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Keystone Appalachian Trail

  • Appalachian Trail patch.
    Appalachian Trail patch.
Published November 07. 2009 09:00AM

If you were to measure along the 2,178 mile long Appalachian Trail, you would find the center point of the trail to be within a few miles of Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, which is located five miles southeast of Carlisle. Just 1.6 miles from Boiling Springs is the natural marker for the midpoint of the trail, the 1.056-foot-high Center Point Knob.

Boiling Springs is home to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The ATC manages and maintains the Appalachian Trail through the 14 states that it meanders through. Its headquarters is in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and it has four regional offices. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Office, located in Boiling Springs, PA, covers the six states of: Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.

"The regional offices work with the partners to keep the magic of the trail going," explained John Luthy - office manager of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Office of the ATC.

Maintenance of sections of the Trail is assigned to trail clubs. For example, between Harrisburg and the Lehigh Gap, maintenance is provided by the following clubs: York Hiking Club, Susquehanna Appalachian Trail Club, Blue Mountain Eagle Climbing Club, Allentown Hiking Club, and the Philadelphia Trail Club.

For projects that are too large or require special skills, the ATC steps in. "We run programs where volunteers go into the field for a specific project," Luthy said. "The ATC provides a crew leader and they will go into the forest for an entire week, sometimes longer, along the trail."

One such project is currently taking place in New York on Bear Mountain at the site where the first section of the Appalachian Trail was blazed in 1922. This heavily used section of the trail is being improved to increase the width of the trail in steep areas, reduce the grade, or construct stone steps on the steepest sections to make it more accessible, and add signage to point out natural features. The project is taking 400 volunteers, 17,000 volunteer hours.

The Appalachian Trails Conservancy, originally called the Appalachian Trails Conference and renamed in 2005, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Maine to Georgia. The Conference works to protect the trail's 2,175-mile, 250,000-acre greenway, and coordinates the work of thirty hiking clubs.

The ATC was formed in 1925, at a meeting hosted by Benton MacKaye. In 1921, MacKaye, a forester and father of "regional planning," conceived of a network of work camps and communities in the mountains, all linked by a trail that ran from the highest point in New England to the highest point in the South. He called it the Appalachian Trail.

MacKaye saw the East Coast industrial lifestyle as harmful to people. He envisioned the A.T. as a path interspersed with planned wilderness communities where people could go to renew themselves.

Although MacKaye's Utopian vision garnered little support, it attracted the interest of hikers and lovers of the outdoors who were inspired by the 1,000-mile trail.

The ATC began recruiting volunteers and blazing trials. Myron Avery led the effort. Avery focused on building a hiking trail while MacKaye favored promoting wilderness as a retreat. The two men quarreled, resulting in MacKaye leaving to form the Wilderness Society. MacKaye rejoined the ATC after the passing of Avery in 1952.

With the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the construction of the Trail proceeded rapidly and was completed in 1937. But soon, World War II moved the efforts of the nation away from conservation and the Trail fell into disrepair. After the war, the Trail was rebuilt and declared complete in 1951.

In the ensuing years, a base of volunteer clubs was developed to maintenance the trail, and the trail has been continuously improved, and more of the trail has been placed into the public domain. In 1968, The Appalachian Trail became a National Scenic Trail.

The ATC has been in Boiling Springs since as long as anyone in the office can remember. In the 1980s, they moved into their current location, at 4 E. First Street. The building, formerly a turn-of-the-century inn, had burned and was rebuilt as a residence.

The ATC located an office in Boiling Springs because of its strategic midway location, making it the keystone of the Appalachian Trail.

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