Helen, Georgia: An Appalachian Trail Community

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) is the official guardian of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, commonly referred to as the Appalachian Trail (AT).

One of the ATC's best ideas (and there have been many) is the Appalachian Trail Community(TM) program. It's designed to recognize communities that promote and protect the Appalachian Trail (AT), especially those that are hiker-friendly.

Helen, Georgia, is the latest recipient of this prized honor.

Helen is a bizarre little town in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains. You have to see it to believe it.

In the late 1960s, Helen's denizens were wracking their brains trying to come up with a way to draw tourists to visit and spend oodles of money on candles, fudge and beer. The magnificent Chattahoochee River flowing through town, the nearby Appalachian Trail, Anna Ruby Falls at Unicoi State Park and Betty's (the coolest general store in the galaxy) were not enough. They needed a gimmick.

The solution? Transform Helen into a Bavarian heaven. Honest.

Local banks, Wendy's, motels and shops for motorcycle gear and other necessities recreated a place that rivals any Alp-less town anywhere.

But I digress ...

You are invited -- by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC) and the city of Helen -- to Helen's Appalachian Trail Community Designation Ceremony on Friday, November 30, 2012 at the Bandshell Amphitheater in the center of town. (Don't worry, you can't miss it.) The fun begins at 11 AM.

Committee Chair of the Appalachian Trail Community(TM) Committee and Manager of Habersham Winery Steve Gibson says, "White County town officials, residents and businesses are all excited about the Appalachian Trail designation, and this new partnership with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. We look forward to promoting the Trail and recreational opportunities to local residents and visitors alike."

Charles Aiken, thru-hiker and longtime GATC volunteer and Trail-maintainer, will begin the festivities by performing the national anthem. Aiken was first introduced to the AT when he was 12. He has loved the AT ever since. He recently developed a hiking program, now active in various North Georgia schools, where students can learn about the history of the AT and experience the outdoors.

Following the national anthem, various guests will make brief presentations, including:

  • Mark Wenger, executive director/CEO of the ATC
  • Morgan Sommerville, southern regional director of the ATC
  • Mayor Judy Holloway and
  • Tom Aderhold, former president of GATC and longtime volunteer. He was awarded the 50-Year Service Award by the National Park Service for his efforts managing the AT.

Designation as an Appalachian Trail Community(TM) and participation in the program has these goals:

  • Engage community citizens, trail visitors and stewards
  • Recognize and thank communities for their service to the trail and hikers
  • Act as a catalyst for enhancing sustainable economic development
  • Aid local municipalities and regional areas with conservation planning
  • Help local community members see the trail as a resource and asset

ATC's Community Program Manager Julie Judkins, says, "The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to celebrate communities that are helping to protect and promote the Appalachian Trail. These new partnerships will increase local stewardship of public lands, support community initiatives for sustainable economic development and conservation planning as well as support healthy lifestyles for community citizens."

Click Here for AT Community Information

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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