This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Betsy Ingleheart: The historic resources of the Appalachian Trial National Scenic Trail project began in late in 2011 when the Appalachian Trail became part of, or administratively housed, in the NPS Northeast Region. It had previously been in WASO. The trail goes through National Capital Region and Southeast Region, it administratively it is in the Northeast Region. So when they joined us in late 2011 they received what we sometimes call the new park treatment, where we try to assist in getting their baseline documentation up to speed. The project that the then superintendent, Pam Underhill, wanted to work on was National Register documentation. They had been talking about it for many years, and largely because of the number of threats that the Appalachian Trail faces on an almost daily basis with energy, power lines, wind turbines, all sorts of buildings, and activities that go on with them.
So very early on in the project, actually even before I was involved, the Appalachian Trail folks did talk to the NR people, you folks in Washington. It was pretty much decided that the best way to document the trail was through the multiple property documentation form. It’s not a historic unit of the Park Service, so that seemed to be the best avenue, so that’s what we’ve started. What I’d like to do today is to go through with you some of the challenges that we were confronted – me as project manager and also the contractor who came on board – and how we’ve addressed those challenges because this is an unusual resource type, it doesn’t always fit the National Register guidelines and we’ll just take it from there.
The Appalachian Trail is perhaps most of you know, extends from Maine to Georgia, Georgia to Maine. It’s approximately 2,185 miles, it goes through fourteen states, three National Park Service regions and a variety of federally owned, state owned, and some privately owned property.
I want to get right into the challenges. This is what Barbara asked me to focus on. It really is the sheer scale and how to begin to think about documenting and it became very clear that we have to devise a way, using the National Register, to maintain the continuity of the trail, because if we had a break in the trail, if we had sections that were considered non-contributing, we really no longer have the trail. It was also interesting that a number of states had made the terminations of eligibility about specific components or aspects of the trail. I think Dan Sonders, here on the line today, I think New Jersey, is the only state that I’m aware of that said the whole trail was eligible. But in that correspondence, it was 106 correspondences primarily, there was really little or no justification provided for that evaluation. Everybody thinks that it’s really a wonderful historic resource that we need to preserve, and yet it was really difficult getting a handle on just what it was and how could we go about justifying it.
So, actually it was a conversation early on with Jim Gabbert, where I proposed that we try to tie it to some of the legislation, primarily the 1978 language that we’ll talk about a little bit later that provided money, real money, 90 Million dollars to start with, to purchase property to protect the trail. There was also a series of legislation, there is also some executive orders on protecting the trail. So I have to credit Jim for the term “anchoring the trails significance with legislation,” or “to legislation,” those are his words and I have used them many, many times.
The other thing that we needed to really address was location as an aspect of integrity, the trail has moved around, you’ll see as I get more into this discussion, and it will continue to move around. Initially there was the need to reroute portions of the trail because of encroachment or development or hastily laid out trail just to continue it along roads; a lot of it was on private property and the private property owners no longer wanted it there. So it has moved around, and it continues to largely as a result today of erosion or blow down, so really that mutable nature of the trail was something that needed to be addressed in the documentation and again Paul Lusigman and Jim were very, very helpful as we crafted the language in the multiple property to account for that.
We’ve touched on settings and views, but this trail is really about views and renewing the soul and the spirit by being away from civilization. We have a very narrow corridor here, in most places 1,000 feet, so how do we talk about viewing locations and views from the ridge-line, the properties that we own, but out into this vast expanse. So there is a lot of time and effort went into describing the importance of setting in the intent of the trail.
Okay, just a bit of background, the idea began in 1921. The first trail was laid out in 1922 in Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park in New York. The last state to be completed was Maine. The original trail was to stop at Mt. Washington, the idea was to continue on to Maine. And that was the portion of the trail that was largely over road, which will go through pretty remote parts of Maine, there are often dirt roads, or logging roads, but nonetheless they were roads.
And this is Benton MacKaye who wrote the article that appeared in the AIA Journal about the Appalachian Trail. He had envisioned, in addition to being a recreational trail, that there is a great social experiment along with this, with farms and giving people that live along the trail opportunity to grow their own food and live on land along the trial. That idea kind of fell away.
With the effort of Myron Avery, the person with the bicycle wheel measuring the trail, who really focused on the recreational aspects rather than this larger social movement that Benton MacKaye had envisioned. Here there are at the terminus, this is at Maine, completing the trail.
Okay, when we started this project, actually even in the scope of work, it became very clear that people used a lot of different terms for the trail, and didn’t always use them consistently. So, I thought it was really important that we had a common language. We don’t have to read every bit of it here, but if it interests you, you can always go back. We did work these up. This illustrates the AT Corridor, which is approximately 1,000 feet wide on the center line, with the trail. It also illustrates the tread way, which is the actual path.
The third component of the trail is the trail prism. This is more like the trail green, Gothic pointed arc. This is actually a maintenance term of a four by eight sort of tunnel through there, and this is what is maintained so that a hiker with a backpack can go through the land.
We, in the multiple property just really for ease of administration, decided to do the multiple property and then have a listing for each one of the fourteen states that it goes through. So the listings are the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Historic Districts segments, so it would be the length through the states, then of course, in Maine, the terminus at Katahdin and in Georgia, the terminus at Springer Mountain.
