It’s official: Bennington is an Appalachian Trail community | Local News
BENNINGTON – The city’s designation as the 49th Appalachian Trail community along the 2,193.1-mile hiking trail became official Thursday evening at an online conference ceremony.
Keynote speaker, U.S. Representative Peter Welch, D-Vt., Congratulated the local committee that has worked since fall 2019 with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which oversees the community trail program; representatives of the Green Mountain Club, which maintains the trail and Vermont’s Long Trail; the National Park Service, Green Mountain National Forest, local authorities and others to obtain the designation.
“You’ve all been AT champions,” Welch said.
A resident of Norwich, which along with Manchester holds the state’s other trail community designations, Welch said he lived near a trail access and had hiked several sections of the trail, including including last summer.
Speaking of the agencies, organizations and communities that work in partnership to benefit the Appalachian Trail, he said he was “grateful to walk the trail and enjoy nature, but to observe how much people that I have never seen took care to maintain these trails. . “
Addressing the meeting attendees involved in these efforts, he added, “I want you to know that I am a grateful beneficiary of all of your time.”
Working towards the designation shows Bennington understands how hiking and other forms of outdoor recreation are associated “with the well-being of its citizens and the economy of its community,” Welch said. “They really go hand in hand. “
The city expects to economically benefit from the national and international exposure brought by the designation – which will soon be proclaimed in new community trail signage, according to Jonah Spivak, a member of the local trails committee, who posted one of the panels during the ceremony.
Select Board Chair Jeannie Jenkins and Hawk Metheny, the Senior Regional Director of Trail Conservation, formalized the designation when they both read and signed a proclamation to that effect.
Jenkins said the town already has a long history of unofficial support for hikers passing through the area – providing information, food, hot showers and temporary storage for backpacks; information on historical and other attractions, as well as overnight accommodation.
The designation now formalizes this work and “will literally put us on the map,” she said, helping both the local economy and encouraging interest in hiking and the outdoors among area residents.
Outdoor recreation “is important to Bennington, and that really brings that to the fore,” Jenkins said, adding that the town “really appreciates the work of so many people here today to make Bennington the newest community. AT ”.
A list of local services for hikers is one of the conditions for obtaining the designation. Trail communities are also listed nationally by conservation and on other Appalachian Trail or hiking websites, as well as in newsletters, brochures, or other publications.
Another requirement of a trail community is to hold an annual event to promote the trail, hike and also volunteer to maintain the trail. Like the designation ceremony, this annual event has been affected by COVID-19 social distancing restrictions but will take place in the future.
Jonah Spivak, founding member of the Bennington Trail Committee, said he thought it was telling to the state and the community that efforts to secure the AT Trail designation continued during the worst months of the pandemic .
Other speakers on Thursday included Metheny, Wendy Janssen, Superintendent of the National Park Service of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Martina Barnes, Green Mountain National Ranger in the Manchester District; Hamilton Topping, who hiked the trail from Georgia to Maine and is the former trail coordinator for the Green Mountain Club Bennington section; hiker Lorna Cheriton; Mike DeBonis, Executive Director of GMC; local historian Phil Holland, of Pownal, who traced the history of the trail and the Long Trail; and current hiker Retha Charette.
Barnes spoke of the partnerships that have developed over the years between the Green Mountain Club, the Green Mountain National Forest and the US Forest Service; the Park Service and other entities and communities to protect the TA and manage its trails, shelters, latrines and other features.
Janssen thanked everyone involved in the designation of Bennington “for your tireless efforts to bring this designation to fruition.”
DeBonis said that Bennington’s recent efforts and investments on the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail “place him at the forefront of communities proactively engaging the next generation of hikers and trail keepers” and “fully deserve the status. of AT Trail community ”.
Speakers also noted that this year marks the 100th anniversary of an article written in 1921 by environmentalist and forester Benton MacKaye, proposing the creation of an Appalachian Mountain Trail.
The reserve’s AT Community Program is designed to recognize communities that help promote and protect the trail. The program supports regional collaboration to develop outdoor recreation economies while expanding stewardship opportunities to protect the trail and adjacent lands.
Metheny said the reserve was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous walking trail along the Appalachians, which now crosses 14 states, including 150 miles in Vermont.
He said MacKaye’s vision for the Appalachian Trail grew out of an inspiration he got while hiking the Long Trail in Northshire, which led to his idea being published in 1921.
The trail, the longest hiking trail in the world, is a unit of the national parks system. There are more than 3 million visitors to the trail each year, Metheny said.
Silvia Cassano, another founding member of the local Bennington group, said the committee is looking for additional members to help plan and organize future Appalachian Trail community events and support local initiatives.
Those interested should contact her at [email protected]