Clarke County Opens Expanded parking near A.T.

Star staff reports
May 14, 2018

berryville parking lotBERRYVILLE — After months of planning and waiting for appropriate conditions for construction, an expanded parking lot is now open in Clarke County near the Appalachian Trail, just in time for the busy hiking season. The parking lot is north of Va. 7 (Harry Byrd Highway) and east of the village of Pine Grove.

Previously, only about 10 cars could fit in a small, gravel parking lot off Route 679 at Raven Rocks, an access point to the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. Construction of a much larger lot began in November 2017 and was completed on May 8. The larger lot can now accommodate 30 vehicles or more.

“We are really pleased to open an expanded parking lot for residents and visitors who want to enjoy the Appalachian Trail,” said Alison Teetor, natural resource planner for Clarke County who oversaw the project. “The Board of Supervisors recognized a need based on an increasingly dangerous situation and decided to fund the expansion.”

The 5.5-mile Raven Rocks stretch of the Appalachian Trail is popular with day hikers. But once the small lot was full, too many people parked their vehicles along the shoulders of Pine Grove Road (Route 679) and Va. 7. That practice is dangerous and — as indicated by numerous “No Parking” signs — illegal.

Solving the problem took money as well as collaboration between the Clarke County Board of Supervisors and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), which is responsible for state-owned roads. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club helped identify the boundaries for an expanded lot as it is the organization that cares for the trail in Maryland and West Virginia as well as parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia, including the 22 miles of trail in Clarke County.

Last year, VDOT engineers looked at the Raven Rocks area and determined there was enough existing right-of-way to create a lot that could accommodate between 25 and 35 vehicles. VDOT did not have funds in its budget to finance the parking lot expansion, but the Board of Supervisors was keen to improve parking and safety near the trail for everyone — hikers, residents and people driving through the area.

In November, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors approved a $7,100 expenditure to clear the land. The second phase — grading and gravel — waited until early spring. The supervisors approved an additional $8,200 bringing the total project cost to $15,300.

In January, the Board of Supervisors took another step to improve safety on county roads when it amended the Clarke County Code related to illegally parked vehicles. The supervisors began looking at the code last fall in response to concerns expressed by residents, visitors and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office about dangerous parking situations along roads.

Now, the new code gives law enforcement officers the option of issuing citations or having vehicles towed when they are illegally parked. Previously, all law enforcement officers could do was call for tow trucks.

After the parking ordinance was amended, the supervisors asked VDOT to install more “No Parking” signs along roads such as Va. 7 near the Appalachian Trail as well as heavily traveled spots along U.S. 50, U.S. 340 and Lockes Mill Road.

Raven Rocks is one of four Appalachian Trail access points in Clarke County, where 22 miles of the AT run along the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 2015, Clarke County was officially recognized as an Appalachian Trail Community by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The Appalachian Trail Community program helps communities generate awareness of the iconic trail as well as preserve and protect the AT.

The Appalachian Trail, which was conceived by forester Benton MacKaye in 1921, is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.

2017 Summary of A.T. Community Work!

473 A.T. Community volunteers reported 4,524 hours

(outside of club hours contributed)

*Collected from a survey and intea_t_community_two_color_compressedrviews in late 2017

Awareness of the Trail as a local resource:

Abingdon, VA: A.T. Community and MRATC staff a booth at the Spring Festival and Earth Day Festival.

Blairsville, GA: The Appalachian Trail in North Georgia History Project involved many local citizens who are not hikers or involved with GATC. The final products from the project included a booklet, which is now being re-printed due to high demand, and display materials that have been used in school presentations, the ATC Biennial, Dahlonega Trail Fest, and many other events. Volunteers also created a presentation about the benefits of becoming a Community Supporter and hosted presentations for local businesses through the Chamber of Commerce.

Boiling Springs, PA: A.T. Community presence at Christmas Tree Lighting in partnership with Girl Scout volunteers. Hosts annual Boiling Springs A.T. Music Festival. A portion of the proceeds from biannual Hiker Happy Hours are donated to ATC.

