Community Trail Group Wins Grant for Information Kiosk

Reposted from

By Jeff Nations

The Appalachian Trail might soon be a bit easier to navigate for intrepid hikers making their way into Warren County.

The Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community Committee recently announced it has received a $1,000 grant from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation to go toward the purchase and installation of an information kiosk at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and U.S. 522 in Warren County.

Alyson Browett, Chairman and 2014 Front Royal/Warren County AT Community Ambassador for the committee, said the proposed kiosk would consist of a locator map of the trail, a directional map to Front Royal and information on the town and surrounding area, plus space for school projects and nature-related educational and art displays.

“We are a little bit unsure of the timetable at this point,” Browett said. “We’re waiting to hear back from one more grant application. We applied for a grant with the American Hiking Society and we’ll hear back in May.”

Browett said the Norcross grant, plus a significant donation from Warren County businessman George McIntyre, has the group two-thirds of the way toward raising the estimated $3,000 cost for the project.

The kiosk, which would be located on land owned by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), would also incorporate a QR code, which would encourage hikers to scan with their smart phones for additional information. In turn, that would provide some data on usage for that part of the Appalachian Trail. Unlike other areas of the trail that incorporate sign-in books at permanent shelters, there has been no reliable way to calculate use of this portion of the trail by through and day hikers.

“We don’t have that here,” Browett said. “It’s a little difficult to keep track of how many hikers go on this part of the trail in Warren County and Fauquier County.”

The kiosk might also aid Browett’s committee in convincing the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to make access to the trail safer off a busy section of the state highway.

“It will help us with our efforts to convince VDOT to make it a no-passing zone on 522 or to put in a crosswalk,” Browett said. “It’s a safety issue. There’s no crosswalk there and people drive way too fast for the area.”

Browett said the goal is to have the kiosk completed in time for the ATC’s Family Hiking Day on Sept. 27.

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or>

Radio Show

Alyson, our Ambassador from Front Royal/Warren County, talks about what it means to be an Ambassador, friendly regional competition to get out on the Trail for Family Hiking Day, Benton, how access to the A.T., PATC, what to take with you and the work she’s doing to educate her community and hikers alike!

Listen to it here:

Listen to this!


Tomorrow, June 6, Front Royal/Warren County A.T. Ambassador will be appearing on 95.3 FM’s Valley Women Today show at 12:30 p.m. Listen in at

“Ever hankered to take a long hike to somewhere far away? Feel like some fresh air would be good? Alyson Browett, Appalachian Trail Ambassador, will share how we can walk to Georgia or Maine from our own Front Royal, or just meander locally on world-renown beautiful trails nearby.”

Ambassadors 2013

Inspiring their communities to get involved with the A.T., these Ambassadors are the front line in getting information out about stewardship opportunities and inviting residents to experience the wonder of the Trail.  Meet them. Say thanks:)

Marsha Conner – Dahlonega, GA
Daniel Windham – Helen/White County, GA
Grady and Harrison Garner – Blairsville/Union County, GA
Mary Bennett – Franklin, NC
Anne Baker – Hot Springs, NC
Janet Hensley – Unicoi County, TN
Rob Martin – Unicoi County, TN
J.D. Hibbitts – Damascus, VA
Diana Billips – Bland County, VA
Tim Miller – Troutville, VA
Jennifer Keck– Luray/Page County, VA
Alyson Browett – Front Royal/Warren County, VA
Wendy Hershey – Harpers Ferry/Bolivar, WV
Paul Smith – Duncannon, PA
Cassandra Kessman – Harlem Valley A.T. Community (Dover & Pawling), NY
Patty Harding – Monson, ME

Marsha ConnerMarsha Conner is no stranger to the Dahlonega, GA community, its history, people, and culture. Her namesake, Conner, has been a family unit in Dahlonega for several generations. Learning about the outdoors in the North Georgia mountains has been a part of her life since she was a child. As a college student at The University of North Georgia (’73) in Dahlonega, Marsha spent her free time exploring the backroads and trails of the North Georgia mountains in her spiffy, yellow VW Beetle. After career years in North Carolina and exploring the NC/VA Highlands, Marsha returned to the North Georgia area and resumed exploring the forests and the rivers she had known in her youth. Marsha is co-founder of a hiking group at her church, and has planned recreational hikes, camping events, and outdoor adventures for over six years for this group. Marsha’s professional background includes an MEd degree from the University of Georgia (’75) and experience in law enforcement, public safety, military, training, aviation, and marketing. She looks forward to putting her skills to work on behalf of the ATC and Dahlonega to promote Dahlonega as a great Appalachian Trail Community.

