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Appalachian Trail celebrates 75th anniversary

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Appalachian Trail celebrates 75th anniversary

Published: 10:05 AM, 07/05/2012

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking-only footpath in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length from Georgia to Maine.
The anniversary will occur on Aug. 14.

The original trail took more than 15 years to build and was completed on Aug. 14, 1937.

Construction involved the cooperation of hundreds of volunteers, state and federal partners, local trail-maintaining clubs, the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Appalachian Trail.

The AT travels through 14 states along the crests and valleys of the Appalachian mountain range from its southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Ga., to its northern terminus at Katahdin, Maine. More than 250,000 acres of contiguous trail lands are protected and managed along the footpath.

An estimated 2 million to 3 million people visit the AT every year. About 2,000 people attempt to “thru-hike” the estimated 2,180 miles of the trail each year, with only one out of four completing the entire journey.

“This year marks a milestone for the Appalachian Trail,” said Mark Wenger, executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “Not only does this anniversary celebrate the completion of the trail, it also celebrates the unique collaboration and determination of countless individuals, private organizations and state and federal agencies in their efforts to complete this long-distance hiking trail from Maine to Georgia.”

The conception of the AT came from the October 1921 article, “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning,” in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects. Written by Benton MacKaye, he proposed the idea as an escape from daily life in an increasingly industrial nation.

MacKaye originally called for a series of work, study and farming camps along the Appalachian Mountains, but building a trail to connect them soon became his primary objective. The Appalachian Trail Conference (now called the Appalachian Trail Conservancy) was founded four years later in 1925.

As a unit of the National Park System, the trail is managed under a partnership between public and private sectors that includes the ATC, National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, 31 local trail-maintaining clubs and an array of state agencies.

To celebrate the 75th anniversary of the completion of the A.T., the ATC will host a weekend celebration on Aug. 11 and 12 at its headquarters at 799 Washington St., Harpers Ferry, W.Va. Highlights include guest speakers, workshops, activities, food, music and games.

Trail-maintaining clubs across the East Coast are also preparing events to celebrate the anniversary. Locally, volunteers from the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club in Damascus, Va., have planned a day hike on Aug. 18.

For more information about the 75th anniversary of the completion of the A.T., including ways to give back and local celebrations, visit http://www.appalachiantrail.org/75. For more information on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, visit http://www.appalachiantrail.org.