by Ryan Seltzer, ATC Natural Resource & Land Stewardship Manager
1 Million Feet in 2019
The acquisition of the Appalachian Trail corridor is touted as the most complex land acquisition programs in the history of the NPS. In its hay day, the NPS Lands Office was closing on average of one tract of land per day. Today, over 110,000 acres of corridor lands are protected. The Trail is most vulnerable where the lands acquired with the intent of protecting the Trail are the narrowest – spanning a width of just 1,000 feet.
Each year, hundreds of volunteer land stewards get out to monitor their trail section of A.T. corridor and perform maintenance to the professionally surveyed property line. In 2019, roughly 1,000,000 feet of that boundary was monitored in the Mid-Atlantic region of the Trail alone! Traversing the boundary line is not for the faint of heart. There are no trails and no considerations for obstacles such as boulders, streams, steep climbs and even cliff faces! It can be best described a mixture of orienteering, surveying, geo-caching (searching for NPS survey monuments), off trail bushwhacking and exploration.
As told by Robert Frost, “Good fences make good neighbors” and the value of the A.T.’s yellow blazed boundary line serves as the “fence” protecting our beloved footpath and the unique ecological resources that call us to explore it. Volunteers who “walk the line” are guaranteed to see the beauty of the Appalachians in a way most visitors to the Trail never experience.