Published Feb 12, 2015
Our friends at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) -- valiant protectors of the Appalachian Trail (AT) -- have devised a system to lessen the likelihood of overcrowding of the AT by thru-hikers. Their idea is to have hikers use a voluntary registration system to select the best date to keep the trail, at least at the onset, from traffic jams.
One of the most helpful statements made by the ATC about voluntary registration came at the bottom of a page in weensy letters: "This 2015 A.T. Thru-Hike Registration is a pilot process for the expected 2016 significant increase in use. We want the 2016 process to work very well. So PLEASE provide us feedback on using this process and actual results along the A.T. We WILL pay attention to your comments to make this voluntary system as simple and effective as possible."
Let's review the Key Words in that statement:
Therefore, this voluntary, pilot program is not a mandate from Big Brother to ruin your life, hike or plans.
Many of us trust the collective wisdom of the ATC and believe they have the best interests of our beloved Trail in mind, even if protecting the Trail inconveniences users, at times.
Please take some time to calmly read the information provided by the ATC. Then, please provide your feedback, as they request, and consider working with them on voluntary registration.
In order to enhance the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) experience for thru-hikers and better manage this natural resource, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), in cooperation with its partners, has launched a new voluntary registration system for those attempting to hike the estimated 2,185-mile-long Trail in one year. This registration system, available at www.appalachiantrail.org/thruhikeregistration, exists to ease impacts from the increased number of hikers expected after the release of two hiking related films, "Wild" and "A Walk in the Woods."
In recent years, the A.T. thru-hike experience has at peak use times suffered severe overcrowding at the southern end of the Trail. Crowding intensifies because hikers tend to start thru-hikes around specific dates, such as March 1, March 17, and especially April 1 and weekends. Overcrowding puts undue pressure on the finite number of 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. These issues that arise due to overcrowding are detrimental not only to the A.T. but also to the hiker's overall experience.
"With a large number of new hikers expected along the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and 2016, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy hopes that this new voluntary thru-hike registration system will allow hikers to know in advance when overcrowding along the Trail will exist, and then adjust a thru-hike start date to his or her advantage - the solution is simple, the hikers need to spread out," said Morgan Sommerville, the ATC's regional director.
Users of this voluntary registration system should keep in mind that it does not provide hikers with guaranteed spaces along the A.T. or serve as a substitute for any required permits. At this time, registration is only open for 2015. Registration for 2016 will be available on Dec. 1, 2015.
About the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park Service, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,185 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.
The mission of the ATC is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail - ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come.
For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.
Tags: Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, and Conservation
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