by Alivia Acosta, Volunteer Development Coordinator, Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) invited people from across the country to join them on an amazing Appalachian Trail (AT) Ed-Venture Series.
Starting in Georgia and traveling all the way north to Maine, each session was led by environmental educators providing exciting content across diverse disciplines that connect curriculum and students to the AT. These interactive sessions were hosted live via Zoom, shared simultaneously on Facebook Live (which allowed for participation from around the world), and then published to YouTube for access at any time. There were over 500 registrations to the live events and over 4,500 views of the various recordings on YouTube as of February 1, 2021.
Although the series made it to Maine on March 3, 2021, the ed-venture continues! The next ATC Ed-Venture Series will cover a wide range of topics; from how heritage and history can be expressed through art and creative writing to the importance of acknowledging native lands.
In September 2020, the ATC partnered with Walk the Distance for a special promotion. Walk the Distance is an iOS phone app tied directly to your phone’s health data, tracking how many steps you have taken and allowing individuals to experience the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine by incorporating virtual stops along the 2,193.1 miles of the Trail. These virtual stops feature iconic Trail locations, viewpoints and vistas, as well as history about those locations and some of the Trail Clubs that look after particular Trail sections. For the special promotion, folks would receive the app after donating $5 or more to the ATC. It resulted in more than 10K in donations with roughly 850 people taking part in the promotion.
The ATC also offered virtual training opportunities for its volunteers in lieu of a historically bi-annual in person meeting centered around volunteer leadership. This flagship virtual training was called the Volunteer Leadership Academy. It offered pathways of learning for volunteers to select from based on topics of interest or areas of expressed need.
The online sessions offered a collaborative learning environment where participants were provided with opportunities for network-capacity building by sharing knowledge and practicing skills. The three learning pathways that were hosted and identified based on findings from the 2020 Club Listening Session Report were: Engaging New People, Organizational Leadership, as well as AT Cooperative Management & Project Leadership.
Beyond virtual training for volunteers, the ATC is excited to announce the launch of a clearinghouse for Appalachian Trail volunteer opportunities in the form of the Volunteer Engagement Platform (VEP). The platform aggregates projects and volunteer roles from across 14 States to make it easier for current and aspiring volunteers to get connected and remain engaged in their own personal volunteer experiences throughout the Trail.
Check out current volunteer opportunities that are available throughout the Trail by visiting the VEP at appalachiantrail.org/waystovolunteer.
ATC continues to advise long-distance hikers to postpone their hikes until 2022 or until the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has deemed the pandemic under control. Despite recommendations, registrations for long-distance hikes and other data resources indicate a higher number of individuals may be attempting thru-hikes this year as hikers will be sharing the Trail with those who postponed their journeys in 2020.
With the knowledge acquired over the past year, ATC has been providing those who remain adamant about hiking the Trail with the resources and information needed when facing the new set of challenges of long-distance hiking during a global pandemic.