Friday, March 19, 2010

Hometown Hiker's Hometown is new AT Community

Franklin receives AT Community designation

From the Macon County News

The Town of Franklin has received designation as an Appalachian Trail Community. A proclamation will be signed declaring Franklin the first Southern Region Appalachian Trail Community on Tuesday, Mar. 23.

Hikers are already beginning to trickle into Franklin as they make their way along the Appalachian Trail. Now, with the town’s designation as an Appalachian Tail Community, more people will realize Franklin’s close proximity to the trail and the town’s willingness to accommodate hikers.

The Town of Franklin applied for status as an Appalachian Trail Community last year through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Macon County is unique in having 47 miles of the Appalachian Trail within county limits. It is estimated that 4 million people visit the trail each year, and Franklin is the second town that AT thru-hikers come to starting out in Georgia on the long walk to Maine.

The Appalachian Trail Community program is designed to act as a catalyst for enhancing economic development as well as engaging community residents as Appalachian Trail users and stewards. Bill Van Horn, president of the county’s Nantahala Hiking Club, said the idea is to foster the resource of the trail and the benefits of the visiting hikers.

“I would like some local businesses to see the advantage of having Franklin designated a Gateway Community,” said Van Horn last spring.

Following the designation ceremony, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy will begin publishing articles about Franklin and the other selected towns in a guide book for trail hikers. Participation in the program will also increase opportunities for teachers to use the trail as a learning lab for students.

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which has a southern regional office in Asheville, is a volunteer-based organization dedicated to the preservation and management of the natural, scenic, historic, and cultural resources associated with the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in order to provide primitive outdoor-recreation and educational opportunities for Trail visitors.