Conservation of Appalachian National Scenic Trail may be in danger

Posted By: The Ski Channel on April 9, 2010 11:59 am

We love State and National Parks here at The Ski Channel. We don’t have the luxury of bouncing hemispheres to ensure 365 days of snow, so when the ice melts, we hit the trails and hike, mountain bike, and jog our way through the late spring and summer. A trail we’ve been dying to hit is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. That’s why we were concerned when we read this report from the National Parks Conservation Association:

“The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.), the granddaddy of all long-distance hiking trails, meanders its way along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States. Stretching 2,178 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the A.T. is the United States’ most beloved recreational footpath. Each year, approximately two million hikers walk some portion of the trail, whether it be a mile, the entire length, or something in between. The trail is unique within the National Park system because of its length, narrow shape, the role of volunteers in establishing and maintaining the trail, and the fact that management responsibilities are shared between the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

NPCA’s Center for State of the Parks recently released a report exploring cultural and natural resources along the trail, as well as threats to those resources and the visitor experiences the trail provides. Appalachian National Scenic Trail: A Special Report identifies incompatible developments (e.g., pipelines, power lines, racetracks) within and near the trail’s narrow corridor as a major threat to resource integrity and visitor experience; protecting against such intrusions when possible and mitigating the effects of necessary development are critical. Also of concern is the lack of comprehensive knowledge of the condition of natural and cultural resources that abound along the Appalachian Trail. In addition, visitors to the trail are not always aware of the significant natural and cultural resources protected within the trail corridor.

In the face of these and other challenges, staff at Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and Appalachian Trail Park Office (ATPO) are accomplishing important resource protection, monitoring, and education programs, in addition to working to protect the trail and viewshed from adjacent development that negatively affects trail resources. These efforts raise awareness of, knowledge about, and appreciation for the A.T. as a resource that is a part of local history and contributes to the quality of life of the people and communities through which it passes. The ATC and ATPO continually work to further protect the Appalachian Trail, including achieving the goals of placing every mile of trail under public ownership and listing the A.T. in the National Register of Historic Places.”