Today the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) celebrates 90 years of protecting the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). A long-standing partnership with the federal government, Trail maintaining clubs and thousands of volunteers has enabled the organization to preserve and manage the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.
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. The Trail goes through fourteen states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia, to the Trail’s northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine.
The A.T. has over 2-3 million people visit the Trail every year and about 2,500 people attempt to “thru-hike” the Trail. People from across the globe are drawn to the A.T. for a variety of reasons: to reconnect with nature, to escape the stress of city life, to meet new people or deepen old friendships, or to experience a simpler life.
The A.T. was completed in 1937 and is a unit of the National Park System. The A.T. is managed under a unique partnership between the public and private sectors that includes, among others, the National Park Service, the USDA Forest Service, an array of state agencies, the ATC, and 31 local Trail-maintaining clubs.
“This year marks a milestone for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy,” said Ron Tipton, the ATC’s executive director/CEO. “The Conservancy is widely respected and recognized for its historic role in managing and protecting the Appalachian Trail, and we are committed to preserving this wonderful hiking experience for future generations to enjoy.”
With central offices in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a quarter-mile from the Trail since 1972, the ATC currently includes more than 43,000 members, 6,000 volunteers, a full & part time staff of about 50 in six locations and an annual budget of $7.9 million and total assets of about $15 million.
The ATC celebrates its 90th anniversary in the midst of its implementation of a new 5-year Strategic Plan. The plan, launched in early 2015, identifies five key goals: Proactive Protection, Engaged Partners, Effective Stewardship, Broader Relevancy, and Strengthened Capacity and Operational Excellence. Together, these goals not only reinforce the idea that the Trail can be enjoyed by a variety of users in multiple ways, but also that the A.T. should be readily accessible to all who wish to be a part of the experience.
For more information about the ATC’s 90th anniversary, including ways to give back, visit www.appalachiantrail.org/90th.