by Alivia Acosta, ATC Volunteer Development Coordinator
Partnerships Protect the Trail Corridor
When Congress passed the National Trails System Act in 1968, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail was federally established as a unit of the National Park System that was to be “administered primarily as a footpath.” To this day, the shared stewardship actions of individuals in local communities volunteering their time, and agency and organizational partners, have played a large role in protecting the tread of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) from being illegally used by modes of transportation.
The federally protected lands surrounding the footpath near Greenwood Lake, NY has experienced a decade long battle against off-road vehicle encroachments onto A.T. lands. Staff members and volunteers with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference have been working tirelessly to protect the A.T. from these harmful encroachments by refreshing all the National Park Service boundary lines, placing and monitoring trail cameras, speaking with neighbors, disguising and blocking entry points, as well as mapping and documenting vehicle paths and entry points.
While these tactics were useful, off-road vehicle encroachments did not decrease. Over time, these off-road vehicle encroachments expanded into the A.T.’s protected lands, and onto the Trail.
Thankfully, a new partnership with local National Park Service law enforcement rangers has led to the successful tracking and issuing of a citation to an individual who was captured on camera cutting down and stealing prized lumber from the A.T.’s protected lands.
It has also led to the area’s first collaborative enforcement and education day. National Park Service Ranger Heather Hyde performed a joint patrol along the A.T. with members of the Warwick Police Department. Throughout the day, they were able to speak with several off-road vehicle riders, making their presence known, which will hopefully assist with leading to a decline in encroachments to the federally protected lands that surround the Trail.