DanielAt an early age, Daniel dreamed of being a hiking guide in the Alps.  Taking the first opportunity to travel through Europe, he jumped at the occasion.  Now, and for the past 18 years,(15 of which living in N. Italy), Daniel has guided throughout the world, working with Rainier Mountaineering, and Wilderness Travel.  “As my family has grown, now with 3 children, the moment has come for dedicating more time to being home, and to giving back to the wilderness, a little of what it has given me.”

summit pictureHarrison and Grady Garner,  are brothers from Blairsville. Grady graduated from Young Harris College with a B.A. in Music and Harrison works for Blairsville’s Humane Society Thrift Store Operation and Animal Shelter.  Both brothers successfully thru-hiked the A.T. in 2012.

GE DIGITAL CAMERAMary Bennett has lived in the Franklin community for twenty years and loves the mountains and forests in the Nantahala region. She is an educator, artist, horticulturalist, and hiker.  She enjoys working with local schools, designing environmental service learning opportunities for students and leading nature-oriented activities for families.  Her passion is discovering the woodlands natural beauty as  it inspires her creativity and artwork.   This being her second year as Franklin’s Ambassador, she is enthusiastic about introducing more people to hiking, camping, and backpacking along the A. T.

AnneA Madison County native, Anne has a double Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Technical Photography from Appalachian State University in Boone. She has professional experience in media, social networking and in the field of education. Her passion for the Trail developed last summer while hiking the A.T. with her father, completing a total of 200 miles through TN and NC.  “I’ve seen what the Appalachian Trail means to the community and what the community means to the Trail. I’ve realized that the Trail provides a wonderful place for family and friends to come together in a way that only the stillness of the woods allows.”

Janet HensleyJanet, AKA Miss Janet, has been involved with the A.T. in Unicoi County for a number of years as the owner of one of the town’s hiker hostels and as the coordinator of A.T. Summit Seminars, meant to generate greater understanding and positive relationships between hikers and the local business community. This is her second year serving as a Unicoi County A.T. Ambassador. 

RobMartinJune2012Joining Miss Janet this year is Rob Martin. Rob graduated from East Tennessee State University with a Master’s Degree in Computer Science. He is an ATC member and a Life Scout in Boy Scouts of America. As an A.T. Community™ Ambassador, he plans to volunteer his time maintaining the Trail and providing support to hikers. As an avid outdoorsman, Martin frequently hikes along the A.T. and kayaks in the Nolichucky River.

J.D.J.D. Hibbitts grew up in Southwest Virginia, but roamed the globe for a few years as an enlisted member of the U.S. Air Force. After finishing his enlistment, he enrolled at Emory & Henry College. Most recently, he finished his M.F.A. at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He has been a dishwasher, a granite salesman, a warehouse worker, and a writing instructor. His writing appears in the following publications: ThugLitSan Pedro River Review, AT Journeys Magazine, Sugar House ReviewClinch Mountain ReviewPrime Mincer, Jimson Week, Blue Collar Review, Poydras Review, and The Sierra Nevada Review, among others.

Diana Billips 2013 Diana is a board member of the Piedmont A.T. Hikers, operates the club’s hiking program, including monthly hikes, family FUN hikes and the “70 Mile Club.” She is responsible for maintaining a section of the A.T., is a lifelong resident of southwest Virginia and an avid hiker. This is her second year as an Bland’s Ambassador.
timTim attended Virginia Tech and attained a BS Degree in Forestry and Wildlife and a MA in Education.  He is currently a teacher at Central Academy Middle School in Botetourt County where he completed the ATC’s Trail to Every Classroom program in 2011. Miller is an Eagle Scout, lifelong hiker and backpacker.

