Post by Kathleen Seiler, for PATC’s POTOMAC APPALACHIAN newsletter
Crossing the Mason-Dixon line north into Pennsylvania (lovingly nicknamed “rock-sylvania” by many!), one enters the Greater Waynesboro Area. For thru-hikers, the psychological boost of being just miles away from the AT mid-point indeed is a positive push.
Recognized as a valuable hiker-friendly area, with 6+ trail access points, 3 nearby post offices, restaurants, grocery and retail operations, as well as B&B’s, a motel (with another one to be constructed this year), Washington Township and the borough of Waynesboro offer a wide range of amenities.
Located within a richly historic area, with Gettysburg nearby, the trail actually crosses territory that saw the second biggest conflict of the Civil War in Pennsylvania, the Battle of Monterey Pass, July 4, 1863, where Union troops clashed with the retreating Confederates, during a midnightthunderstorm miasma. A new visitor center within a mile of the Trail is now under roof and set to open this year.
Environmentally, where the Trail crosses PA Rt. 16, borders a rare “relic plant area” at the Bicentennial Tree Trail blue loop, where over 80 species of trees exist in a small riparian zone along Red Run Creek. Also nearby is the Happel’s Meadow wetland preserve, a unique mountaintop area of natural progression that supports a variety of reptiles, amphibians, songbirds, raptors, and mammals (including bobcats) as well as endangered flora. A natural trail is also within a mile of the AT.
Economically, this designation of a Trail-friendly community provides new venues of marketing and tourism. More importantly, working together as trail-savvy volunteers and professionals with the town and township’s business and governmental leaders already has opened awareness on both sides of the table. Local North Chapter club members, Tawnya Finney, Chris Firme, and Kathy Seiler have worked diligently for over a year, developing strengths in these dialogues.
Perhaps most importantly, creating education for those who live in Franklin County and who may not have yet trod past a white blaze, from the youngest in a backpack to the oldest walking gently with hiking sticks, the Appalachian Trail Community program (started in 2010) forges a link — for future caretakers & supporters of the AT, for healthier citizens, and for the amazing “footpath for those who seek fellowship with the wilderness” — for a day-hiker, section-hiker, or thru-hiker.
On Saturday, April 26, come celebrate the recognition ceremony, along with invited local, state, and national dignitaries, including Wendy Janssen, Superintendent of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Ron Tipton, Executive Director/CEO of ATC; John Hedrick, PATC President; and Karen Lutz, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director ATC.
This major event has been folded into the community’s free Earth Celebration Day and Festival of Art, sponsored by the Renfrew Institute for Cultural and Environmental Education, located at Renfrew Park and Museum, 1010 E. Main St., Waynesboro. Earth Day events run from 11 – 4, including environmental exhibits, artist booths, music, student displays, food stand (usual fare but also “Ploughman’s Lunch” – slice of thick bread, cheese, and apple tucked inside a cloth napkin), children’s activities, and drum circle (at 3 p.m.). A recycle/reuse yard sale starts at 9 a.m. (www.renfrewinstitute.org)
AT related displays will include the AT Museum (located in Pine Grove Furnace), The American Chestnut Foundation (which reaches out to PATC & ATC members to help with their yearly census), a “Meet the Hikers” area for interaction with thru-hikers and local trail “regulars” and angels, local hike information, ATC and PATC maps and materials, children/family hikes along Renfrew’s wooded trails, Franklin County Tourism (the day is also a “Spring into History” self-guided car tour for the county!), local businesses with hiker-friendly wares, Scout troops, Antietam Watershed Association with a Streamside Pinball game from Cacapon Institute, and Blue Ridge Summit Postmaster with the “Hiker Supply” box supplied by the local Girl Scouts — feel free to bring a donation! (toothpaste, energy bars, and duct tape are the most popular!)
The Appalachian Trail Community ceremony begins at 12:30. In case of rain, the alternate location is at Waynesboro Area Middle School, 702 E. Second St., not far from the Park. For more information about the previous 30 trail communities, see: