on the two sides of the same sheet of paper. Check the Answer Sheet to make sure everything seems reasonably correct. In the unlikely event that you will want to refuse the person their awards based on the answers (this has never happened before), then check the appropriate paragraph on the Packing Slip and mail it back with the payment. This will probably not happen.

Verify the arithmetic on the Award Application. Make sure the check is filled out correctly and put it in the checkbook. If the check is not filled out correctly (such as the amount being wrong, or the printed and written-out amounts not matching, or the signature missing), mail everything back with a note explaining the problem. They will probably fix it and mail it all back to you, but if not, don't worry about it.

Now open the LHT Register (the old green book) and record a new entry. Get a brown envelope and put the awards in it. Count everything at least twice. (As far as I know, an order has never been filled incorrectly. Try to maintain that trend.) Fill out a Packing Slip and enclose it. Write the address on the outside and weigh the package. Determine the postage from the postal chart and affix the stamps. Finally, drop it in the mail. Fold the Award Application in half and place it in the LHT Register.

Take a look at the Packing Slip. You'll notice that just about every possible situation under the sun already has a paragraph written for it. You will generally check more than one paragraph. For example, if you have previously mailed out some awards and are now completing the order by sending five more pins, then you would mark that five pins are enclosed, and you will mark that part of the order was mailed previously, and you will mark that the order is now complete. Usually, however, you can fill an order immediately and entirely upon receiving it, in which case you check the first paragraph and the last paragraph, and you fill in the number of items being mailed. Be sure to write a date on the packing slip. Also, it is best to write on the packing slip in blue or preferably red ink, so that the receiver can clearly see that only some paragraphs apply.

Usually you will take care of an Award Application completely upon receiving it. Sometimes, however, the Award Application will remain "pending" because you are mailing partial shipments or for some other reason. In this case it is very important that you remember what has been done so far and what still needs to be done. Write "Received on:" and the date on the Award Application and circle it (for example, in a corner). That way you know how long you have had it. Also record any processing done so far. For example, if someone ordered patches and pins but you only sent the patches (because you were out of pins), then write, "Received on 04 Aug 90, mailed 12 patches, did NOT mail pins". Attach the check to the Award Application with a paper clip. Don't process the check (i.e., don't make an entry in the LHT Register and don't put the check in the checkbook) until you have finished processing the Award Application. You may think that you don't need to write things down because you can remember them, but don't make this mistake. Always write everything down!


Every month you must deposit all the checks. We used to do our banking with Baton Rouge Bank, and you will find lots of old bank material from that bank. A few years ago, Baton Rouge Bank changed their policy and started charging us to maintain the account, so we switched to Sunny Bank, which, as Baton Rouge Bank used to, offers free accounts to non-profit corporations, as long as the account balance is above some minimum. In the check book is a check register. Make an entry for each check and record the date, the amount, and the person or organization issueing the check. We used to have a deposit stamp, but since we switched banks we no longer have one, so just sign the back of each check. Get a new deposit slip and write everything down again. Total it. Then put the checks and the deposit slip in the pre-addressed pre-stamped Sunny Bank envelope and drop it in the mail.

Sometimes you will have to write checks. For example, you may have to pay for more stamps. Complete a check and write an entry in the check register in the check book. Get a receipt. When you get home, make an entry for the check in the LHT Register (the green book) and put the receipt in the mail rack.

If the account balance ever goes below a certain minimum (I forget the exact amount), then Sunny Bank will charge a service charge each month. That's okay-just write the service charge both in the check register and in the LHT Register (the green book).

Petty Cash

Sometimes people pay for awards in cash, and sometimes you may want to pay for simple expenditures in cash. Petty cash exists for these reasons. Petty cash is like a little bank account that consists of a drawer to hold the money and a logbook to keep a record of all cash transactions. If petty cash grows large (over $30), then a significant portion of it should be deposited in the bank account. All petty cash transactions are recorded in two places: in the petty cash logbook (the little black book) and in the LHT Register (the green book).

LHT Register

The green book is the LHT Register. All financial transactions (checks and cash received or spent) and all hikers get recorded here. The LHT Register is the most important financial record of LHT and must be kept correct, neat, and clean. There are two basic types of entries: receipts and payments. The format in the more recent years is better than the one used previously. Previously, receipts and payments were written in the same column and coded with a letter "R" or "P". Now one column is used for receipts, a different column for payments, similar to a checkbook.

For a receipt, enter the date and write the name of the person or organization from whom the receipt is. Unless some company donates money to the trail, all receipts will be payments for awards and will be the result of a group hiking the trail. So write in the number of adults and youths which went on the hike. Fill in the amount of the receipt in the appropriate column. If the transaction was in cash, then enter a little "p" under the digits representing the portion of a dollar (see the 11 Oct 89 entry for an example).

For a payment, enter the date and the name of the person or organization to whom the payment is (and a short reason). If the payment is by check, then enter the check number. Enter the amount in the appropriate column. If the transaction was through petty cash, then enter a little "p" under the digits representing the portion of a dollar (see the 14 Jan 90 entry for an example).

