You plan to take advantage of a nice day in the spring or fall by going on a pleasant hike. Half-way through your hike, you can’t find the trail for lack of signage or it‘s overgrown or blocked by downed trees.
“How can this happen?” you demand. “Why did they let it happen?”
Who Are “They?”
Hiking trails do not create themselves. Neither do trails maintain themselves.
Deer or bear make trails—“game paths”—but only humans make, or build, hiking trails.
Only humans maintain those hiking trails, too.
Management and maintenance of the 2,100-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail is vested in a unique partnership between the volunteer members of 30 trail clubs that form the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the National Park Service, which is vested by public law with overall responsibility for the Trail.
Similarly, maintenance of blue-blazed side and connecting trails that form the Appalachian Trail network is usually performed under formal partnerships established between government landowning agencies, such as the NPS, the USDA National Forest Service, or state agencies, and ATC member clubs.
Federal employees, such as the trail maintenance technicians employed by Shenandoah National Park, perform outstanding service toward the maintenance of the A.T. and its side and connecting trails. However, they are far too few in number to accomplish everything that must routinely be done.
This means that volunteers—people such as you—maintain the Appalachian Trail. People who have jobs and families and commitments such that they have to budget their time in order to fulfill the responsibilities they voluntarily take on.
The best way to thank our volunteers is to volunteer your time to help out as you can.
Review the current opportunities and find out how you can help, too!