Despite Thousands on the A.T., Managers Make Strides in Reducing Impacts in 2016
By Bob Proudman and Beth Critton
Since we wrote about managing visitor use on the Appalachian Trail earlier this year (see The Register—February 2016
) ATC, the Trail clubs and agency partners have continued efforts to reduce the impact made by increasing numbers of hikers.
ATC’s Visitor Use Manager Jason Zink reports that more than 3,000 hikers used ATC’s voluntary registration system in 2016, up from about 2,000 in 2015. More than 780 registered as “flip-floppers” starting in Harpers Ferry or elsewhere, or as south-bounders starting at Katahdin. ATC estimates that use of the A.T. in 2016 increased 22 to 24 percent over 2015.
—ATC’s voluntary thru-hiker registration for 2017 began November 24. This is the third consecutive year that prospective thru-hikers can enter their hike dates in order to help reduce peak-load overcrowding at specific sites on the Trail. See voluntary hiker registration data from 2015 and 2016 here
Increase in Ethical Hiking
—ATC Social Media Specialist Jordan Bowman recently wrote that there are indications that hikers want to do better by the Trail and its environment. See his article “2016 Sees Rise in Ethical Hiking Practices among A.T. Hikers” here
. Are club and agency managers seeing similar trends, or not? Please let us know at email@example.com
New A.T. Visitor Center in Monson, Maine
—Reports from Baxter State Park indicate that hiker behavior improved overall in 2016 and that hikers showed an increased understanding of the unique management and regulations of the park. An estimated 72 percent of northbound thru-hikers stopped at the visitor center before the final hundred-plus miles to Baxter Peak, the A.T.’s northern terminus, an encouraging development.
Animal Food-Storage Systems
—Last spring, ATC developed an advisory for Trail clubs and agency managers on Animal-Deterrent Food Storage Systems
. To prevent wildlife from becoming conditioned to human food sources, particularly with increasing bear activity, we all need to do more to prevent incidents between people and wildlife and to keep the A.T.’s environment natural.
New Policy on Visitor-Use Management (VUM)
—This year, the ATC Stewardship Council tackled direction for systematically addressing mushrooming visitor use on the Trail. Cosmo Catalano, chair of the council’s Trail and Camping Committee (working on recreation- and resource-management direction), was the moving force for the Visitor-Use Management Policy
that was adopted by the ATC Board in October. The policy says that ATC will use the framework developed by the Interagency Visitor Use Management Council to define, develop, implement, and review actions intended to address visitor-use challenges.
All other programs mentioned in February—A.T. ridgerunners and caretakers, Trail Ambassadors, and Leave No TraceTM
education efforts—have continued and expanded under the energetic direction of ATC’s regional directors, staff, and Trail clubs.
As always, we’d love to hear your insights to improve management of the Appalachian Trail.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is now an ATC consultant contributing to
Visitor Use Manager Jason Zink
We welcome Visitor Use Manager Jason Zink to the ATC staff. He and other staff members are working with Trail clubs and other partners to understand and address visitor use challenges from Georgia to Maine.
Jason worked for 15 years as an environmental engineer, often combining ecological restoration projects with trail planning and public access/education. He has worked for North Carolina State University and environmental consulting firms, including many years of self-employment.
Jason earned a B.A. in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and has graduate degrees in environmental engineering from North Carolina State University.
Since 1998, Jason has hiked more than 8,000 miles on the A.T., and remains fascinated that it is possible to walk between Georgia and Maine through the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.