ATC: Mountain Valley Pipeline an unprecedented threat to ALL national trails

 

Kelly Knob on Appalachian Trail today

Many small pipelines currently cross the Appalachian Trail, but they are nothing like the proposed new Mountain Valley Pipeline that would be built by a consortium led by EQT, a fracking company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The latest edition of AT Journeys, the magazine of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, has a major article on the threat of this pipeline to all national trails. “Cutting to the Core:Setting a Precedent for Pipeline Proposals” by Jack Igelman. (if you have trouble getting this link to open properly, please right click, copy the link, and paste into a new tab)

Kelly Knob with Mountain Valley Pipeline

Unlike existing pipelines, this one would be visible off and on for almost 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. In Giles County, the pipeline would cut an ugly swath that would be visible from Kelly Knob on the AT, only about 2 miles away. Even worse, the project would create a 500-foot utility corridor through the national forest that would invite co-location of two or three equally large projects immediately adjacent to this monster.

Gary Werner, executive director of the Partnership for the National Trails System based in Madison, Wisconsin, says the project would set a precedent for lowering the status of all national trails, including the Pacific Crest Trail and many others. Construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline would ignore established scenic standards that required decades of work and massive financial expenditures by citizens, nonprofits, the US Congress and government agencies.

Yet the applicant contends that the project would have almost no impact on scenic values, public safety or the water supplies to both groundwater wells and public drinking water for Roanoke, Virginia and a host of other places. Andrew Downs, ATC’s Regional Director in Virginia, expresses frustration at the extremely poor quality of the pipeline’s documentation, noting that, “It’s almost comical. The document is missing huge and important pieces of analysis.” Diana Christopulos, President of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club, was unconcerned about yet another pipeline until she learned the facts about this one. Now she describes is as “a total trainwreck.” Here are some of the reasons:

  • The Mountain Valley Pipeline would measure 42 inches in diameter, more than twice the size of the large transmission pipelines that currently supply the East Coast. It would be under 1,440 pounds of pressure per square inch, with a blast zone (where everything is destroyed) of about 1,000 feet on each side (based on recent explosions of large pipelines, the distance might be closer to 1,600 feet) and an evacuation zone (where anyone present would suffer serious injuries) of about 3,600 feet on each side.
  • Instead of following roads, railroads and rivers like existing transmission pipelines, it would climb steeply up and down almost 225 miles of slopes with significant landslide potential, including 120.0 miles of extremely steep slopes (grades >20%)
  • Over its 300-mile length, it would cut through almost 250 miles of forested land (over 80% of the total route), including an Old Growth Forest in Jefferson National Forest. It would pass directly through the Brush Mountain Inventoried Roadless Area, which has been declared eligible for Wilderness status, and directly next to both the Peters Mountain Wilderness and the Brush Mountain Wilderness.

Oh, and the pipeline would tunnel through the epicenter of the Giles County Seismic Zone, scene of the largest earthquake in recorded Virginia history, with an estimated magnitude of 5.9. What could possibly go wrong?

 

 

Posted in Mountain Valley Pipeline, RATC News Tagged with: , ,

Get your hands dirty this summer with the Konnarock Volunteer Trail Crew!

By Jane Rice, Appalachian Trail Conservancy intern

Are you ready to learn new awesome trail building skills? Then the Konnarock volunteer trail crew is perfect for you. No prior experience is necessary, just a desire to help maintain the Appalachian Trail and bond with other volunteers from all around the country. Within the 120 mile stretch of the A.T. near Roanoke, Konnarock has constructed and repaired portions of the A.T. with the help of hundreds of volunteers, but there is always more work to be done. More steps to be added and trails to be widened. Konnarock volunteers learn the significance of trail maintenance out on the A.T., and all the hard work that goes into preserving the land for years to come. Konnarock runs from May 3rd to August 9th with each work week running over the weekend allowing individuals to take minimal work time off during the week. The Appalachian Trail receives around 2 – 3 million visitors every year, but without the hard work of trail volunteers that growing number wouldn’t be possible.

In 2016 the Konnarock Crew worked with the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club to continue a relocation of Sinking Creek Mountain. This section is one of the lesser – known gems in RATC’s amazing 120 mile section of the Appalachian Trail; so it’s hard to say no to an opportunity of giving back. Over the course of the week an incredible amount of progress was completed on this project. Areas such as this one that are in need of many hands and extra time are what Konnarock is all about. The new trail is being routed along boulder fields and leading to some heavy lifting and lots of teamwork. The work was technical and challenging making it the perfect job for a Konnarock trail crew. Standing just south of the relocation is the famous Keffer Oak tree. This tree stands at 300 feet tall with a circumference of 18 to 20 feet, the second largest on the Appalachian Trail. It’s hard to miss once you get there. This will truly be an amazing section of the Trail after the construction of the relocation.

