"If these people were on the skyline, and kept their eyes open, they would see the things that the giant could see."
- Benton MacKaye, 1921
 

MacKaye's Vision for the Appalachian Trail consisted of 4 parts...

 

James Neill, 2003

MacKaye's Vision for the Appalachian Trail consisted of 4 parts:

1.The Trail --

The beginnings of an Appalachian trail already exist. They have been established for several years -- in various localities along the line. Specially good work in trail building has been accomplished by the Appalachian Mountain Club in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and by the Green Mountain Club in Vermont. The latter association has already built the "Long Trail" for 210 miles thorough the Green Mountains -- four fifths of the distance from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian. Here is a project that will logically be extended. What the Green Mountains are to Vermont the Appalachians are to eastern United States. What is suggested, therefore, is a "long trail" over the full length of the Appalachian skyline, from the highest peak in the north to the highest peak in the south -- from Mt. Washington to Mt. Mitchell.

The trail should be divided into sections, each consisting preferably of the portion lying in a given State, or subdivision thereof. Each section should be in the immediate charge of a local group of people. Difficulties might arise over the use of private property -- especially that amid agricultural lands on the crossovers between ranges. It might be sometimes necessary to obtain a State franchise for the use of rights of way. These matters could readily be adjusted, provided there is sufficient local public interest in the project as a whole. The various sections should be under some sort of general federated control, but no suggestions regarding this form are made in this article.

Not all of the trail within a section could, of course, be built all at once. It would be a matter of several years. As far as possible the work undertaken for any one season should complete some definite usable link -- as up or across one peak. Once completed it should be immediately opened for local use and not wait on the completion of other portions. Each portion built should, of course, be rigorously maintained and not allowed to revert to disuse. A trail is as serviceable as its poorest link.

The trail could be made, at each stage of its construction, of immediate strategic value in preventing and fighting forest fires. Lookout stations could be located at intervals along the way. A forest fire service could be organized in each section which should tie in with the services with the services of the Federal and State Governments. The trail would immediately become a battle line against fire.

A suggestion for the location of the trail and its main branches is shown on the accompanying map.

 

2. Shelter Camps --

These are the usual accompaniments of the trails which have been built in the White and Green Mountains. They are the trail's equipment for use. They should be located at convenient distances so as to allow a comfortable day's walk between each. They should be equipped always for sleeping and certain of them for serving meals -- after the function of the Swiss chalets. Strict regulation is required to assure that equipment is used and not abused. As far as possible the blazing and constructing of the trail and building of camps should be done by volunteer workers. For volunteer "work" is really "play." The spirit of cooperation, as usual in such enterprises, should be stimulated throughout. The enterprise should, of course, be conducted without profit. The trail must be well guarded -- against the yegg-man and against the profiteer.

 

3. Community Groups --

These would grow naturally out of the shelter camps and inns. Each would consist of a little community on or near the trail (perhaps on a neighboring lake) where people could live in private domiciles. Such a community might occupy a substantial area -- perhaps a hundred acres or more. This should be bought and owned as a part of the project. No separate lots should be sold therefrom. Each camp should be a self-owning community and not a real-estate venture. The use of the separate domiciles, like all other features of the project, should be available without profit.

These community camps should be carefully planned in advance. They should not be allowed to become too populous and thereby defat the very purpose for which they are created. Greater numbers should be accommodated by more communities, not larger ones. There is room, without crowding, in the Appalachian region for a very large camping population. The location of these community camps would form a main part of the regional planning and architecture.

These communities would be used for various kinds of non- industrial activity. They might eventually be organized for special purposes -- for recreation, for recuperation and for study. Summer schools or seasonal field courses could be established and scientific travel courses organized and accommodated in the different communities along the trail. The community camp should become something more than a mere "playground": it should stimulate every line of outdoor non-industrial endeavor.

 

4. Food and Farm Camps

These might not be organized at first. They would come as a later development. The farm camp is the natural supplement of the community camp. Here is the same spirit of cooperation and well ordered action the food and crops consumed in the outdoor living would as far as practically be sown and harvested.

Food and farm camps could be established as special communities in adjoining valleys. Or they might be combined with the community camps with the inclusion of surrounding farm lands. Their development could provide tangible opportunity for working out by actual experiment a fundamental matter in the problem of living. It would provide one definite avenue of experiment in getting "back to the land." It would provide an opportunity for those anxious to settle down in the country: it would open up a possible source for new, and needed, employment. Communities of this type are illustrated by the Hudson Guild Farm in New Jersey.

Fuelwood, logs, and lumber are other basic needs of the camps and communities along the trail. These also might be grown and forested as part of the camp activity, rather than bought in the lumber market. The nucleus of such an enterprise has already been started at Camp Tamiment, Pennsylvania, on a lake not far from the route of the proposed Appalachian trail. The camp has been established by a labor group in New York City. They have erected a sawmill on their tract of 2000 acres and have built the bungalows of their community from their own timber.

Farm camps might ultimately be supplemented by permanent forest camps through the acquisition (or lease) of wood and timber tracts. These of course should be handled under a system of forestry so as to have a continuously growing crop of material. The object sought might be accomplished through long term timber sale contracts with the Federal Government on some of the Appalachian National Forests. Here would be another opportunity for permanent, steady, healthy employment in the open.