Appalachian Trail Conservancy

SidehillBeth Critton and Bob Proudman
ATC Girds for Major Actions in 2015

By Bob Proudman and Beth Critton

Multiple actions are planned this year to realign ATC’s work with its Strategic Plan and to manage an expected explosion in public use of the A.T. this year and next.
Activities are spread across multiple fronts:
  • Southern Regional Director Morgan Sommerville is chairing a task force to lay the groundwork for managing anticipated major increases in thru-hike attempts due to the two films Wild (released in late 2014) and A Walk in the Woods (to be released later this year), adding even greater numbers to the concentration of northbound hikers who start at Springer Mountain each year in March and April. 
  • The Stewardship Council reorganized its committees to align roles with the goals of the Board-adopted Strategic Plan and the NPS-APPA Business Plan. 


  • The Stewardship Council has endorsed an Organized Group Use Policy, following multiple drafts and reviews, including by all four Regional Partnership Committees. It is currently under review by ATC legal counsel and the Board. 
  • ATC is pleased to announce a number of Leave No Trace initiatives, including its designation as one of only eleven LNT Master Educator course providers nationwide.  A number of ATC staff will receive training in April. New A.T.-specific Leave No Trace hang-tags have been developed and will be distributed to hikers who meet certain requirements.
  • ATC has learned that the National Park Service will fund Dr. Jeffrey L. Marion’s 2015 A.T. and campsite sustainability study, using NPS fee-demonstration funding. Four years of work are anticipated for the study, entitled “Appalachian Trail Visitor Impact Assessments to Enhance Sustainability and Improve Visitor Experience.”
A number of issues will be on the agendas of the spring Regional Partnership Committees, including consideration of a draft ATC policy on pipeline proposals (see related sidebar) and updates on the proposed group use policy, development of ATC direction on drones, Trail inventory work, the pilot thru-hiker registration program (see Voluntary Thru-Hiker Registration article in this issue), Leave No Trace initiatives, and overnight site management.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations

Proudman Wraps up a Half-century of Trail Work this June
Bob receives award—a reconditioned antique single-bit ax—for the best Game of Logging score at USFS National Chainsaw Coordinators' gathering on the Ocala National Forest in Florida earlier this month.

After 50 years of trail building and A.T. management, I will hang up my tools this June, the 50th anniversary of my first year on the Trail Crew of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Starting as a 16-year-old (earning $18.50 per week), I lived on trails throughout the White Mountains for the next four summers, and seized on my lifelong vocation.

I served on ATC’s Board in 1975–1978, worked as a contractor and staff member with the fledgling NPS-Appalachian Trail Park Office in 1977–80, and joined the ATC staff in 1981. For more than 10 years, I have been operations director for ATC’s conservation program.

I have come to know many of you over the past 50 years and over countless hours spent on the Trail (and in meetings), and will miss our interactions and adventures. I look forward to continuing to work with you and the Trail clubs and agency partners over the next several months.

After that, I plan to stay involved with the A.T. and ATC as a contractor, writer, and trainer. And, if you need me, I plan to be available to consult or answer obscure questions of history or practical aspects of maintenance and A.T. lore. 

—Bob Proudman

Voluntary Thru-hiker Registration
ATC is piloting a voluntary registration system for prospective thru-hikers intended to ease overcrowding at the southern end of the Trail during peak use times, particularly in March and April when northbound hikers tend to start. Usage is expected to increase dramatically with the release of the films Wild and A Walk in the Woods.

Overcrowding puts undue pressure on shelters and campsites and on the water, plants, and wildlife near these accommodations. When too many people are crammed together at campsites, vegetation is trampled, trash may accumulate, and unsanitary conditions can ensue. Issues arising from overcrowding are detrimental not only to the A.T. but also to the hiker’s overall experience.

The registration system, available at, offers hikers the opportunity to see how many people are planning to start on specific dates, encouraging usage to be spread out. Thru-hikes with alternative starting points and routes can also be registered.

Garlic Mustard Challenge

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is one of the most insidious plants found in eastern forests. Native to Eurasia, garlic mustard was brought to North America by European settlers as a culinary herb. Since its introduction to this continent, garlic mustard has spread rapidly in natural areas, displacing native plants and disrupting forest ecosystems. 

