The Appalachian Trail leads to Environmental Awareness for Macon County Youth

Franklin, NC: Generating an awareness of the nearby Appalachian Trail takes many forms with the help of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) Community Ambassador and members of the Nantahala Hiking Club.   Volunteer ATC Ambassador, Mary Bennett, has been busy coordinating activities that link our community schools with environmental education, hiking and the AT footpath.   “Helping to organize volunteers for the Children’s area at the April Fool’s  Trail Days festival  resulted in  recruiting nine enthusiastic New Century Scholar and National Honor Society students.  The student’s energy made the games fun to play and watch”, commented Bennett.  Students had the opportunity to visit booths highlighting local trails, clubs and conservation groups while earning volunteer hours.

 The Appalachian Trail Conservancy gave presentations at the Second Annual Invasive Awareness Day on the Greenway to over 250 students.  Eight conservation groups hosted information tables and gave talks on invasive species identification, control and restoration methods.   John Odell, ATC Invasive Plant Technician, demonstrated the tools and methods for removing unwanted exotic pest plants from fields and forests.  Sonja Himes,  co- organizer of the event with Land Trust for the Little Tennessee , observed, “John’s station  captivated  the intermediate school students – especially the power equipment like the chain saw.”   Bennett, who scheduled local school participation, noted, “A wonderful addition to this year’s event  included  Susan Steiner’s Macon Early College Earth Science students leading mini- stations on soil properties for the younger students.  It was a win:win for youth leadership and hands-on learning experience.”  As a follow up to the invasive species day and as a service learning project, Franklin High students in Jenny Collins’ Outdoor Recreation class conducted a ‘weed pull’ of privet, kudzu, honey suckle and multi-flora rose at the Salali Trail section on the
Franklin Greenway.

Ellen Agee, Children’s Librarian with Macon County Library, asked Bennett to lead a nature walk and identify some wildflowers and trees for Club Discovery, a weekly after school program.  “Our club members collected natural artifacts for miniature natural history “museums” made from egg cartons.  The community is welcome to some view the display,’ said Agee.

Bennett joined 70 Cartoogechaye Elementary School students, teachers, parents and the Nantahala Hiking Club hike 4 miles of the AT to Silar Bald. For more information contact, Ms. Bennett may be contacted at


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