For years, the Palmerton Zinc Pile Superfund Site near Palmerton, Pennsylvania was a virtual wasteland, the soil poisoned by over 80 years of contamination from nearby zinc smelting. In his bestselling book A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson described the area — through which multiple miles of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) travels — as follows:
"I parked, found the AT, and walked along it on a high exposed ridge through the most amazingly devastated terrain. For miles it was either entirely barren or covered in the spindly trunks of dead trees, a few still weakly standing but most toppled. It brought to mind a World War I battlefield after heavy shelling. The ground was covered in a gritty black dust, like iron filings." (p. 188)
However, after years of restoration work, life has slowly returned to the hillsides above Palmerton. Grass, shrubs, and small trees are growing where there was only barren rocks and soil for decades — a testament to what dedicated conservation work can accomplish.
As trees begin to grow, however, that means that the previously unobstructed views from the A.T. will one day be reclaimed by lush forests. Before this happens, ATC staff sees an opportunity to both increase the sustainability of the footpath and ensure hikers will still have clear views of the landscapes below.
Over the next several years, the ATC will completely reroute, rehabilitate or newly construct 14 miles of Trail, navigating the footpath to locations most likely to remain scenic viewpoints while also minimizing future maintenance needs. This project provides ATC with the opportunity to ensure sure this section of the A.T. is built to modern trail sustainability standards, and it will have the added benefit of preserving some of Pennsylvania's best views for future A.T. hikers.
By both protecting the environment and the A.T. experience, the Palmerton relocation is a prime example of the ATC’s mission to preserve the Trail forever, for all.
Through the end of the year, we will be highlighting a variety of ATC projects and showing how they will positively affect the A.T. experience for future generations. These projects (and many more) are only made possible through the dedication of our members and donors! By giving a gift to the Trail today, you are ensuring that the unique A.T. experience is preserved and protected forever and for all.