Buena Vista, VA: New regional tourism website was created which heavily features the A.T.

Dahlonega, GA: The annual Dahlonega Trail Fest includes workshops on topics including thru-hiking basics, the threat of invasive species, how to get involved with GATC, etc.

Dalton, MA: Provided a workshop for community members on hosting hikers. Developed a Town of Dalton A.T. postcard at hikers’ requests. Publicity leading up to designation included a radio interview, meetings with business owners and the Town of Dalton Select Board, and community outreach through Grow Dalton (community development organization).

Damascus, VA: Hosts annual Trail Days festival.

Duncannon, PA: Hosts one outdoor education-themed event (usually a hike) each month. At the base of Hawk Rock overlook, volunteers staff a booth during the summer with cookies and “I Hiked Hawk Rock” t-shirts. Proceeds support trail maintenance, graffiti removal, and annual Duncannon A.T. festival.

Franklin, NC: Hosts month-long annual Franklin Trail Days with events hosted by Community Supporters. Annual “Walking with Spring” series at the local library highlights the A.T., its hikers, and local environmental issues.

Front Royal/Warren County, VA: The town trolley ran twice daily shuttles to the Trail for the two peak months of hiker activity. Without prompting from the A.T. Community Committee, the town determined that the trolley will service the A.T. crossing for the entire hiker season in 2018.

Great Barrington, MA: Annual A.T. Celebration Day includes guided hikes for local community members.

Greater Waynesboro Area, PA: Host monthly hikes on the A.T. for local community members. Annual Mason-Dixon A.T. Festival includes activities designed for kids and involvement from local businesses and non-profit organizations. Volunteers table monthly throughout the spring, summer, and fall at various community events to educate the public about A.T. Community efforts. Both local libraries have requested that A.T. Community volunteers speak about the program and the A.T. (planned for 2018).

Harlem Valley, NY: Annual Trail Day includes guided hikes, boardwalk maintenance, etc. Harlem Valley A.T. Community Committee received the 2017 Dutchess County Tourism Outdoors Award of Distinction.

Hiawassee/Towns County, GA: Designed and produced a comprehensive map of every hiking trail in Towns County. Distributed Hikers Map and Towns County Hiking Trails maps to all the business that serve hikers. Worked with City of Hiawassee in developing a kiosk promoting the A.T. for the new Mayor’s Park in Hiawassee town center.

Hot Springs, NC: The new town library, located directly on the A.T., was designed with a room dedicated for hikers to store their things, charge phones,  and learn about services and events in town. Volunteers also host an annual Trail Fest to promote the A.T. to locals and promote Hot Springs to hikers/tourists.

Nelson County, VA: ATC was invited to table at the Hoopla music festival at Devils Backbone Brewing Company alongside several other regional conservation organizations.

Pearisburg and Narrows, VA: The importance of the A.T. was considered and included in the Tourism Development Plan for Giles County (which includes Pearisburg and Narrows). The A.T. and ATC are featured heavily on the Giles County tourism website.

Roan Mountain, TN: Combined designation ceremony with unveiling of new stage in community park to garner broader attendance. Recruited a dozen businesses as Community Supporters.

Warwick, NY: Sent out press release to announce creation of website, and several larger regional newspapers they had assumed would not be interested actually contacted them to get the information as well. Spoke to several community groups and hosted a presentation at the library with 85 people in attendance. Planning hikes for Rotary members and local senior citizens for spring 2018. Led a hike for Chamber of Commerce members.

Waynesboro, VA: Staffed a booth at Xtremefest. Recruited 12 local businesses as Community Supporters. Four blog posts on Waynesboro’s official tourism site highlighted the A.T. and Waynesboro’s status as an A.T. Community in 2017.

Several A.T. Communities maintain websites and/or Facebook pages to publicize local hiking routes and directions, trail maintenance opportunities, and A.T. Community efforts or events. Almost all of them also use these outlets to disseminate Leave No Trace information and announcements from ATC. The Blairsville/Union County and Warwick websites both receive approximately 5000 unique visitors per year (data is unknown for the other pages).