Jennifer KeckJennifer serves on the Front Royal/Warren County A.T. Advisory Board, but is a liaison as Ambassador to Luray and Page County.  She graduated from the University of Kentucky with a BS  in Agriculture. She is the president of the Shenandoah Valley Tourism Association and the former Director of Tourism for Front Royal.  A trained Master Naturalist, she hopes to promote Trail-friendly policies in the local government.

Alyson (2)Alyson is an avid hiker and naturalist who has spent time in the woods around northern Virginia her entire life. As a public health professional, personal trainer and chef, she is interested in making people more mindful of how health, exercise and nutrition intersect. She hopes to use her position as an A.T. Ambassador to build a stronger awareness of the Trail, encourage volunteerism, conservation efforts and inspire community members to go outside for some fresh air.

Wendy HersheyWendy has a BA in Communication Disorders & Speech Science from the University of Colorado. She is an A.T. section hiker and looks forward to promoting Trail awareness with community outreach, educational events, Trail maintenance projects, and community hikes. Over the past four years, she successfully organized the Valentines for Vets program in her community, delivering over 300 handmade Valentines to local Veterans Hospitals each year. “I am passionate about the Appalachian Trail.  I love exploring on it.  I love the history behind it.  I love the permanence of it.”

Paul Smith, 2012 Ambassador to Duncannon, PA Paul Smith has a Degree in Forest Technology from the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He was involved in the designation of Duncannon as a Trail community in 2012 and helped coordinate the completion of a Trail themed mural in town. He enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, boating, gardening, and planting trees. This is Smith’s second year as the A.T. Community™ Ambassador to Duncannon, and he serves as treasurer on the Advisory Committee.

CassieCassandra Kessman has a degree in Environmental Studies from MCLA in North Adams, Ma.  She has a love for gardening and native plants and works at Native Landscapes located next to the Appalachian Trail in New York.  She has hiked small sections of the trail in NY, CT, MA, VT and NH providing trail magic to hikers when possible.  She is also the educational director for the Pawling Nature Reserve and enjoys leading educational hikes for her community.  On her days off she enjoys yoga and continuing her education of plants through studying herbalism.

patty 2
Patty Harding is a member of the MATC, Maine Appalachian Trail Club, where she is a trail maintainer on Barren Mountain and corridor monitor in the Hundred Mile Wilderness. She is an avid outdoors woman enjoying year round outdoor activities with a passion for Maine’s mountain summits. Patty is a Registered Maine Guidein Recreation and Sea Kayak. She leads kayak and moosewatch tours on Maine’s rivers, lakes, ponds and ocean through her guide service.

Let’s Go Questing!

What is a Quest?

Delia Clark, who is an author, facilitator, trainer, speaker (and this just scratches the surface of the multitude of gifts she has), describes it like this: Quests are playful and informative installed treasure hunts that encourage people, young and old, to actively explore the natural and cultural heritage of special places, make exciting discoveries, build strong connections, and become stewards in the process.

Teachers and A.T. Communities are beginning to see the value in creating Quests for visitors and locals to discover the landscape , history and culture in their place.  Here are ones we have so far:

Front Royal and Warren County have created 5 Quests, called Quest Shenandoah!
Hot Springs , NC Discover Quest
Purcellville, VA Old Town Quest

We’ll be adding these as they come about to the individual webpages on ATC’s website, as well as on our Trail To Every Classroom Blog, and probably on this site too – if I get my blogging skills in line:)

A Quest in the making: at Grayson Highlands State Park, photo by Jan Onan

If you are interested in learning how Questing can be used as an attractive tool for building family, school, and hiker engagement in the Appalachian Trail, then come to Delia’s presentation and workshop in Cullowhee, NC next summer as part of ATC’s Biennial Conference – an event not to miss!  And if you do have to miss it, and want to dive right into questing – check out her book on the matter: Questing: A Guide To Creating Community Treasure Hunts or there are some great examples of others on her co-author’s website:

Hope to see you out-a-questing on the Trail!