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Partnership header Making music at the Ashville festival, Blue Ridge Parkway
Appalachian Trail Conference

Description: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail was designated as the first National Scenic Trail by the National Trails System Act of 1968. Adoption of the Act and recommendations from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Advisory Committee prompted the establishment of the Cooperative Management System of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). The system is based on a unique cooperative agreement between the National Park Service and the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC), a non-profit organization founded in 1925 to coordinate the completion of the Appalachian Trail. The cooperative agreement delegates the majority of the management activities for the trail to ATC. Currently, ATC protects and oversees the maintenance of the trail in partnership with over 30 maintaining clubs along the East Coast, and various governmental agencies.

The Trail is protected along more than 99 percent of its course by federal or state ownership of the land or by rights-of-way. Annually, more than 4,000 volunteers contribute over 175,000 hours of effort on the Appalachian Trail.

Geographic area covered: The Appalachian National Scenic Trail is a continuous marked footpath extending approximately 2,160 miles. The trail crosses the Appalachian Mountains from the summit of Springer Mountain in Georgia to the summit of Katahdin in Maine and forms a greenway that connects more than 75 public land areas in 14 states.

List of partners and relationships: There are 109 management partners involved with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. There are day-to-day working relationships with The Appalachian Trail Conference and its affiliated clubs. The U.S. Forest Service and the White Mountain, Green Mountain, George Washington, Jefferson, Cherokee, Pisgah, Nantahala, and Chattahoochee National Forests. Six National Park units including, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, C & O Canal National Historical Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. State agencies from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Accomplishments to date: The acquisition of approximately 109,000 acres of land for the protection of the trail and its resources, and for the enjoyment of trail visitors. The U.S. Forest Service acquired another 40,000 acres.

There are 12 volunteers with more than 50 years of service, 169 volunteers with more than 25 years of service, and 164 volunteers with more than 4,000 hours of service that work on the Appalachian National Scenic Trail.

ATC operates summer work camps, where visitors stay between one and eight weeks and work on either trail construction or maintenance projects.

Key success factors:

  1. Tireless, dedicated volunteers and partner organizations.
  2. Willingness to share responsibilities with private sector partners.
  3. A great staff with excellent communication and people skills.
  4. Appalachian National Scenic Trail has no facility maintenance staff and rely on the efforts of over 4,000 volunteers to maintain the 2,160 miles of the trail and its associated facilities.

Frustrations: The concept of being the round peg trying to fit within the square confines the National Park Service. Many NPS policies and mandates are difficult to apply to a Cooperative Management System where NPS plays a supporting, rather than a direct management, role. It is difficult to track more than 550 assets and their deficiencies with no facility maintenance staff and no prior history of managing maintenance projects.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Be flexible.
  2. Say thank you. With 109 partners and more than 4,000 volunteers, recognition is key and saying thank you with a smile is the best delivery.
  3. Recognize and draw on the strengths of partners.

What would you do differently next time: Nothing - We'd do it all again in the same manner.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): The Appalachian Trailway News, a magazine published by ATC, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail's Comprehensive Plan and the trail's primary web site -

For more information:

Name: Pamela Underhill
Affiliation: Park Manager, Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Phone/Fax: 304-535-6278

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising _X_; Capital Improvements _X_; Facility Management _X_; Trails _X_; Design _X_; Program Delivery _X_; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services _X_; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning _X_; Tourism __; Community Relations _X_;

Other __X__ Shared Stewardship of a NPS unit

Prepared by: Rita Hennessy, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Appalachian National Scenic Trail Date posted: 10/21/03
Phone: 304-535-6170

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