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Beyond the Footpath: Landscape Conservation Along the Appalachian Trail

Originally published in the October 1921 edition of the Journal of the American Institute of Architects, Benton MacKaye’s groundbreaking article inspired the creation of the Appalachian Trail (A.T.). The iconic Appalachian Trail was originally conceptualized as a mega greenway that would serve as a wilderness and escape from modern living and stress. Every year, millions set foot on the Appalachian Trail (A.T.), whether for an afternoon stroll or a thru-hike from Maine to Georgia. But if you were to ask visitors the parts of their hikes that they remember the most, the footpath itself is not likely the main thing people will mention. Instead, they will explain how breathtaking the views are from the summits, or the times they saw a moose or deer and listened to songbirds. They will talk about the communities they stopped in along the way, providing a sense of each community’s unique character. And they will mention the brightness of the stars at night, and the time where the only sound was the breath of the wind through the leaves. One of the most important aspects of protecting this realm is landscape conservation. This work ensures healthy ecosystems, protects the habitats of native plants and animals, as well as vital natural resources such as clean drinking water, and provides tourism dollars and support for Trailside communities. Now that the majority of the footpath is secured and well-managed, MacKaye’s vision continues to inspire and guide the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) as it evolves and deploys landscape conservation work to ensure the A.T. and its surrounding landscape are protected forever for all to enjoy. Returning to the original concept is leading the ATC to secure the future of the corridor as a greenway that supports: natural beauty, climate resiliency, the hiker experience, strengthened shared stewardship, and engaging new people and partners. Learn how these new goals are taking shape in conservation landscapes across Pennsylvania.