Ceremonies Mark Trail Designation April 25, 2012
BY ROBERTA ANDERSON
The eastern Rockbridge communities were designated as Appalachian Trail Communities by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy during activities last Thursday at the Buena Vista Visitor Center and at the hikers’ shelter in Glasgow.
The Appalachian Trail Community designation is a new program of the ATC, the nonprofit organization responsible for management and protection of the estimated 2,180-mile Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Launched in 2010, this program recognizes communities for their part in promoting awareness of the Appalachian Trail as an important local and national asset.
As part of the ceremonies in each community that were attended by local officials, school children, representatives of the U.S. Forest Service and even Smokey the Bear, Glasgow Town Manager Ryan Spitzer and Buena Vista Mayor Frankie Hogan were both presented with road signs designating Glasgow and Buena Vista each as Appalachian Trail Communities.
Spitzer, taking a page from former Natural Bridge Supervisor Hunt Riegel’s playbook, humorously commemorated the day with a poem he had written. Specifically referring to the town’s hikers’ shelter built to accommodate hikers who may have left the trail for an overnight visit to town, Spitzer recited:
Who have tried to create a hiker oasis.
We hope hikers with their packs
Will heed the words of, ‘Ya’ll come back.’
We have all the amenities of home
Even if you have to roam.
The town may not have a gym or pond
But we sure do have a hot shower and porta-john.”
On a more serious note, Spitzer added, “The town of Glasgow is excited to be designated as an Appalachian Trail Community and to partner with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Hopefully this is another step to making Glasgow an outdoor recreation destination or launching point for everyone.”
Mayor Frankie Hogan opened his comments in Buena Vista with a quote from environmentalist Paul Hawken. “All is connected,” he read. “No one thing can change by itself.”
Hogan added, “These words truly speak to the partnership being created today. The city of Buena Vista, the town of Glasgow, Rockbridge County, the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail are all interconnected. We are all part of the beauty and recreational experiences that have made the Shenandoah Valley a favorite of outdoor enthusiasts. We see the importance of partnering with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and providing the best possible experience for over two million hikers.”
Hogan said the partnership will provide hikers with information regarding activities, supplies, medical care, shelter and transportation within the community.
Both designation ceremonies featured performances by elementary school children from nearby schools. Classes from Kling and Enderly Heights schools sang in Buena Vista and from Natural Bridge Elementary School at Glasgow. Students from Natural Bridge who had contributed the winning entries in an art contest featuring outdoor themes were also honored.
Also speaking at Glasgow was Parks Talbott, the Eagle Scout from Roanoke who built the hikers’ shelter as his Eagle project. Talbott credited the Rev. Becky Crites of Glasgow for providing him with the idea for the shelter. He said he has particularly enjoyed reading comments left by grateful hikers in a notebook kept at the shelter.
State Sen. Creigh Deeds commented on the economic potential of the designation at Buena Vista. “This is what economic development in rural America looks like,” he said. “This designation will bring the kind of people who want a welcome. They want a place to resupply. They want a place to shower. They want a place to stock up on what they need. And those things, we have to be prepared to provide. That’s going to mean jobs, and that’s going to mean good things for our community.”
Del. Ben Cline attended the ceremony in Glasgow. He said the designation “will put a dot on the map at Glasgow.”
Mark Wenger, the new executive director of the ATC, told those gathered in Buena Vista, “Being able to partner with local communities along the trail offers so many opportunities, not only for us, but also for the community and for people in the area. We’re excited about the things that lay ahead for us.”
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schwab provided some of the information for this story.