The mission of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club includes promoting “appreciation of the Appalachian Trail and of the natural world in general.” But in our connected, increasingly urban, and fast paced world, fewer people each year seem to take the time to slow down and appreciate that natural world that is both their heritage and their responsibility. The purpose of GATC’s Outreach Program is to encourage and facilitate that appreciation, particularly with young people.
Reaching Out to Inner City Youth
In cooperation with the Phoenix Boys Association, GATC leaders conduct a complete graded program of increasing challenge for inner city youth of Atlanta. Activities range from day hikes to the top of Stone Mountain for younger boys to overnight backpacking trips for older boys.
Reaching Out to Youth near the Trail
GATC partners with schools near the trail to bring students in grades 2 through 12 to the Appalachian Trail for a variety of activities, including day hikes, classes on the trail, trail maintenance projects, and occasional backpacking trips.
During a typical day hike, students might learn how to recognize mountain laurel, galax, and poison ivy; they might learn about Leave No Trace principles and respect for the natural world; and they might even hear about turnpikes and gargoyles and what they have to do with trail building.
Reaching Out to College Students
Reaching Out Through the Hike Inn
Georgia’s Len Foote Hike Inn, about 5 miles by trail from Amicalola Falls State Park, is a non-profit inn located deep in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Its mission is to make experiencing nature easy, and help protect it through education and recreation. That makes it an ideal partner for GATC Outreach, and we take many school and youth groups on overnight trips there each year.
The GATC has also partnered with the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center (GMREC), south of Blairsville, to develop a set of classes for grade school students to provide an AT Experience for ELHI students. The GMREC is an educational extension service provided by the University of Georgia. Classes are tailored to the grade level and should be arranged for by teachers thru GMREC by requesting an AT Day for your class or classes.
Reaching Out to Communities
Georgia has five officially designated Appalachian Trail Communities: Blairsville - Union County, Dahlonega, Ellijay - Gilmer County, Helen - White County, and Hiwassee - Towns County. This designation by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy recognizes that the communities welcome hikers, promote the Appalachian Trail, and promote conservation and protection of natural areas. GATC works with the communities to encourage outdoor recreation. Some of the AT-related festivals in these communities where the GATC will have a presence in 2018 are listed below:
- February 24 - Mountain Crossing AT Kick Off – Neel Gap on Hwy 19&129 South of Blairsville
- March 2-4 - AT Kickoff at Amicalola Falls State Park - at Amiclaola Falls State Park Lodge
- April 21 – Earth Day at Hamilton Gardens – Hiawassee
- May 26-27 – Memorial Day Parade and Arts and Crafts Festival – Blairsville
- June 2 – National Trails Day Celebration – Vogel State Park - Hwy 19&129 South of Blairsville
- June 23 – AT Day on Brasstown Bald – Brasstown Bald on Hwy 180
- June 24 – Hemlock Festival – Ellijay Park
- September 1-2 - Mountain Heritage Festival – Blairsville
- September 8-9 - Dahlonega Trail Fest – Dahlonega