So the next definition is these relocated trails. As I said the trail moves around a lot within the corridor. Because of blow down or erosions or whatever, there are always trail crews out there every year. So we really had to figure out how, do we plan for this in our narrative and also in our registration requirements?
So we have the relocated trails within the trail corridor. We also have rerouted trails, which go to whole new parcels of land that were acquired after 1937, with the completion of the trail and the majority after 1978, with that very important piece of legislation. So, as you’ll see when we get into the period of significance, the rerouted trails, and those rerouted as a result of that 1978 legislation, helped define our end date of significance. And then to address that setting question that came up in the last presentation, and probably in every one of the National Register documentation projects in the Northeast Region, we tried to do the best we can to really zero in on that setting.
This is the definition which may be very familiar to many of you from landscape lines on viewpoints and vistas. So as I said we document those viewpoints usually there on guidebooks, they’re a little dot on the map, and also the ridgeline views. This is largely a ridgeline trail from the tread way itself. But then we really tried to talk about the different kinds of views that you are likely to see. And actually in one of the earlier presentation … and I believe it was BLM that had the view classification, we kind of used that to try to articulate the types of views that one would likely encounter along the trail. We’ve got the south and foot trail corridor that we’re protecting through the National Register listing, but this vast, vast, vast area that you are able to see from many, many points along the trail.
Okay, all right defining a boundary. This was a difficult issue that the Appalachian Trail people wanted us to do all of the land owned by the NPS. The NPS only owns about 500 miles of the 2,185 approximately miles of the trail, but it is also set in large areas that was sort of beyond really the scope of the project, and not really in keeping with in how one would document a non-historic park. So we did settle on this south and foot trail corridor. This also includes side trails, side trails to view locations, side trails to camping areas, that sort of thing. So there will be bump outs and little linear trails, off of that thousand foot corridor, but this is the main spine that will be protected. Now there are many, many, probably hundreds of side trails off of the Appalachian Trail, connecting with other trails or trail heads. There are abandoned segments of the trail, it’s been moving around. So we also did include in the registration requirements exactly which side trails would be included and which ones most likely would not, criteria, and a hierarchy of thinking about those.
Okay, so statement of significance; we actually have two areas of significance. Recreation would be the obvious one, when this was developed. This is conservation and this is where the protection of the trail is documented in the narrative. To say that it’s a history of the legislation and the executive orders really sells it short because it’s much more interesting and more developed. But again to go back to Jim Gabbert’s statement about anchoring the significance in the legislation, this is where it resides in the narrative as an area of significance.
Again, a lot of words here about the legislation “to acquire lands in order to protect those sections of the trail threatened by development and to relocate… ” They use “relocate,” we would now call that reroute. You see that’s why the terminology became so important.
So the period of significance would begin in 1922 for that first section in New York. And then it will go up to the present in the MPDF. When it comes to the listings it will begin when construction actually began in that state and when the last section of trail was acquired and moved onto protected land. So there is a very broad possibility for a period of significance, but in reality in the listing it will be much more specific. And if for some reason there’s a listing and in the future there is some encroachment and there is a better opportunity presents itself for relocating the trail, the idea is that there will be a boundary. There will be an amendment done, and that is sort of all laid out again, in the narrative for that piece.
Establishing exceptional importance, and we have to do that, since less than 50 years and things are still moving around, so again, it’s tied to that legislation.
Again I just wanted to circle back to the challenges and how we address them. Maybe if you have some questions this is sort of a good focus, because they really took a lot of time to figure this all out.
I probably should have said this early, but the Appalachian Trail is sort of managed by the Park Service, by the Appalachian Trail office in Harper’s Ferry, but there’s a cooperative agreement with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy that does the maintenance on the trial. And that is largely a volunteer group. So, here they are out there. This looks like they’ve got a relocated trail that they’re working on.
And then, our future challenge is really, how are we going to prepare the individual state listings? There was a team out last summer that hiked 150 miles in Maine, recording as they went along the way. So I think there is a hundred mile of wilderness in Maine, and you can’t really get in and out of the trail, so it’s logistically it’s a difficult section to document, to see what’s out there. I think we’re going to try some more experiments in having selective field work, using guide books, relying on the incredibly knowledgeable and committed trail crews, and the Appalachian Trail clubs. There are 31 clubs that maintain the trail. We have a draft listing for Maine, which needs to be revised to reflect the most recent MPDF and final, hopefully, MPF draft. We’re going to be doing field work for listings in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania this upcoming year and then as funding will become available, we will add state by state listings until the entire trail is covered.
And really to conclude, I really want to thank the folks at the National Register, particularly Jim Gabbert and Paul Lusignan, my counterparts in the Southeast Region, my counterpart, Cynthia Walton in Southeast Region and Catherine Smith in National Capital Region for reviewing earlier drafts. The Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation in my office in Boston, Margie Coffin Brown read a number of drafts, and also two state historic preservation office staff members, Maine and Pennsylvania, were incredible reviewers, and really I think helped us understand what it’s like on the other side. I know there are state people here, when you are confronted, or when you’re evaluating a proposed undertaking, and helping us fine tune the wording so that when there’s a proposal that’s really going to compromise, the view for example, that they have wording in there that can hopefully protect the trail. So it was a big group of reviewers and of the park staff as well, and we’re almost done. And hopefully I’ll be able to share it with anyone who is interested.