Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Commercial Use

B.T. Fitzgerald and Bob ProudmanBy B.T. Fitzgerald and Bob Proudman

One reason the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and its partners—Trail clubs and government agencies— have been successful in creating, protecting, and stewarding the A.T. is the passion they bring to this work. That passion is evident every time there is a gathering of A.T. enthusiasts, whether it’s a club work outing or ATC’s biennial conference.
But, that passion, combined with strong opinions (another common characteristic of A.T. enthusiasts), can sometimes get us stuck, unable to resolve an issue. For more than 20 years, we’ve been stuck on ATC’s policy on group and commercial use of the Trail.
We’ve relied, since 1981, on a statement in the A.T. Comprehensive Plan: “Commercial endeavors designed to profit from visitor use are not an acceptable component in the Trail corridor.” But much has changed since that statement was written. Inexperienced hikers may prefer to hire a commercial outfitter to help them experience a backpacking trip. Groups of college students are now common along parts of the Trail in the late summer, with more than a dozen universities using the Appalachian Trail for freshman orientation trips. Organizations raising money for worthy causes raise their profiles by sponsoring a Trail-based event. Further, land-managing agencies recognize some of these activities as legitimate uses of public lands and issue permits that allow them, with certain restrictions. Clearly, the “just say no” approach is no longer viable or effective.
Thanks to good work by members of ATC’s Stewardship Council and ATC and agency staff, we have made progress on resolving this issue. At our meeting earlier this month, much of our time was devoted to learning about commercial and group use and our past attempts to develop a policy. Our focus is now on the use itself and its impact on Trail resources and the hiking experience, rather than whether it is commercial (where money changes hands) or not.
We further defined the issue by creating four categories of recreational special uses. These determinations are preliminary, and much work will be needed to develop recommendations for review and discussion by Regional Partnership Committees, clubs, and agency partners before the Stewardship Council makes a final recommendation to ATC’s Board. But, here are the categories and preliminary recommendations from our meeting:
  • Races, competitive events, and military training events—These uses are incompatible with the longstanding concept of the Trail as “a simple footpath” and should not be allowed.
  • On-Trail fundraising activities or events—These also are incompatible with Trail purposes and should be prohibited. ATC has demonstrated how important this issue is to us by not conducting on-Trail fundraising ourselves and by strongly discouraging such activities by our partner agencies, Trail clubs, and supporters such as the A.T. Museum Society and Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.
  • Camps, outdoor adventure organizations, college orientation outings, and guided hikes—These activities may be beneficial to the Trail by introducing people (especially youth and urban residents) to the A.T. and its proper use. They could be allowed with appropriate regulation to manage impacts to the resource and to other users. Leaders would have to be properly trained, the participants would have to be educated on low-impact outdoor skills, and there would be an environmental education component.
  • Volunteer-led trips (hiking clubs, scouts, church groups)—These outings may not require permits, but the same standards as camps and guided hikes should apply. Club and ATC group outreach efforts would emphasize the need for skilled leaders to educate hikers about low-impact skills and the Trail environment.
ATC develops policies to state its position on issues affecting the Trail and to facilitate consistent Trailwide management. The land-managing agencies often rely on those policies, but are not bound by them. Permitting of various types of use on the Trail would remain with those agencies.

While much more work is needed, we believe we have the basis for a practical approach that addresses group and commercial use and upholds our shared responsibility as stewards of the A.T.

B.T. Fitzgerald is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations


Max Patch Vandals - Vanquished!
ORV damage on Max Patch (Photo: Dwayne Stutzman)

ORV damage on Max Patch (photo: Dwayne Stutzman)
Max Patch, the iconic bald in the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina near the Tennessee state line, was heavily damaged this winter by all-terrain and other off-highway vehicles. The damage was discovered by Carolina Mountain Club (CMC) volunteer maintainers. One of them, Dwayne Stutzman, said, "In almost 20 years as a volunteer A. T. maintainer… I've never seen such brazen, senseless vandalism."  (See National Parks Traveler commentary by Danny Bernstein of CMC for more details.)

The good news? The vandals, who also destroyed signs and knocked down fences to access the area where vehicles are prohibited, received citations and have been ordered to pay restitution costs. In a cooperative effort involving the Forest Service, the Carolina Mountain Club, the Appalachian 4x4 Club, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, most of the damage has been repaired. (Read more here and in this USFS press release.)
Even More Volunteer Hours

Every year, ATC reports on the work accomplished on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail using National Park Service funding. The report to NPS also includes information on other projects that are not federally funded but are important to the maintenance and management of the Trail. In the unique partnership of the A.T., much of that work is done by volunteers.

While working on this year's annual report to NPS, we discovered that some 2012 ATC Trail crew hours were under-reported, and that the record number of volunteer hours reported in the November 2012 issue of The Register is even higher: 241,357 hours!