Since 1983 the Konnarock Trail crew has continuously completed large scale conservation projects along the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain GA to Rockfish Gap in VA. Crews come in the night before their work week begins to go through an orientation, eat a hearty dinner, and get to know each other before they head into the bonding experience of a lifetime.  Individuals of all ages and backgrounds come in to have a rewarding experience filled with sweat and laughter. Crews include AT thru – hikers, individuals who have never touched a pick mattock, and multi-year alumnus of Konnarock. The volunteers help speed up the duration of time a project would take compared to the Appalachian Trail Clubs working a few times a month. Once the crews depart for their work week, they will arrive at a remote site where they will be camping and have the advantage of car access. To take advantage of this fantastic opportunity you must be at least 18 years old and have a great pair of hiking boots.

Registration can be found on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website or by contacting them at crews@appalachiantrail.org and (540) – 904 – 4393

This year crews will be working on the Sinking Creek relocation again during the following weeks:

Week 4: May 27th – 31st

 Week 9: July 12th – 16th

 Week 10: 20th – 24th

All Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club members are welcome and encouraged to come out and join the fun!

Posted in Konnarock Trail Crews Tagged with: , ,

March 4, 2017: The Appalachian Trail in Vintage Photos at RATC Pot Luck and Annual Meeting

WHAT: Pot Luck and Annual Meeting featuring Leonard Adkins on “Visual Histories of the AT” – vintage photographs selected from the archives of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the National Park Service, historical societies, long-time trail enthusiasts, and local Appalachian Trail maintaining clubs wonderful photos. Leonard will have all 6 of his books available. Great as a gift for someone who loves the AT.

WHEN: Saturday, March 4, 2017 ~ 6 to 9 pm

WHERE: Christ Lutheran Church, 2011 Brandon Avenue, SW, Roanoke VA (near Patrick Henry High School)

Leonard (Habitual Hiker) is a longtime member of RATC, and tomorrow’s program will be based on the 6 books he has authored or co-authored as a visual history of the Appalachian Trail.

Please bring a covered dish to share – all are welcome.

Here is what you will be seeing:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Arcadia Publishing are pleased to announce that Leonard M. Adkins has completed his eight-year labor of love. The colorful history of the trail along its entire length from Georgia to Maine is now featured in six volumes of Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series:

Along the Appalachian Trail: Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee Read more ›

Posted in Uncategorized

ATC Biennial in Maine, August 4-11, needs volunteers and people who want to hike!

The first time I hiked the AT in Maine, I had to quit early. The challenging pathways were much more than I had expected.  The next year, after better planning and training, it was a joy,  and Maine is now just about my favorite state on the AT. Where else can you see a moose on the trail?

RATC members have a chance to explore the AT in Maine (over 240 hikes) with lots of help and company this year at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s Biennial Conference.

And there is more – they need volunteers. So check the details below and on their website if you are interested in attending (registration begins in May) or volunteering. Here is the story:

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) holds a conference every two years at different locations in the Eastern US. In 2017, the conference will be held in Maine at Colby College in Waterville, Maine August 4-11, 2017.  This week-long event includes over 240 hikes, numerous workshops, and excursions to local areas of interest. The conference will also include ATC’s 41st membership meeting. Each evening there are exciting adventure presentations and stellar entertainment. The event draws people from around the world, but primarily from locations along the nearly 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail (A.T.).   At the last conference held in Maine (1997 Sunday River), 1,380 people participated.  We anticipate 1,500 attendees in 2017.

For more information:

Conference website: www.atc2017.org

To Volunteer: www.appalachiantrail.org/Maine2017Volunteers

Contact for Volunteer info, mail to: Volunteers2017@ATconf.org

To be a Sponsor or Exhibitor, mail to: Exhibits2017@ATconf.org

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Burn ban lifted for southern Appalachian Trail from Springer Mt., GA to US 33 in SNP

UPDATE: The National Park Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club have lifted the burn ban on the AT section that includes McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, and the NPS and ATC have lifted bans previously in effect on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park segments of the AT. Effective December 7, 2016, small camp fires are again permitted in fire grates only at designated locations between Va 624 and Va 652. See our McAfee Knob/Triple Crown page for details on legal locations for camping and campfires, and be safe out there!

