New Appalachian Trail Community Ambassadors

Published Mar 11, 2013

AT Trail Community Logo 2

The latest official length of the Appalachian Trail is 2,185.9 miles, according to the AT Thru-Hikers' Companion.

Scores of towns adjoin the trail. Some are more friendly to hikers than others, but we are grateful for them all. Good neighbors are always valuable, but especially to folks who straggle into town to replenish basic provisions.

That's why the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recognizes exceptionally friendly areas and awards them the status of Appalachian Trail Community(TM).

The program serves to assist communities with local initiatives such as sustainable economic development through tourism and outdoor recreation, while preserving and protecting the AT. Since the program's inception in 2010, 28 communities have been designated with five to ten additional communities expected to join in 2013.

Community Program Manager of the ATC Julie Judkins says, "The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is excited about building its volunteer base by providing AT Ambassadors to designated AT Communities to help increase local stewardship of public lands and support healthy lifestyles for community citizens,"

Local Ambassadors represent the Appalachian Trail in their communities, on behalf of the ATC. They serve as community liaisons to the ATC and their respective local volunteer clubs to encourage volunteerism and stewardship of the Trail at the local level. This year there are 17 ambassadors serving 15 different communities along the Appalachian Trail (AT).


The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has selected Janet Hensley and Rob Martin to serve as the volunteer ambassadors to the designated Appalachian Trail Community(TM) of Unicoi County, Tennessee. Both will serve as a community liaison to the ATC and the Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club to encourage volunteerism and stewardship of the Trail at the local level.

Hensley has been involved with the A.T. in Unicoi County for a number of years as the owner of one of the town's hiker hostels and as the coordinator of A.T. Summit Seminars, meant to generate greater understanding and positive relationships between hikers and the local business community. This is Hensley's second year serving as a Unicoi County A.T. Ambassador.

"I am very interested in being able to work more closely with my community here in Unicoi County to promote the Appalachian Trail and to encourage others to get involved," said Hensley. "I have always felt that we have some great resources in the people of this area and it is very rewarding to be part of a program designed to get them involved."

Martin graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Master's Degree in Computer Science. He is an ATC member and a Life Scout in Boy Scouts of America. As an A.T. Community(TM) Ambassador, he plans to volunteer his time maintaining the Trail and providing support to hikers. As an avid outdoorsman, Martin frequently hikes along the A.T. and kayaks in the Nolichucky River.


Five Appalachian Trail Community(TM) Ambassadors have been selected for the state of Virginia.

  • J.D. Hibbitts has been selected to serve as the volunteer ambassador of Damascus.
  • Diana Billips will serve as the ambassador to Bland County.
  • Tim Miller will serve as the ambassador to Troutville.
  • Jennifer Keck will serve as the ambassador to Luray and Page County.
  • Alyson Browett will serve as the ambassador to Front Royal and Warren County.

Hibbitts, originally from southwest Virginia, has traveled the world as an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force. After completing his enlistment, he enrolled at Emory & Henry College where he received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Creative Writing. While in school, he completed a thru-hike of the A.T. and received certifications in Wilderness First Aid and CPR. Most recently, he attained a Master of Fine Arts degree at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. His writing also appears in A.T. Journeys magazine.

Billips, a board member of the Piedmont A.T. Hikers, operates the club's hiking program, including monthly hikes and the "70 Mile Club." She is responsible for maintaining a section of the A.T., is a lifelong resident of southwest Virginia and an avid hiker. This is Billips' second year as an A.T. Community(TM) Ambassador.

Miller attended Virginia Tech and attained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Forestry and Wildlife and a Master of Arts Degree in Education. He is currently a teacher at Central Academy Middle School in Botetourt County, where he completed the ATC's Trail to Every Classroom program in 2011. Miller is an Eagle Scout, lifelong hiker and backpacker.

Keck graduated from the University of Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture. She is the president of the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Association and the former Director of Tourism for Front Royal. Keck is a trained Master Naturalist and hopes to promote Trail-friendly policies in the local government.

"The Ambassador program will contribute to my knowledge of both the Appalachian Trail and Appalachian Trail Conservancy programs that enhance and protect the Trail and Trail experience," stated Keck.

A new member of the Front Royal/Warren County A.T. Community(TM) committee, Browett is an avid hiker and naturalist who has spent time in the woods around northern Virginia her entire life. As a public health professional, personal trainer and chef, she is interested in making people more mindful of how health, exercise and nutrition intersect. She hopes to use her position as an A.T. Ambassador to build a stronger awareness of the Trail, encourage volunteerism, conservation efforts and inspire community members to go outside for some fresh air.

West Virginia

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has selected Wendy Hershey to serve as the volunteer ambassador to the designated Appalachian Trail Community(TM) of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, West Virginia.

Hershey has a Bachelor's Degree in Communication Disorders & Speech Science from the University of Colorado. She is an A.T. section hiker and looks forward to promoting Trail awareness with community outreach, educational events, Trail maintenance projects, and community hikes. Over the past four years, she successfully organized the Valentines for Vets program in her community, delivering over 300 handmade Valentines to local Veterans Hospitals each year.

"I am passionate about the Appalachian Trail. I love exploring on it. I love the history behind it. I love the permanence of it," said Hershey.

The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials. The AT is a unit of the National Park System and is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. Volunteers typically donate more than 220,000 hours per year to the Trail.

Click Here for Appalachian Trail Conservancy's website

Click Here for Appalachian Trail Community Information

Tags: Events, Tourism, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, Hiking Gear, Appalachian Trail Community, and Appalachian Trail Clubs

About the Author Robert Sutherland:
Robert Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life. Robert has two adult daughters and six grandchildren.
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Only the most friendly and dedicated towns are appointed official Appalachian Trail Communities by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.