Congratulationsand our sincere thanks to all A.T. volunteers!

Boundary Blurb
Please Welcome Nicole Wooten Back to ATC!
Nicole Wooten - Mid-Atlantic Boundary Stewardship CoordinatorAfter working as a seasonal boundary technician for 9 months on boundary recovery and collecting project points for the corridor mapping project, Nicole Wooten joined the ATC staff on May 6. 
Nicole is the corridor stewardship coordinator for the mid-Atlantic region. Alison Scheiderer has moved to New England and is now focused exclusively on boundary and corridor stewardship in that region.
We hope that by having a regional focus—with less distance to travel—we will be able to better steward the A.T. corridor. The regional focus should enable us to be more responsive and more available to club volunteers, as well as being better positioned to follow up on encroachments. 
Nicole is based at ATC's mid-Atlantic regional office in Boiling Springs, PA, and can be reached at
Alison ScheidererATC Land Protection Associate Alison Scheiderer
Land Protection Associate   
Appalachian Trail Conservancy
P.O. Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425 

A.T. Hall of Fame

Former ATC Executive Director Dave Startzell will be inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame on Friday, June 7.

Five others also will be honored for their significant contributions to the Appalachian Trail: Ruth Blackburn, Dave Field, Dave Sherman, and Eddie Stone. The induction banquet will be held at the historic Allenberry Resort in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania.

Learn more about the honorees and the event at

The Appalachian Trail Museum Society inaugurated the A.T. Fall of Fame in 2011. The Appalachian Trail Museum is located in Pine Grove Furnace State Park, PA, near the mid-point of the Trail.

Continental Divide Trail Coalition 

There are 11 national scenic trails, including the A.T. The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) has been formed to support the Continental Divide Trail, one of the A.T.'s "sister trails."

The CDTC is working to build a strong network of individuals, groups, and local communities to help ensure the trail remains a national landmark for generations to come.

More about the CDTC and its current programs, including a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign that runs through July 5, can be found at

Near Laurel Falls, Pond Mountain Wilderness

Wilderness Forever - Photo Contest

2014 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. Wilderness50—a coalition of government agencies, nonprofit groups, foundations, and other supporters—will celebrate the milestone with numerous events, including a nationwide photography competition.

Photographers at all levels of experience are encouraged to enter. Entries are being accepted through September 3, 2013. Information is at

Share your images and tell your story!

Rare Plants on the Trail

While the rare plant monitoring program, which has existed for about 20 years, is well known to members of the A.T. community, it has had a few shortcomings, including the lack of annual reporting and feedback for the monitors.

That changes with the new protocol that includes guidance on how to monitor an occurrence, a host of measures to identify occurrences that may be stressed or in danger, as well as items to report on an annual basis. The 2012 report is available on the Northeast Temperate Network Website.

ATC has information on rare plant monitoring and other conservation programs at

Contact the ATC regional office near you to learn more about monitoring and management opportunities in your area.

Appalachian Trail Crews - Hard Work, Great People

Apply now for seasonal Trail crews!

ATC sponsored crews tackle projects from Maine to Georgia, including Trail relocations, erosion control, rock work, bridge construction, and more. The crews work in cooperation with A.T. maintaining clubs and agency partners. Join a crew and improve the Trail while you enjoy the comaraderie of people from across the country and overseas.

For information and to apply, go to

ATC Biennial Conference - July 19-26 

There is still time to register for the ATC membership conference - go to and find out more.

The conference, hosted by the southern region A.T. clubs, will be held at Western Carolina University, in Cullowhee, NC.

Volunteer of the Month

Joe Deloach's first word was "mountain"—foretelling his enthusiasm for the natural world and the Appalachian Trail. 

An A.T. maintainer and certified sawyer with the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club, he also has been instrumental in open-areas management, land-protection projects, and strengthening A.T. partnerships. 
(Read more here)

2013 Meetings

ATC Biennial Conference
July 19-26
Cullowhee, NC

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
October 26
Linglestown, PA

Central/Southwest Virginia Regional Partnership Committee
October 26
Buena Vista, VA

Southern Regional Partnership Committee
October 26
Asheville, NC

ATC Stewardship Council
October 31 - November 1 (date change)
Shepherdstown, WV

ATC Board of Directors
November 1-2 (date change)
Shepherdstown, WV

New England Regional Partnership Committee
November 23
Location TBD

The Register  is published by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for the volunteers of the Appalachian Trail, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy mission is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trailensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. To become a member, volunteer, or learn more, visit
Our mailing address is:
ATC Headquarters
799 Washington St, PO Box 807
Harpers Ferry, WV 25425

Copyright © 2013  |  All rights reserved.