Blairsville/Union County, GA: Website
Boiling Springs, PA: Facebook
Duncannon, PA: FacebookWebsite
Fontana Dam, NC: Facebook
Greater Waynesboro Area, PA: FacebookWebsite
Harlem Valley, NY: Facebook
Harpers Ferry/Bolivar, WV: Facebook
Roan Mountain, TN: Facebook
Warwick, NY: Website

Protection:

Berryville/Clarke County, VA: Currently working to enlarge the local trailhead parking area, an effort that involves Virginia DOT, Clarke County Board of Supervisors, and Clarke County Planning Department.

Buena Vista, VA: As part of a master plan to connect Buena Vista and Lexington to the George Washington-Jefferson National Forests with walking trails and promote outdoor recreation and public lands in the area, the town of Buena Vista secured a grant to connect the Chessie Trail to the town’s riverwalk.

Damascus, VA: The town is revising its zoning ordinances to ensure that the town continues to be accommodating to hikers, tourists, and local citizens alike, and will be revising the comprehensive plan in 2018 for the same purpose. These zoning ordinances include revisions related to the new Visitor Center.

Front Royal/Warren County, VA: The Front Royal Town Council and the Warren County Board of Supervisors passed formal resolutions opposing a proposed NPS fee hike for Shenandoah National Park.

Hanover, NH: Recent purchase of Rennie Farm, expanding the A.T. corridor, was celebrated in June.

Pearisburg and Narrows, VA: Grassroots group Preserve Giles County organized to oppose the construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline through the area. Support for the pipeline has been minimal in rural Giles County, where people see the A.T. as an important asset to the community (a view that has become much more prevalent in recent years thanks to ATC’s engagement through the A.T. Community program). As such, ATC and RATC have been able to focus resources and organizing elsewhere.

Increased sense of stewardship:

Dalton, MA: Four A.T. Community volunteers were trained by AMC-Berkshire as section maintainers to keep up sections previously unclaimed sections near Dalton. Dalton Boy Scouts refreshed the blazes in these sections. Signage is being added at a confusing trail junction.

Front Royal/Warren County, VA: 11 Girl Scouts and 6 adults completed a bridge repair and invasive species removal project..

Greater Waynesboro Area, PA: An Eagle Scout and other members of a local Boy Scout troop built a new trailhead kiosk.

Hiawassee/Towns County: Volunteer authoring an op-ed in the local paper in early spring 2018 explaining why concentrated “trail magic” is bad for the Trail.

Hanover, NH: The local library hosted several events regarding stewardship. Topics have included black bear awareness and safety, local connectivity of the A.T. and protected lands, and how to get involved with trail maintenance efforts.

Hot Springs, NC: Local teachers invited ATC staff to teach Leave No Trace Awareness courses at their school. One became trained as a Leave No Trace Trainer in order to teach future courses.

Manchester, VT: Community volunteers assist GMC with regular trail maintenance projects.

Nelson County, VA: Staff from Devils Backbone Brewing Company performed trail maintenance as a corporate retreat. Similar plans are in the works for Blue Mountain Brewery, another Community Supporter.

Roan Mountain, TN: Recruited volunteers for several trail maintenance events, including intensive rehab of the Stan Murray Shelter in partnership with TEHCC. Currently planning to take on Hard Core trail maintenance day as part of the annual town celebration of the A.T.

Warwick, NY: A local Eagle Scout is currently building a kiosk at the Route 17A crossing, which should be completed in 2018. Local volunteers assisted with the re-planking of the Pochuck Boardwalk.

Broader relevancy:

Blairsville/Union County, GA: Family Hiking Day event in Blairsville was attended by 40 people, including a Girl Scout troop, and included education about Leave No Trace and the history of the A.T. The Blairsville A.T. Committee partnered with REI and the Georgia Mountain Research and Education Center to create a mini A.T. hike for 3rd and 5th grade students in the area to educate them about the Trail.

