We all love McAfee Knob. In fact, visitation has increased by 55% per year in the last four years, causing a noticeable increase in avoidable impacts such as litter, vandalism, negative encounters with wildlife, and damage to vegetation.
Enter RATC’s McAfee Knob Task Force, an all-volunteer group that helps the paid Ridgerunners with outreach, education and cleanup. While they spend a lot of time on the AT, they find that greeting hikers in the Route 311 parking lot often provides the most useful information for hikers, especially those with little experience.
Since they started work on May 29, the RATC’s volunteers have worked 248 hours and talked with over 1,500 of the nearly 3,000 hikers they saw, They covered every single Saturday as well as most Fridays and Sundays, removing 20 illegal fire rings and almost 60 gallons of trash. They have assisted paid ridgerunners Eric West and Stephanie Brieg on AT sections from Dragon’s Tooth to Lambert’s Meadow and even accompanied National Park Service Ranger Todd Remaley to McAfee Knob the morning of July 5, when he wrote 16 warning tickets for illegal camping, illegal campfires and illegal use of alcohol in this section (where it is prohibited).
They met thru hikers, day hikers, youth groups… and had one particularly memorable sighting on June 21: “Saw one day hiker in the nude. He covered himself as we passed by each other. I need suggestions as to what to say so I am ready for next time! Probably, ‘Please cover yourself as we have families with small children hiking today.’” As volunteer Carina Hughes noted at the end of her ridgerunner report: “Great day!”
Thanks to training sessions delivered by Kathryn Herndon of regional Appalachian Trail Conservancy staff on May 23 and August 8, The task force now counts 18 members. It includes local teachers and administrators, Virginia Master Naturalists and people ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s who come from both the Roanoke and New River Valley regions.
The new members are: Randy Adams, Josie DeMarce, Sandie Meyers, Scott Karns, Susan Powell, Susan Terwilleger and Gyorgyi Voros.
They join veterans Brian Boggs, Diana Christopulos, Bob Egbert, David Foster, Jonathon Giuffria, Carina Hughes, Robin Jordan, Mark McClain, Bruce Sellars, Jim Webb, David Youmans.
Jim and Dave have been especially helpful, since they maintain AT sections around McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs, areas of very heavy usage.
If you want to join this McAfee Knob Task Force, there will be more training sessions in the future. Join the McAfee KnobTask Force MeetUp group or contact Kathryn Herndon of ATC stafff firstname.lastname@example.org