Other types of transactions should also be recorded. For example, if you transfer money from petty cash into checking, write a description and the amount in the "Description" column. Do not put any numbers in the monetary columns, because LHT is neither gaining nor losing money. If you receive an Award Application requesting no awards (simply indicating that someone hiked the trail and is letting you know, but does not want to purchase awards), then fill out an entry which lists the appropriate number of adults and youths and the group's name, and indicate briefly that they are purchasing no awards.

Talking to Award Companies

All of our awards are presently manufactured by Eastern Emblem Mfg. Co. They used to come from Bastian Brothers, but their prices went up too much. You might receive letters from Harold Davis (or another Bastian Brothers representative) from time to time. It is a good idea to periodically compare the pricing between different award manufacturers.

When you think you need to order awards, you write or call Eastern Emblem and ask them for current price quotations. After receiving an answer, you can place an order. In general when ordering goods from a company, you pay a percentage of the total and the rest is due upon receipt of the merchandise, either because it is sent COD or because it comes with an invoice. In such a situation, pay any invoices immediately (assuming everything with the order is acceptable) and put the letters in the mail rack. However, Eastern Emblem does not charge us shipping if we pay the order in full at the time we place the order. Since we have been working with Eastern Emblem for years now, we trust them and are willing to pay for an order ahead of time so as to avoid paying the shipping charge. If you switch companies, you might want to be careful with the first few orders before trusting them in this fashion.

The price quotation forms from Eastern Emblem are all kept together in a single spot. We keep the old ones mainly for historical purposes and to have a record of how prices are changing over time. Awards are a lot cheaper in larger quantities, and we usually try to order in the larger quantities to save money.

Award Prices

You'll note that the prices we charge for awards has not changed in many years, but they may have to be raised again soon. In that case, choose a date at least three months in the future on which the prices will change. On the literature you mail out up until that day, write in hand the new prices and indicate on which day they will take effect. After the big day of price change, change all literature in your possession to reflect the new prices. If you receive orders after the prices went up from people who did not know the new price, return everything to them along with a note indicating the new prices, so that they may choose their course of action.

Choose the new prices carefully. It is not unreasonable to double the cost (our cost) of the awards, since the cost of the awards is going to rise over the next few years and we don't wish to keep changing the prices we charge hikers. Presently our prices are just barely more than our costs, but with literature duplication, literature postage, and award postage, it is quite likely that the trail is presently slowly losing money.

End of Year

Handling the beginning of a new year can be difficult at first. Wait until the middle of January to do this, in case you receive anything in the mail which relates to the previous year. Keep any new mail (from the new year) separate, but do process it upon receiving it.

The first thing to do is to get some totals. Look at the 1993 year in the LHT Register to get an idea of what to do. Each column needs to be totaled. Take an inventory of all awards by counting the pins, patches, and medals, and write this information into the register. By multiplying the quantity of each type of award by the price we charge for that award, you will be able to determine the monetary value of our inventory.

Now you must prepare the annual report. Find the folder in the filing cabinet entitled "CHT Annual Reports" and look at some old reports. The report is different in even and in odd years, so find an appropriate example. The first page is almost identical each year. Be sure to list the number of hikers in one of the last paragraphs on the first page. The second page consists of a financial report. The "Balance carried forward" comes from the previous year's report. Then you list the expenses and receipts. The "Inventory" consists of the sum of the award amounts which you multiplied earlier. Keep a copy of your annual report and put it in the folder. Send the original to the Boy Scout office.

Look in the back of the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet, and find the oldest envelopes and throw away their contents. Write a new date on the outside and stuff them with the various items in the mail rack and the award applications. Start a new page in the LHT Register similar to the way 1990 was started.

Printing Literature

When you run low on literature, take the originals (from a folder in the filing cabinet) over to a duplication service like Kinko's and order copies. You will then have to fold them all, which takes some times (get friends to help you). Do a good job on preparing the literature, because LHT's image is directly influenced by the appearance of the literature.

Buying Stamps and Mailing Packages

If you run low on stamps or need to mail packages which the postal scale can't handle, then visit your local Post Office. Always buy stamps which have their value printed on them. In other words, do not buy "Domestic" or "Airmail" or other special purpose stamps. You shouldn't have to mail heavy packages too often, because you can always split them up into smaller packages. The Packing Slip has paragraphs to handle this. Note that buying stamps has become easier in recent years, because the Postal Service now has a mail-order service. I usually ordered various quantities of various beautiful but politically neutral stamps, personally preferring these over the boring run-of-the-mill American flag stamps which most people and businesses use. For example, I usually choose various flower motifs, or perhaps something relating to Louisiana culture if it exists, or maybe something related to scouting. I would suggest avoiding stamps which glorify musical stars, like the Elvis stamp, or stamps which commemorate times of war, like the World War I and II series, or the more recent Gulf War stamps. There are varying opinions as to the appropriateness of such stamps and Louisiana Hiking Trails is not in a position to take a position on such matters. On the other hand, if a stamp comes out commemorating Huey Long or in some other way deals with Baton Rouge or Louisiana history, then I would highly recommend purchasing many of those and using them almost exclusively! The most ultimate stamp, actually, would be one which promotes the simple pleasurable and healthy activity of hiking, but to my knowledge no such stamp exists in the United States.

