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GATC has received a 2017 Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Service Award from the Rollins School of Public Health and the Goizueta Business School of Emory University. The award ceremony was held in Atlanta at Emory on January 19. Accepting the award was GATC’s current director of Community Outreach Jay Dement. Also in attendMLK Awdance were three former Outreach directors Marianne Skeen, Frank Wright, and Tom Ottinger.

This award recognizes and celebrates people and organizations in greater Atlanta whose work exemplifies the legacy of Dr. King. Some of the criteria for the award specify that recipients should celebrate diversity and impel action in building a better future for all. Additionally, it looks for organizations that invest resources for the well being of all children, especially those who would otherwise miss out on the many opportunities a young life should offer.

The award cites GATC for conducting a youth outreach program over the last ten years that helps young people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to participate in hiking and camping on National Forest lands. The program focuses both on children in areas of concentrated poverty in the metro Atlanta area and on youth in rural north Georgia counties through which the Appalachian Trail passes. Multi-day backpack trips are arranged for the metro Atlanta kids to build their self-reliance and give them a more immersive experience in the outdoors.

The award citation noted that over 25 GATC volunteers have been involved with these outreach activities. GATC thanks all of you who have participated and were instrumental in the club’s receiving this prestigious award. The Club also encourages any other members who are interested to join in this worthwhile outreach effort.

Presidential Ponderings

Jay DMay 2020

Finally spring is here, the trees and flowers are in bloom and the air is filled with pollen. With 80 degree days it almost feels as if we passed spring and slid right into summer. And yet, it also seems like the dead of winter because we are “sheltering” and not hitting the trails.

Like all of us, I have spent the last few weeks watching all the news about the COVID-19 virus and seeing the horror that has unfolded. I virtually erased my calendar for the next month or two, including the annual ATC Spring Volunteer Meeting, and of course, hikes and trail work.

A few weeks ago I spent a Trail Ambassador patrol at the Springer Shelter at the very beginning of “social distancing”. While the number of thru-hikers was down to perhaps 20, they seemed unaware or concerned about the virus. I warned about staying in the shelter (4 did each night). About 35 hikers were encountered at the overlook. There was a group of five women hiking north for several days. Two of them were “not feeling” well and obtained a shuttle to pick them up at the parking lot. At the time, I thought they were way underprepared. Now I wonder?

At first, I thought it would be acceptable to do some trail maintenance and Trail Ambassador patrols. The trail always needs something done, like bucking blowdowns. This would also be a very important time for Trail Ambassadors to encourage hikers to leave the trail. I was just about to send out a communique when At Large Director Babette Broussard and Conservation Director Dr. Scott Deitchman reinforced the importance of staying home. How would it look for us to be on the trail telling others to get off?

During one of several tele-conferences with ATC, someone pointed out that we have invested significantly in the trail over the years. To be absent for a few months should not have a big effect. Even a few blowdowns should not pose a great threat. The trail will survive, especially with diminished crowds,.

As many of you have seen, ATC has been on the forefront of getting an advisory to hikers. They do not have the authority to close the trail, and yet their voice is strong. Recently the Chattahoochee National Forest issued an order closing access points and trail heads to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), Benton Mackay Trail (BMT), Blue Blaze and many other side trails. The National Forests of North Carolina, Cherokee and George Washington Jefferson National Forests have all issued similar orders. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (APPA) office has submitted a request to the Secretary of the Interior to close the A.T.

The unemployment numbers are staggering. So many businesses and stores are closed. We have a “new normal”. While bars and restaurants are closed, there still is carryout and delivery. Now congress has passed a massive stimulus measure, which will help for a short time. Then there are shortages of some essential things like toilet paper and hand wipes. I sure hope these products will soon be back on the shelves.

“How long will this last”? is the big question. There seems to be a lot of experts being interviewed on TV. “It hasn’t peaked” is the consistent message, along with maintaining social distancing and washing your hands. Recently, it was announced that we need to maintain distancing until the end of April.

The lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for medical personnel and first responders is a big problem. The shortage of hospital beds and ventilators adds to the treatment burden. Those individuals on the front line deserve our respect, support and admiration along with truck drivers, store workers, etc.

Some parts of the country are harder hit, especially New York. In his Town Hall meeting, Governor Kemp indicated that decisions should be made locally. It seems to me that if we are following prescribed guidelines, then communities with fewer cases may not need similar rigid restrictions. Although, we should also err on the side of caution.

The initial objective is to “flatten the curve”. With fewer people getting sick, their treatment would not put such a strain on the system. There is also the issue of the future of the virus. Presumably, new cases will diminish during a hot humid summer, but it could rebound next fall and winter?

I don’t understand why it takes so long to develop a vaccine to fight this thing. Twelve to 18 months seems like a very long time, but it probably is necessary to make sure the cure isn’t worse than the virus. One important thing to bear in mind is that this will not go away on its own. I wouldn’t be surprised to see long lines to get the vaccine when it is available. I won’t mind standing in that line.

All this means we have a new “normal” on the Appalachian Trail in Georgia. From what I see on Facebook, most of the thru and section hikers understand their trips have to be postponed. GATC is a leader, we have to “walk the talk” and stand down.

I have a strong faith in the ability of people to weather any storm. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner in the Trump administration said “The goal is to outline a plan that will allow a gradual return to a more normal way of life without increasing the risk”. Milestones along the way help to let us know where we stand and have hope.

In the meantime, hunker down, wash your hands and stay safe. No matter how long we are gone, the trail will survive.


ATC Launches LNT Video Series

In anticipation of the increase in thru-hiker traffic as a result of the upcoming release of the movie "A Walk in the Woods", ATC has released a series of videos highlighting Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics.  The short (1-2 minute) videos focus on each of the seven LNT principles, as well as the story behind the videos and a blooper/outtake reel.  Spread the word -- "Don't Be That Guy".  #ATLNT

Voluntary Thru-Hiker Registration System

Harpers Ferry, WV (Feb. 9, 2015) – 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, 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.”

News Release : A.T. Unmanned Aircraft Use Policy

The National Park Service has developed an interim policy prohibiting the use of unmanned aircraft on NPS managed lands of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.  This is a new park use that could affect park resources, staff, and visitors in ways that the National Park Service has yet to identify, analyze and examine.  It is the National Park Service policy to not allow a new park use until a determination has been made that it will not result in unacceptable impacts on park resources and values, plus staff and visitor safety.

The closure prohibits the launching, landing, or operating an unmanned aircraft from or on lands and waters administered by the National Park Service within the boundaries of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

The term “unmanned aircraft” means a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the device, and the associated operational elements and components that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate or control the device (such as cameras, sensors, communication links).  This term includes all types of devices that meet this definition (e.g., model airplanes, quadcopters, drones) that are used for any purpose, including for recreation or commerce.”

This interim policy is effective August 20, 2014 until such time that the National Park Service can determine the most appropriate policy that will protect park resources and provide all visitors with a rich experience.

About the Appalachian National Scenic Trail:  The Appalachian Trail is a 2,184 mile long public footpath that traverses the scenic, wooded, pastoral, wild, and culturally resonant lands of the Appalachian Mountains.  Conceived in 1921, built by private citizens, and completed in 1937, today the trail is managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, numerous state agencies and thousands of volunteers.

About the National Park Service:  More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 401 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to- home recreational opportunities.