[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[at-l] Extending the AT

My opposition to extending the official designation "Appalachian Trail"
beyond the present termini of Springer Mountain in Georgia and Katahdin in
Maine is based primarily on two factors: 1) management 2) thru-hiking.

Management: From the earliest days, the goal of the AT project was to have
a continental length footpath from Georgia to Maine on public lands, set
aside and protected for that purpose only. Securing a protected corridor
has been the overiding goal of the trail movement for more than half a
century. This has involved some costly and difficult land acquisition
negotiations, and has greatly taxed the resources (time, money, etc.) of
the entire AT community for half a century. With the protection phase of
the Trail project nearing achievement, the goal of the AT community has
been broadened in recent years to focus on the protection and acquisition
of lands surrounding the present corridor, to ensure that the quality of
the hiking experience is preserved as a "wilderness experience" as much as
possible for the length of the Trail. To me, this protection of surrounding
lands along the present corridor is the overriding need for the next 20-30
years. I am opposed to adding a hundred or more miles in the south and many
hundreds of miles in the north that will require continued land acquisition
and organization for maintenance. This will greatly dilute the resources of
the AT community at a time when consolidation of management resources for
the present route and acquisition and management of surrounding lands for
quality protection is of prime importance to the future viability of the
present Trail as a hiking resource.

2) Thru-hiking: Although the AT was not originally intended to be hiked in
a single journey, thru-hiking it has developed in the public mind as
something that is both challenging in its scope and yet do-able by the
average person. There is great value to the public psyche in having this
type of entity available for everyone, and this is perhaps the one thing
that sets the AT apart from all other trails in the world, its long length
and its end-to-end do-ability in a single season for the hiker of average
ability. Extending the AT for hundreds of miles would probably destroy the
possibility of thru-hiking the AT for all but the elite (and a definite
cult of elitists who had hiked the extended AT ... the real AT as they
would put it ... would quickly develop). I think the loss of single-season
do-ability would greatly damage the popular appeal of the AT, and would,
over time, result in a diminishing of public support for its continued
existence. Since its inception, thru-hikers have created by far the
greatest amount of favorable publicity for the AT (the publicity
surrounding my 1987 anniversary thru-hike resulted in the biggest
in-addition-to-budget cash-flow year the ATC has ever seen, for instance),
and I would hate for this valuable resource (i.e., hometown newspapers
carrying the accounts of their local thru-hikers) to be lost because only
the few elite could do the whole thing. Trail support would be very
adversely affected. I believe it important for the AT to be preserved as a
do-able end-to-end journey for the average hiker.

I also think it important that we focus on other trails as viable entities
unto themselves. Instead of trying to bring every connected trail under the
AT umbrella, with the name "AT", why not let these trails develop their own
identity with their own names. This would broaden the focus beyond the AT,
and help to strengthen the American (and Canadian) trail systems. If these
other Trails are good hiking experiences, then they will do well and will
be no better if they are called "AT." If they are not good hiking
experiences, with good management and maintenance systems in place, then
they don't deserve to be called the "AT", and can do nothing but help
diminish a Trail that has developed over the past seventy years into the
world's premier recreational hiking footpath.

So, I'm for establishing new Trails, but I don't want every trail to be the
AT. I believe that the AT, as it is presently organized and as it presently
exists in the public mind, should not be tampered with, especially as it
nears full protection and needs to concentrate its efforts on preseving its
surrounding lands. And, I believe that it needs to remain a do-able
end-to-end trail for the average person, which is what it is at present.

* From the Appalachian Trail Mailing List | For info http://www.hack.net/lists *