Manchester seeks Appalachian Trail Community designation

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MANCHESTER — Annually, during the peak of hiking season, Manchester resident David Quesnel picks up 30 to 40 hikers.

On one occasion, a couple from Brooklyn told him they'd be back because they enjoyed the area so much — something Quesnel said he always hears. Not too long after, he saw the couple in the Spiral Press Cafe and they claimed to have moved to Poultney.

An aside to this is that Manchester is known as a hiker-friendly town. A section of the Appalachian Trail runs along the other side of the Exit 4 ramp of Route 7.

To further cater this idea, a committee of hikers, nature enthusiasts, business owners and other community members are working to designate the town as an Appalachian Trail Community — a designation program of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Anne Houser from The Mountain Goat said she's been talking to trail clubs and avid hikers over the years and watched other towns take the initiative to become a designated community.

The AT is a 2,200 mile marked hiking trail that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine and passes through 14 states.

The designation application requires the town to have a number of things including a post office, library, grocery store, showers, lodging/hostels, and more. The showers in Manchester are located at the recreation park.

"It's a clear, organized, well-documented relationship between the hikers and the town and puts Manchester on the map," Houser said. "We would be the central Vermont town on the trail."

The AT runs from the Massachusetts border near Stamford and to the Maine Junction in Killington, then takes a right turn into New Hampshire. Between the distance, there are general stores, but not all the amenities required by the AT Conservancy.

"There's no downside to it at all," Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe said. "Having the stamp is a big deal."

A resolution was passed at the Jan. 17 Manchester Select Board meeting, O'Keefe said. Houser said she hopes to hear from the conservancy by April. If all goes as expected, an annual event honoring the designation would be planned for the fall.

The trail can be accessed on the left heading north toward Route 11 and 30, or at the end of Rootville Rd. next to Bistro Henry's, closer to town.

Quesnel used to post his phone number around town for hikers who needed to run errands in town. He said there's plenty of people like him. He's hiked part of the trail as well.

"I'm thrilled about it. I'm excited about it," he said about the designation.

O'Keefe and Quesnel agree that the trail is no place for crime. Quesnel has met many lone hikers, especially in their early 20s, but no one particularly dangerous.

Quesnel offers rides when he's coming down off the mountain or if he sees hikers around town in the warmer months. O'Keefe said he's seen large packs lined up outside of The Mountain Goat.

Houser said she plans to incorporate an education aspect within the community linked to the AT. Additionally, O'Keefe said summer camps have expanded because of the lack of time children have spent hiking.

"It ends up having a trickle-down effect because the kids get excited and tell their parents and want them to hike with them," he said.

Benton MacKaye, a regional planner, convened an AT conference in Washington, D.C. in 1925 with hikers, foresters and public officials. It laid the groundwork for the trail and eventually the Conservancy, which manages and protects it through volunteers, clubs and agency partners. About 43 years later the AT officially became America's first national scenic trail.

The Green Mountain Club is responsible for constructing the Long Trail between 1910 and 1930 that stretches 273 miles and overlaps with the AT for 100 miles.

Quesnel said when people plan to hike, they orient themselves with certain towns to figure out where they'll stop for amenities, so they might already be familiar with Manchester.

"Manchester is a hiker town," he said. "When I see someone hitch hiking, by the time I get turned around they get picked up. We're called a hiker friendly town. That is well-known. Will they make it more of a destination spot? Probably."

For more information contact Anne Houser at The Mountain Goat 802-362-5159.

Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.


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