UPDATE: December 5, 2016. George Washington & Jefferson National Forest have lifted their fire ban. Please note that FIRE BAN REMAINS IN PLACE FOR NATIONAL PARK LANDS, INCLUDING THE McAFEE KNOB/TINKER CLIFFS SECTION OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, between Va 624 and far side of I 81.

UPDATE: 1:15 pm, Thursday, November 17, 2016.. FIRE BAN NOW IN EFFECT ON APPALACHIAN TRAIL FROM SPRINGER MOUNTAIN, GEORGIA TO US 33 IN SHENANDOAH NATIONAL PARK. See details of the full ban here.

The ban includes the entire “Triple Crown” section of McAfee Knob, Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs. NO CAMPFIRES OR OPEN FIRES at shelters, campsites or dispersed campsites. Campers may use their enclosed fuel stoves for cooking.

If you are thinking about camping in the woods and having a fire on federal land in our part of Virginia – think again. A prolonged dry period with almost no rain during the past 43 days means burning and campfires will not be allowed outside of developed camping areas in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forest.  “We currently are working to contain two large fires on the Forest that are over 100 acres in size with new fires starting daily,” said Fire Management Officer Andy Pascarella. The fire ban begins Tuesday, November 15, 2016 and will expire Wednesday, February 1, 2017. See the full order here.

Read more ›

Posted in McAfee Knob/Triple Crown, RATC News Tagged with: , , , ,

A Visual Picnic: Leonard Adkins completes the photographic history of the Appalachian Trail

adkins-ma-cover-photoReview by Tom Johnson, Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

“Don’t know much about history,” a refrain in that old popular song, never registered with Leonard Adkins. His interest in history goes back decades, and he is anxious to introduce it to you.  Because Appalachian Trail hikers walk through history every day, Len wants to show them the history of this, history’s greatest volunteer project.

Len Adkins is a five-time thru-hiker (his email, “habitualhiker,” should give you a clue to his lifestyle), who has put together a five-volume history of the Appalachian Trail.  (A sixth volume, on Maine, was written independently by Dave Field.  So there are really six volumes that cover the entire trail.  The series is Along the Appalachian Trail, is published by Arcadia Publishing along with the cooperation of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.)  His series is now complete with the newest book, on Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.  If you don’t yet know the history of this remarkable trail, you can learn from Len.  He brings the trail to life through photographs, accompanied by captions that place each photo in its historical context.   The movie-star looks of Warner Hall, the penetrating stare of Eddie Stone, the group portrait of the “Four Foolish Females” from Georgia, or the New England “Three Musketeers,” bring the history to life.  Ever try climbing Blood Mountain from Neel Gap in a three-piece suit or an ankle-length coat?  Did you ever see an early backpack that looks like a peach basket?  Did you ever have the chance to meet legendary ATC staff member Jean Cashin in Harpers Ferry?  You can see long-forgotten scenes like the old Sinking Creek covered bridge, or Appalachian families in the 1930s staring out in wonder at those crazy hikers passing through.  Passing beside the Smithsonian rare animal research center (official title:  Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute) in Northern Virginia, you see the admonition that “violators will be eaten.”  (The sign was stolen years ago.)

Read more ›

Posted in Appalachian Trail History Tagged with: ,

Join Hands Across the Appalachian Trail in Newport on September 17!

On September 17, 2016, people from all over the region will join hands to protect our land, our local communities and the Appalachian Trail from the unnecessary and unwanted onslaught of natural gas pipelines. Both the AT and the Newport community in Giles County are in the cross hairs of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a project that is already opposed by many regional organizations, including the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club.

WHEN: Saturday, September 17 -10:30 am

WHERE: Newport Recreation and Community Center, Newport, VA

Read more ›

Posted in Mountain Valley Pipeline Tagged with: ,

RATC Board opposes Mountain Valley Pipeline, citing hiker safety and visual impact

Using criteria developed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club’s board of directors has voted to oppose the Mountain Valley Pipeline due to its potential negative impacts on the AT and trail users. The board’s resolution voices “opposition to construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline as proposed across the Appalachian Trail on Peters Mountain and in the Appalachian Trail viewshed in numerous locations, including Angel’s Rest and along the Alternate 200 route.” (As already reported on this website, the US Forest Service has raised numerous concerns about the proposed route in its comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March 2016.)

Established in 1932 by AT co-founder Myron Avery, the RATC is responsible for over 120 miles of the AT between Route 611 in Giles County and Black Horse Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Club bylaws require the group to support monitoring and managing lands that were purchased for trail protection, to participate in and encourage the development of laws and regulations that protect the AT and its related interests, and to use all legal mans to protect and defend the AT and its related interests.