Changing the Literature

The literature was produced professionally with help from Lunar Graphics, Inc., a local typesetting bureau. If you need to make minor changes to the literature (like changing the address or making a small correction), then simply handwrite or type it in neatly. If you wish to embark upon the endeavor of completely reworking the literature, then you need to discuss this with professional typesetters. It is beyond the scope of this manual to explain this process.

Giving the Trail Away

The trail should be operated by responsible individuals. We recommend that the operator be invovled in scouting and other community programs. If you are presently operating the trail and are moving away from Baton Rouge, or are preparing to go to college, or don't feel that you are handling the trail to your complete satisfaction, then you should consider finding someone else to take over. Don't wait until the last minute to do this, even though in the past this has always been the case. You will need to spend time with the new operator. Go over this manual and explain the operation of the trail. Get together with that person again a month later and see how things are going. LHT appreciates the help and service you have given.

Overview of Louisiana Hiking Trails, Inc.

The non-profit Louisiana corporation called Louisiana Hiking Trails was founded in 1975 as part of the Eagle scout project of Pierre Conner III. A corporation needs to have a board of trustees which meet from time to time to discuss the corporation and guide its future directions, as well as make sure that it is being run properly. Such a board was created in 1975, but I suspect that after the initial excitement went away, they barely if ever met. At any given time, one person was in charge of and maintained all aspects of both the corporation and its only trail, the Capitol Historical Trail. Ideally, a board would again be formed with one person head of the board and in charge of Louisiana Hiking Trails, while another person, not necessarily a board member, could run the day-to-day operations of the Capitol Historical Trail. The bank account and the annual report are aspects of Louisiana Hiking Trails, while the literature, awards, and mail processing are aspects of the Capitol Historical Trail. If and when new trails are added to Louisiana Hiking Trails, some formal separation between Louisiana Hiking Trails and the Capitol Historical Trail must take place.

There are other trails in Louisiana and the surrounding area. It might be worthwhile hiking those trails (the only trail I've hiked is Vicksburg), and it might be a good idea to make sure they are all still operating. If not, perhaps one could offer to take over responsibility of running those trails. I would hate to see a trail die.

Finally, a good project would be to add some new trails. They could be canoeing or biking trails. (Perhaps the corporation's name should be Louisiana Historical Trails, and such a change could easily be made.) Creating a new trail would be a great Eagle project and could involve a lot of scouts.

Ideas for the Capitol Historical Trail

There are still many changes which I would like to make to the Capitol Historical Trail and its literature. First of all, I would like to research the history on each site more and make the literature more interesting. More recent history could also be included. For example, the recent fight over changing the name of Riverside Mall back to 3rd Street and the reasons behind both sides of the issue ought to be included. These types of things happen all the time and are quite fascinating and ought to be included, so that hikers get the feeling that history is not just in the past but is happening left and right and the current or recent issues are often more interesting and exciting than the ones from long ago. Why did the Women's Temperance Union donate a statue of a goddess of Wine downtown? I would love to know. The trail questions at present are really boring. Since we don't check the answers, I would much rather see discussion questions. For example, on the street issue, the question should be, do you support changing the name to Riverside Mall as the merchant association wishes in order to indicate that there are stores here, or do you support the local residents' wishes of maintaining the original name? What are the advantages of one name over the other? These types of questions ought to start discussions among the hiking group, and they can write a summary on the Answer Sheet, which must of course be enlarged. Some questions should still remain simple and factual, because some groups will get more fun out of those (I don't know why, but I'm sure it would happen), and the simple factual questions make sure that people actually hike the trail. I would like to see the literature including photographs of various neat buildings along the way, and it might even be a good idea to print the literature in color. However, overall, I believe the Capitol Historical Trail is pretty much complete as far as the trail and the literature go. In the area of promotion, however, it is obvious that almost no one knows of the trail. I recently read a document being passed around the subcommittee of the city council which looks at long-range city development dealing with pedestrian and bicycle paths, and this document included mention of the Capitol Historical Trail and stated that the trail had no official backing but simply existed as a cultural thing within the collective memory of some city citizens; i.e., people just tell each other where to hike and what to do and call that the Capitol Historical Trail, which is of course nonsense. So the city does not know of Louisiana Hiking Trails and what it does. That should be changed. The scout offices should be encouraged to promote the trail in their newsletters. One should set up a booth at the scout show. If one has time, perhaps one should even visit troops and promote the trail to them.

Remember, though, ideas are just ideas, and no one expects more of a volunteer than you yourself expect of yourself. As long as Louisiana Hiking Trails does not die, nothing else really matters.