Boiling Springs, PA: Hosted National Trails Day and Family Hiking Day events that were well attended.

Dalton, MA: A.T. Community volunteers assisted with and attended the Trail to Every Classroom mini-workshop held in Dalton.

Franklin, NC: School outreach programs get several classes of students on Trail each year and reach scores more through in-school programs. Local storyteller received A.T. license plate grant to bring her A.T. stories to schools throughout western North Carolina.

Greater Waynesboro Area, PA:  Family Hiking Day event attracted brand new hikers to the Trail.

Hanover, NH: The Recreation Department sponsored a summer hiking contest, similar to a summer reading program, for kids and families.

Harlem Valley, NY: Partnered with Groundwork Hudson Valley to bring NY youth to learn trail maintenance skills, build a Little Free Library for the local A.T. shelter, and hear about jobs in conservation via a program called Trains 2 Trails.

Harrisonburg, VA: Hosted successful Family Hiking Day and Great American Camp Out events.

Kingfield, ME: Local storyteller spent a day at Kingfield Elementary School presenting her trail diary and teaching about trail ethics.

North Adams, MA: Youth organizations are heavily involved with the annual A.T. festival, and local schools use the Trail as part of art classes.

Roan Mountain, TN: Roan Mountain State Park partnered with A.T. Community volunteers to host a Girls Outdoors Workshop during which participants camped, performed science experiments, and learned about Leave No Trace and the A.T.

Network building for ATC, land management agencies, and clubs:

Boiling Springs, PA: There is a terrific relationship with the local tourism bureau to the point that, when ATC submits grant requests, the tourism bureau often directs ATC to ask for more funding.

Dalton, MA: Hosted AMC-Berkshire’s regional volunteer gathering in March 2017.

Damascus, VA: Collaborating with ATC to build A.T. Visitor Center.

Franklin, NC: Hosts biannual Hiker Happy Hour at local breweries as recruitment events for NHC.

Hot Springs, NC: The historic Walnut Mountain Shelter, which is being retired by the USFS, will be moved into Hot Springs just behind the town welcome center. This project is a partnership between Cherokee National Forest, CMC, and the town of Hot Springs, which originated from conversation at the 2017 Southern Partnership Meeting.

Monson, ME: A.T. Visitor Center was heavily supported by Town Manager. It was relocated in 2017 to the center of downtown by reconstructing part of the Monson Historical Society building. Four volunteers from the Historical Society completed the reconstruction.

Pearisburg, VA: As depicted in the myATstory video “Contagious Love,” local business owner Sonu Chawla has embraced the A.T., hikers, and Konnarock Trail Crew. Sonu hosts an annual pool party as appreciation for Konnarock volunteers, among many other efforts.

Roan Mountain, TN: Carter County staff took on the maintenance of a previously abandoned USFS picnic site after discussions at the Southern Partnership Meeting.

Additionally, while not explicitly asked about this during the process of gathering this information, many A.T. Community representatives noted that local government officials actively support the A.T. and understand its importance to the town because of the A.T. Community program. These communities include:

 

Dalton, MA Hanover, NH Manchester, VT Warwick, NY
Damascus, VA Harlem Valley, NY Monson, ME Waynesboro, VA
Front Royal/Warren County, VA Hiawassee, GA North Adams, MA
Glasgow, VA Hot Springs, NC Roan Mountain, TN

 

A Place To Start

We believe that the place to start… is in our communities. Americans living together and joining in associations across the country-this is where the tremendous strength and vision of our people will be tapped. We recommend a prairie fire of local action to sweep the nation, encouraging investment in outdoor recreation opportunities and re-dedication to the protection of our great natural heritage. – President’s Commission on Americans Outdoors, Americans and the Outdoors, 1987.

Recently Heard on the Trail…

I have spent the past 26 years hiking the Appalachian Trail. I took one year off for my 25th wedding anniversary… In those 25 years I have traveled over 20,680 miles getting to the different sections of the A.T. I have tracked the miles but not the expense. I think it was worth it.