Angels Rest 4.26.16 with arrow

Arrow shows proposed pipeline crossing on Peters Mountain from Angel’s Rest

The board’s resolution cites RATC’s detailed comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in June 2015 and November 2015, specifically noting the following issues:

  1. Necessity of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to examine cumulative impact of all proposed major natural gas pipeline crossings of the Appalachian Trail.
  2. Avoidance of threats to regional air quality and human health
  3. Satisfaction of criteria in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s 2015 Policy on Pipeline Crossings of the Appalachian Trail.
  4. Avoidance of threats to regional water supplies and to drinking water for Appalachian Trail hikers
  5. Avoidance of karst topography and active seismic zones in the proposed AT crossing locations
  6. Avoidance of specific impacts, including scenic impacts, likely with currently proposed AT crossing alternatives
  7. Careful and realistic study of visual impacts of the proposed Alternate 200 route, with specific viewpoints and criteria noted in the club’s November 2015 comments.

RATC strongly believes that the pipeline is likely to be visible from numerous locations on the Appalachian Trail and poses potential safety hazards to AT users.

Read more ›

Posted in Mountain Valley Pipeline Tagged with:

Become a Volunteer Ridgerunner ~ June 18 training

NEW DATE for Training Day: June 18, 2016, 9 am – 2:30 pm
Perched high above the Catawba Valley, McAfee Knob is the most photographed place on the entire Appalachian Trail, and a beloved symbol of the natural beauty and opportunities for adventure that make our region so special.
But McAfee Knob is also a fragile place, in danger of being “loved to death”. In 2015 McAfee Knob was nationally designated as a Leave No Trace Hot Spot. The Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club (RATC) had long recognized a need for targeted stewardship and education along the heavily trafficked trail that connects McAfee Knob and nearby “crown jewels” Dragons Tooth and Tinker Cliffs. Rapidly increasing visitation has led to an increase in avoidable environmental impacts like litter, graffiti, trail erosion, and problematic bear behavior.
RATC created the McAfee Knob Task Force to focus on resource protection in the area, and a vibrant crew of 20 club members patrol the Trail as Volunteer Ridgerunners to help mitigate these problems with outreach and trail maintenance.
Posted in Leave No Trace, McAfee Knob/Triple Crown

What to do when a bear wants your food

What should you do when you are on the trail and a bear wants your food? Get a copy of the tips shown below from blackbear1the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries here.

To help yourself and others:

  • NEVER leave food in shelters or anywhere else near the trail. This is the cause of current bear problems – it is really a human problem more than a bear problem.
  • ALWAYS hang a bear bag or use a bear canister or other bear-proof storage system at night.Properly hung bear bag The bag itself should be at least 12 feet up in the air – so that a bear cannot reach it from the ground – and 6 feet out from the main tree trunk (see photo).

Generally black bears are naturally wary/fearful of people and prefer to avoid contact. However, bears that have been purposely fed or gotten a food reward from people may lose this wariness.  These bears may try to “scare” you into leaving your food or pack. They may pop their jaws or swat the ground with their front paws while blowing and snorting, and/or may lunge or bluff charge toward you in an attempt to get you to leave. These bluff charges rarely end in contact and should never be rewarded with food that is left unattended or thrown at the bear.  Should you encounter a bear displaying this behavior:

  • Do not run from a bear in any situation!
  • Remain calm and ready your bear spray (or other deterrent like rocks or sticks).
  • Stay together if you are in a group; you will appear larger and more intimidating if you stick together.
  • Act aggressively. Look the bear straight in the eyes and let it know you will fight. Shout! Make yourself look as big as possible. Stamp your feet. Threaten the bear with whatever is handy (stick, pole, bear spray). Throw rocks or sticks (never throw anything edible!). The more the bear persists, the more aggressive your response should be.
  • If a bear that is behaving in an aggressive/threatening manner is intent on making contact, your first line of defense is always your bear spray. Point the nozzle just above the bear’s head so that the spray falls into the bears eyes, nose and throat. When it is 20 to 30 feet away, give it a long blast. That should be enough to discourage it and send it in the other direction. (Be cautious of wind direction)
  • Once the bear has moved away, retreat to a safe location. Take your food/pack with you.  Do not run.  Stay alert in case the bear returns.
  • Notify your local Appalachian Trail contact, Sheriff’s Department or Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries about your encounter.

Appalachian Trail Conservancy Central and Southwest Virginia Regional Office at 540.904.4393

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries 804.652.7921

 

 

Posted in bears, Leave No Trace, McAfee Knob/Triple Crown Tagged with: