By Sandra Marra, President & CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy

A Commitment to Justice

June 1, 2020

Over the past few weeks, we at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) have taken inventory of the social landscape within the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) community and across the United States. We have seen the recent and tragic deaths of black men and women — Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd — generate anger, frustration, resentment, and protest. We have seen, not just in the past few weeks but throughout the history of outdoor recreation, black men and women try to enjoy the outdoors only to have the police called on them while birdwatching (Christian Cooper), to have a gun pulled on them while picnicking (Jessica and Franklin Richardson) or to have been shot while going for a run (Ahmaud Arbery). We know these are only a few stories among many where black men and women have been systematically marginalized and targeted. 

We have heard the voices of many — in the cities and beyond — calling for an end to this widespread injustice and racial violence. We have heard the call for a more equitable, inclusive, and peaceful future. Through the anger, sadness, and frustration, we have seen and felt the urgent need for justice, particularly for those who have been pushed to the margins. We, as a Conservancy, join those voices and demand justice but we also recognize the problem exists in our own community. 

As we have learned throughout the course of this pandemic, the A.T. is not a separate reality from the rest of the world. The need for justice is just as relevant in the Trail community. The A.T. is not racially or ethnically diverse. It is not accessible to people from low-income communities. It is not always a safe place for women. And, it is not relevant to many people we consider to be part of the next generation. We recognize this must change. We recognize we must orient ourselves and the broader Trail community to justice in its many forms — environmental, social, racial, and economic. 

We have taken some steps to address these issues, but a lot of work remains. Justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion must be the cornerstone of everything the ATC does. We will continue to undertake training, we will educate our Trail-wide community, we will diversify representation among our staff, our Board, and our volunteers and visitors. We will continue to reach out to Trailside communities, addressing issues around race, ethnicity, and inclusion — including making the Trail and Trailside communities safe, open, and welcoming spaces for black hikers. We will invest — with time and money — in change. 

We feel justice comes in the form of action. We believe action can make meaningful change. We are committing to making the A.T. and the broader Trail community a space that is inclusive, open, and safe for all.  

In solidarity and hope,

Sandra Marra
President & CEO
Appalachian Trail Conservancy