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ATC History

Just like the Appalachian Trail, our history is long. But throughout the years, the heart of our organization has remained the same: to protect and manage over 2,190 miles of the A.T. footpath and its surrounding landscapes.

ATC History

1900
1900

Benton MacKaye looks south from the treetops on Stratton Mountain and wonders about a trail that runs all the way to the southern Appalachians

1921
1921

April


Betty MacKaye dies by suicide.

1921

July

Benton MacKaye begins writing “An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning”.

1921

October

MacKaye’s Appalachian Trail article is published in the Journal of the American Institute of Architects.

1923
1923

First A.T.-specific sections are completed in New York by Raymond Torrey.

1925
1925


The Appalachian Trail Conference is formed as a confederation under Major William Welch.

1927
1927


MacKaye’s speech to the New England Trail Conference engages Arthur Perkins to take over the ATC.

1931
1931


Myron H. Avery takes over leadership of the ATC and accelerates Trail-blazing.

1935
1935


MacKaye steps away from the ATC (until the 1960s) after disputes with Avery.

1937
1937

The A.T. is fully connected from Maine to Georgia.

1938
1938

Appalachian Trailway Agreement among the ATC, National Park Service (NPS), U.S. Forest Service, and states. A hurricane breaks the Trail’s continuity for years.

1944
1944

First A.T. protection legislation introduced by Rep. Daniel Hoch.

1948
1948


Earl Shaffer reports first A.T. thru-hike; interest in A.T. accelerates.

1951
1951


The continuity of the A.T. is restored after hurricane damage and wartime neglect.

1952
1952


Myron H. Avery dies.

1952


Mildred Norman Ryder becomes the first woman to thru-hike the A.T.

1961
1961


Stanley A. Murray elected ATC chair; federal protection drive renewed.

1968
1968

National Trails System Act becomes law. The ATC hires first employee.

1970
1970

Tripartite federal/ATC agreements renewed.

1972
1972

The ATC moves to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

1975
1975


Benton MacKaye dies.

1976
1976


NPS creates an A.T. park office under David A. Richie.

1976


A.T. amendments to National Trails System Act become law.

1978
1978

NPS land-acquisition project begins in earnest with 913.7 (map) miles protected by federal agencies and 256.1 miles by states. 948.6 miles to go

1980
1980


Ruth Blackburn named first woman ATC chair.

1980

1980s–1990s

The ATC, Trail clubs, and new special Trail crews move hundreds of miles of the footpath to optimal, constructed locations as the land-acquisition program progresses; the Trust for A.T. Lands saves key tracts; unprecedented bridge projects begin in Virginia and New Jersey.

1984
1984

NPS delegates park-management responsibilities to the ATC, beginning land-management obligations.

1986
1986


David N. Startzell appointed the ATC’s executive director, beginning 25 years of centralized program growth.

1987
1987


Lori “Tenderfoot” Pierce is the first known Black thru-hiker.

1989
1989

850 miles protected since 1978, 100 miles left to acquire.

1990
1990

U.S. District Court Judge Charles S. Haight, Jr., broadly interprets the 1968 National Trails System Act to allow acquisitions for Trail values, not just treadway needs.

1990

1990s

The ATC battles ski resorts and highway projects; facilitates nearly $200 million in annual congressional appropriations for land acquisitions (averaging $8 million per year) and major protections, such as Sterling Forest; initiates naturalresource inventories; expands Stewardship Fund with first $1-million bequest.

1995
1995


Pamela Underhill begins 17 years as NPS A.T. park manager.

1998
1998

Congress appropriates $15.1 million to carry combined A.T. land acquisition through 2000, with 15 years of tract-based appropriations to follow.

1998


Bill Bryson publishes A Walk in the Woods, triggering an explosion in A.T. interest.

2000
2000

White House names the A.T. one of 16 National Millennium Trails.

2005
2005

Recognizing the responsibility

The ATC has never had just one job as the project leader when it came to the protection, promotion, and management of the A.T. However, the accomplishment of the land-acquisition priority and the more elevated responsibilities given it by the 1968 and 1978 acts, along with unprecedented federal and state agreements under it, called for a repositioning. Years of discussions came to fruition in July 2005 when the leadership changed the ATC’s name to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. This name change reflects the new superior priority of preservation of the Trail corridor and its natural and cultural resources, which is essential to enhancing the A.T. experience.

2005

The Appalachian Trail Conference becomes the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to reflect the top priority of preserving the Trail corridor and its natural and cultural resources.

2005


Appalachian Trail Conference renames itself the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and restructures governance.

2014
2014

The last major stretch of Trail is formally acquired and permanently protected.

2014

Last major corridor tract acquired by donated easement; 7 miles remain to be acquired, 196,225 acres protected since 1978.

2015
2015

The ATC celebrates 90 years of caring for the A.T.

2015


Large-landscape initiative launched.

2020
2020

U.S. Supreme Court addresses management authorities for the A.T.

2021
2021


Celebrating 100 years of MacKaye’s vision.