June 30, 2014 – More than 2 million visitors a year hike on the Appalachian Trail, from short hikes on day visits to months-long escapes as they traverse the sometimes rugged expanse from Georgia to Maine. The impact of their recreational experiences on the natural resources along the way is largely unknown.
In 2015, a U.S. Geological Survey researcher will lead a team from Virginia Tech and North Carolina State University to create the most comprehensive data set about trail and campsite conditions in the Appalachian National Scenic Trail’s more than 90-year history.
Jeff Marion, adjunct professor of natural resource recreation in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation within Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment and a recreation ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, has received a $300,000 grant from the National Park Service to characterize visitor impacts on vegetation and soils, develop sustainability guidance to minimize impacts, provide workshops on trail design for maintenance staff and volunteers, and provide education materials about Leave No Trace practices and outdoor ethics for schools, youth groups, and trail users. (continue reading.........)