Unlike many invasive plants, garlic mustard thrives in shady conditions, which allows it to establish in mature, undisturbed forests. Garlic mustard has exploding seed pods that can disperse seeds up to 10 feet. The seeds are also spread by humans, animals, and water. There are few natural enemies to garlic mustard in North America, and it also has the advantage  of being allelopathic, meaning that it emits chemicals to kill surrounding plants and soil microbes. 

In recent years, ATC has documented numerous garlic mustard infestations on the Trail, from Georgia to Maine. Despite its persistence and rapid spread, garlic mustard can be easily removed by hand-pulling the plants before they have a chance to set seed in late spring.

In 2015, ATC is challenging volunteers to remove one pound of garlic mustard for every mile of the A.T. Starting in April, there will be a series of work projects to help club volunteers identify garlic mustard and remove plants to prevent them from spreading along the A.T. All extracted plants will be weighed and tallied to track progress toward the goal of 2,189 pounds!

If you would like to get involved with the 2015 A.T. Garlic Mustard Challenge, please contact for more information about removing garlic mustard in your area.

Draft ATC Policy on Proposed Pipelines

December's Sidehill column described the threat to the A.T. posed by the recent flood of proposed pipeline crossings and announced that ATC was developing a policy to address this threat. 

A draft of that policy can be found here. It has been distributed to RPC chairs and A.T. club presidents. Please submit any comments regarding the proposed policy to your club's RPC representative or ATC regional director before the March RPC meetings.

Erasing a Trend

By Robert J. Collins 

Modern day petroglyphs? Self-expression art? An expected rite of passage? Vandalism?

The definition of graffiti depends on who you ask. Prehistoric men and women felt a need to mark caves with drawings of animals or to scrape signs and shapes on rocks. Were these messages for others traveling through the area, or were they sitting out a thunderstorm in a cave, bored? Today we can still see the overwhelming urge that humans have to leave their mark—even along the Appalachian Trail.

(Read Robert's full article here, on ATC's new blog)





Graffiti removal in progress




Graffiti cleaned/filled, sanded, 
and stained

(Springer Mountain Shelter photos courtesy of Robert J. Collins)

L.L.Bean Grants to A.T. Clubs

Guidelines and application forms for the 2015 grant program have been sent to Trail club leaders, and applications are being accepted until March 7.

This long-standing program, sponsored by outdoor retailer L.L. Bean, Inc. since the 1980s, has provided more than $500,000 to A.T. maintaining clubs and their partners for projects ranging from purchasing trail tools to building A.T. Community kiosks (photo above), to developing club brochures.

For  more information, or to request an application packet, contact
A committee consisting of Trail club volunteers from the Regional Partnership Committees and ATC staff members will review and determine the awards, which will be distributed in April.

Hiking through History 

ATC's 2015  Biennial Conference is fast approaching!  It will be held July 17-24 on the campus of Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia.

Volunteers are still needed to help with registration, excursions, and events. You can learn more and fill out a volunteer application at

Registration opens in April, but you can stay informed about hikes and events on the A.T. Conservancy Biennial Conference Facebook page.

The 2015 conference is being cohosted by the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club and the Mountain Club of Maryland. We look forward to seeing you there!

Do You Work with Volunteers? 
Check out ATC's Volunteer Toolkit for advice on recruiting, working with, and recognizing A.T. volunteers.  

Just click on the Volunteer Management button on the toolkit page 

Subscribe to The Register

First published in April 1978, The Register is intended for Appalachian Trail volunteers, their agency partners, and others interested in the stewardship of the Trail. 

Subscribe to The Register (and other ATC newsletters) at  or send a message to with "subscribe" in the subject line and with your first and last name and e-mail address in the body of the message. 

Please forward this issue or provide this information to anyone who might be interested in subscribing. 

Volunteer of the Month

Sandra Ragsdale has been a dedicated volunteer at ATC headquarters, working faithfully year-round with staff and other volunteers to make sure that all hikers who report completion of the entire A.T. are added to the 2,000-miler registry. 

(Read more about Sandra here)

2015 ATC Meetings

Mid-Atlantic Regional Partnership Committee
March 20–21
Bowmanstown, PA

New England Regional Partnership Committee
March 21
Hanover, NH

Southern Partnership Meeting
March 2729
Arden, NC

ATC Stewardship Council
May 7
Shepherdstown, WV

ATC Board of Directors
May 89
Shepherdstown, WV

ATC Biennial Conference
July 17–24
Winchester, VA
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

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