Appalachian Trail Conservancy Updates Online Safety Reporting Site

In the aftermath of the brutal killing on the Appalachian Trail in May, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has spelled out clearly steps that hikers can take to report potential dangers.

“While the Appalachian Trail is a relatively safe place to visit, that does not mean that there are not potential dangers while you are hiking or camping. If you see something, say something—this will help us keep the AT as safe as possible for our visitors,” the ATC says on its website.

The ATC’s redesigned safety reporting page has a red 911 link that hikers can press to call in case of an emergency, a highlighted number to call the National Park Service to report suspicious activity, an email link if hikers are unable to call, and an online incident form.

The page was redesigned with mobile phone users in mind, ATC communications manager Jordan Bowman told the Roanoke Times.

As of this posting, Bowman did not return an email and phone call from The Trek.

To find the safety reporting page on a phone, click on Explore on the ATC home page, then click on Thru-Hiking, and scroll midway down the page to the Report An Incident tab. Or, for a faster result, google “ATC report an incident.”

The ATC emphasizes that hikers should always submit a report “for any suspicious or potentially dangerous situations, even if it turns out to be nothing. These reports help our law-enforcement partners identify problem areas requiring more attention.”

That advice appears to address reports that hikers continued to encounter James Jordan on trail after he was arrested in Tennessee in April following reports that he was harassing hikers. Jordan is charged in the fatal stabbing of thru-hiker Ronald Sanchez Jr. on May 11 in Virginia.

Unicoi County Sheriff Michael Hensley said that Jordan—known on trail as Sovereign—was not charged with assault after the alleged harassing behavior in Tennessee and North Carolina in April because hikers were not willing to testify in court. Jordan pleaded guilty to drug charges and carrying a fake ID, and was ordered not to return to the trail after he was released.

“I just want the family of these victims to know that I did everything that I could to get him off the trail,” Hensley told WJHL-TV in Tennessee after Sanchez was killed. “I knew he was a threat to other hikers and I did everything within the law to take him off the trail.”

Jordan is accused of fatally stabbing Sanchez, 43, and stabbing a woman while they were camped in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Southwest Virginia on May 11. A man and woman also camping there were able to flee.

Jordan is being held in jail awaiting trial.

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Michael Johnson : Jun 18th

    Good article on the ATC’s online reporting improvements! Couple of comments/questions —

    (a) Will the National Park Service 24-Hour Dispatch/Communications Center respond for National Forest, State Park, and privately owned areas that the Trail passes through?

    (b) Working through the ATC menu or googling “ATC report an incident” seems a lot more difficult than just adding a bookmark to your phone browser for the link you provided in the article.

    http://www.appalachiantrail.org/home/explore-the-trail/report-an-incident

    (c) Smartphones can’t do as much as people, though, even when there is coverage. It would be nice to hear the ATC talking about begging some more grants, getting some more ridgerunners out there, and doing more advance liaison with police and emergency services along the Trail.

    (d) Side note — I was in Unicoi County when hikers started talking about Sovereign’s behavior, though I never crossed paths with the guy. The word _was_ out, people knew he was a bad actor who needed be taken off the Trail. What seems to have failed was a responsible community engagement to hand the problem off to law enforcement. Maybe another chapter for LNT training — don’t leave dangerously behaving people behind on the Trail?

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