I would just like to make known that we might only represent 20% of the 2000-milers but we probably incur a much greater percentage of money spent on the trail.

I am an ATC member and will be for the rest of my life. Keep up the good work!

Edward D. Rakowsky
Frackville, PA

AND

While the AT is a magnificent trail, what impressed us most during the five and a half months journey is people. Coming from New Zealand where trails are mostly maintained by government’s Department of Conservation, we were amazed to find the over 2,000 miles of trail completely maintained by volunteers to a very high standard! We were overwhelmed by the kindness of trail angels, people in the mountain towns along the trail who picked us up, sent us to the trailhead and received us with warmth. In short, our biggest reward for hiking the AT is to get to know American people, the ordinary American people.

Ian Song, Queenstown, New Zealand, ATC member

Small Town Travel: Four of America’s Most Iconic Trails Converge in Damascus, Virginia

Reposted from jaunted.com

April 8, 2014 at 11:03 AM | by  Comments (2)

When this writer went to the small town of Damascus in western Virginia to research a few stories, I basically ran myself into the ground, hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail in the morning and biking the Virginia Creeper Trail in the afternoon. Before my visit, when I was explaining to friends where I was going, I told them that Damascus sat alongside the App Trail. I was wrong about that. Turns out, the trail goes right through it.

Like, really through it, as in the sidewalk down the center of town is part of the trail. This in itself is what makes Damascus such an interesting place. Every person that hikes the Appalachian Trail – which is 2,184 miles from Georgia to Maine and takes the average person 6 months – must walk through the town of Damascus. You meet some interesting characters to say the least, from the hikers to the people in the town who help them out. It’s not unusual to see tents set up in front yards, locals taking in the weary walkers for a night or two.

For someone living on the East Coast who is into adventure travel, Damascus is a slam dunk. But only for those who want to hike and bike, because, honestly, that is the town’s bread and butter. That, and the people you meet along the way who have come for the very same reasons. No one is in Damascus by accident, that’s for sure, but it’s a pretty doable long-weekend destination, located six hours from D.C., five hours from Richmond, four hours from Raleigh, and three hours from Charlotte.

I told you that there are biking companies that will help the average person experience the Virginia Creeper Trail, and the same is true for the Appalachian Trail. Outfitters in Damascus will drive you up to 100 miles in either direction so that you can walk back to town. During my trip, I met many groups of families and friends that had been driven out 40-50 miles and were hiking it in three days. It makes hiking an iconic trail pretty reasonable, and you can set the distance in line with your effort and fitness level.

Despite a population under 1,000, Damascus hosts what is considered to be the largest congregation of App Trail hikers each spring during Trail Days USA, a festival that celebrates the convergence of four trails in town: The Appalachian Trail, U.S. Bicycle Route 76, the Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. It attracts 20,000 hikers each year. You won’t exactly get a true feeling for the town, but it is no doubt a scene and a party.

Funny story: Because of the town’s limited dining options and my desire to remove my shoes after all the exercise, I decided it would be best to cook dinner myself back at the cabin. I had a beautiful place with a patio and a view of the river (shown above). I threw salmon on the grill, went inside to make a drink, and came back out to two ducks on the deck, their noses in the air, turning and looking at me with an obvious curiosity. Nothing aggressive, just hope and curiosity. A few steps in their direction and they slowly retreated, waddling back down the steps to the safety of the grass below. There they sat, becoming a part of the scenery, a part of my view as I sat and sipped the whiskey-soda, my socks hanging on the line and my feet airing out in the breeze atop the railing.

That’s the image that comes to mind when I think of the town, putting my feet up on the railing with a drink after a fulfilling day, looking out at the river and having some space to move around. In a nutshell, that’s what Damascus is all about, getting into the wilderness and clearing your head, exercising your body and feeling fine about all of it at the end of the day.

That, and those damn ducks.

[Photos: Will McGough]