Managing fire and camping impacts at overnight shelters and campsites along the Appalachian Trail—more than 270 of them—may be one of the most challenging aspects of A.T. management for the Trail clubs and their agency partners.
For an excellent overview of the issues, see Jeff Marion’s Camping Impact Management on the A.T.
, particularly the sections entitled Campfire Site Proliferation and Impacts, Campsite Expansion, and Proliferation of Visitor-Created Trails. Jeff is a world-class expert in recreation ecology, and past chair of the Trail and Camping Committee of ATC’s Stewardship Council.
(Below: Illegal fire ring at Liberty Campsite, NH. Photo by Sally Manikian, AMC)
For some sobering examples, see Campsites without Caretakers: Lessons from Columbus Day Weekend 2013
, where the Appalachian Mountain Club describes the situation when there were no caretakers at backcountry campsites in the White Mountains during the government shutdown last October.
(Toms Run Shelter Fire video: Penn Township Volunteer Fire Company)
Are fire accidents and arson at shelters increasing? We encourage all Trail managers to be aware and on the lookout. A shelter in the Michaux State Forest in PA burned last October (see video: Tom's Run Shelter Fire, along Appalachian Trail
). In late December, the porch and deck in front of Maryland’s Crampton Gap Shelter suffered $1,200 in damage from a fire. Overnight sites near a road, as in these cases, may be damaged by careless or intentional behavior by people more interested in partying than hiking. Both fires are under investigation.
The Appalachian Trail has a complex, overlapping set of national, state, and municipal rules and regulations and requirements for camping and campfire use. We need to know what those regulations are so we can assist hikers who ask what they can do and where.
ATC Stewardship Council members Tom Banks (Trail & Camping Committee chair), Judith McGuire (Land and Resource Protection Committee chair) and Trudy Phillips (Virginia Regional Partnership Committee chair and RPC representative to the Council), along with Laurie Potteiger (ATC information services manager) - all of whom are A.T. 2,000-milers - are working with Bob Proudman to compile a Fire and Camping summary to aid hikers in their planning and preparation. A draft will be shared with Trail club leaders and others for comments and corrections before it is posted on ATC's website. Please contact Bob at email@example.com
if you have questions or want more information.