239,109 Hours - A New Record!
By Bob Proudman and B.T. Fitzgerald
ATC is pleased to report that during the 2012 federal fiscal year A.T. volunteers worked a record 239,109 hours. Those hours were contributed by 6,033 volunteers working under the federal Volunteers in Parks and Volunteers in Forests programs. That's about 600 more volunteers than in last year’s report, and the fifth highest number of individuals since our recordkeeping began in 1983.
Our annual volunteer report to the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service clearly and explicitly demonstrates the extent of volunteer contributions to the Appalachian Trail project. It also makes ATC and the Trail clubs eligible for special NPS funding for volunteer recognition and training.
ATC’s total is more than twice the second-place finisher in the National Trails System. ATC has two advantages over other trails: tradition and population. With some of our older clubs—and parts of the Trail itself—predating the founding of many of the national parks and forests through which the Trail passes, today's volunteers are proud to carry on the hard-working traditions of the early Trail builders and maintainers. Another advantage is the Trail's location near Eastern population centers where many A.T. maintaining clubs are based, including Atlanta, Asheville, Roanoke, Washington, D.C., Harrisburg, New York, New Jersey, and New England’s major cities.
Even with those impressive numbers, we believe that significant work is not being reported. While traditional trail work, shelter construction and maintenance, and A.T. corridor boundary work hours are reported, not all clubs are tracking time spent on Trail and club management, responding to threats to the Trail, communications, school and community outreach, updating maps and guidebooks, natural and cultural resource monitoring and management, volunteer training, organizing and leading hikes, and more. ATC will be working with the clubs and our agency partners to refine our reporting, without creating an undue burden on volunteers and Trail clubs, to truly reflect the work that goes into maintaining, managing, and protecting the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.
The Trail clubs and all Trail volunteers should congratulate themselves for another year of dedicated high-quality achievement on the A.T., its associated side trails, boundary lands, natural and cultural resources, and its neighboring communities. We commend you!
Bob Proudman is director of conservation operations
B.T. Fitzgerald is chair of the stewardship council
The massive, slow-moving October hurricane caused Trail closures in many locations and left varying degrees of damage in its wake. The Mid-Atlantic and southern New England states had strong winds, flooding and relatively mild temperatures, while the South suffered extreme cold, with snow and ice spreading from Shenandoah National Park to northern Georgia. At high elevations in the Great Smoky Mountains, snow drifted five-feet deep in some locations. Caution is urged as you assess Trail conditions. Wind-thrown forests present unique and especially hazardous conditions. Be particularly mindful of overhead hazards, leaning trees, and tangles of multiple blowdowns. Use caution and contact agency partners and ATC for additional field evaluation and professional assistance when needed.
This fall, ATC Boundary Technicians Joel Baker and Nicole Wooten have visited 121 boundary monuments marking National Park Service-Appalachian Trail (APPA) lands in northern Virginia and collected their coordinates using a precise Trimble GPS unit. Their work is a continuation of the ongoing corridor mapping project intended to create more accurate maps of the exterior corridor boundary. With the spatial information collected, GIS specialists Paul Mitchell of ATC and Matt Robinson of NPS are able to accurately plot the monuments. By collecting a few monuments in each traverse of each survey, they should be able to accurately map not only the monuments collected, but also the rest of the traverses—and hence the rest of the survey. When the project is completed, we will know the precise location of the monuments along the exterior corridor boundary of the Trail. This will make the boundary easier to navigate for monitors using a GPS and further discourage encroachment onto corridor lands.
Photo at left: NPS surveyor Kirk Norton holds the "wand" that communicates with a computerized theodolite to pinpoint its location. PATC volunteer Mike Jenkins holds the monument at his feet. Once the monument is accurately located, the hole around it will be filled in, with careful rechecking to make sure that it hasn't moved even a fraction of an inch.
We already have spatial location information on some traverses. ATC boundary staff and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club volunteer Mike Jenkins assisted NPS Lands Office surveyor Kirk Norton in setting eight monuments to indicate the correct line between APPA land and private land near Keys Gap, WV. Despite the existence of a survey plat since 2002, the line had not been marked on the ground. The team set monuments, cleared the line, machete-blazed appropriate trees and painted them a brilliant shade of boundary yellow.