ATC Begins Planning for Hikers’ Safe Return to Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has begun taking steps to develop guidelines for hikers to safely return to the Appalachian Trail.
In a statement here, the ATC said their guidelines’ priorities will be the safety and health of staff, volunteers, trail users, and trail communities. The announcement comes as some states along the trail begin reopening.
In the meantime, the ATC is standing by the request it made to hikers in March asking them to stay off the trail in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on the trail and in nearby communities.
“We know this was a difficult decision for those seeking the benefits of the A.T. experience, including many who had planned section and thru-hikes this year, and we greatly appreciate your assistance in helping prevent the spread of this dangerous virus,” said Sandra Marra, president and CEO of the ATC.
“Now over a month has passed since we made this request, and many have asked an important question: when will it be safe to return to the Trail?” Marra said.
Marra said a task force will be formed to adopt several guiding principles:
- The task force will adopt an evidence-based approach, relying on the best science available.
- The task force will account for the unique characteristics of the AT and develop guidance that is specific to the AT and the broader trail community.
- The task force will consider the policies of our federal and state partners as well as restrictions and closures implemented at the local, state and federal levels.
The ATC asked hikers in March to get off the trail or not start a thru-hike, and many thru-hikers complied after struggling with their decisions. Some hikers have continued to attempt a thru-hike from Georgia to Maine, against the ATC’s advice.
The ATC also asked federal agencies to close the trail until April 30, and although many trailheads were closed and overnight camping at shelters was banned, the agencies did not meet the ATC’s request.
Featured image courtesy Maggie Slepian.
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