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The significance of theAppalachian Trail is not its length but its story of civic engagement in preserving a recreational, natural, and now, educational and community development resource through the efforts of local citizens. Visionary founder Benton MacKaye’s “project in regional planning,” advocated a linear community that would both conserve and use the natural resources of the eastern mountains in revitalizing the American people and the lands on which they depend. But MacKaye could never have foreseen the pace of incompatible development that now threatens the Trail, its signature views, and, most importantly, the rural communities that have been its hosts for nearly 80 years.
Outreach has confirmed that this concern is shared by the Trail’s neighboring communities. Loss of traditional land-based livelihoods and an influx of development threaten local water supplies, economies, and rural traditions. At the same time, review of recent conservation literature has revealed rapid growth in nature-based tourism worldwide, making the economic case for conservation and recognizing nature-based tourism as capable of generating substantial resources for both conservation and local economies.
Working with its Trailside neighbors, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has designed the Appalachian Trail Community™ program to meet our shared needs, protecting local quality of life while welcoming visitors from near and far.