Manchester designated as AT Community

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MANCHESTER — While Manchester has long been a hiker haven, the town's hiker-friendly status became official on March 8th when Manchester was officially designated as an Appalachian Trail community.

The designation from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's New England Regional Partnership Committee is intended to help hikers navigate town more easily and promote local business.

"Right now we're working on getting businesses to sign up as hiker friendly," said Anne Houser, owner of the downtown outdoor gear store, The Mountain Goat. "Eventually we'll have window displays with that in mind, and an interactive Google map with important spots for hikers including the post office, the rec park which will have showers available, grocery stores, and the library."

Houser spearheaded the effort to designate Manchester as an Appalachian Trail community alongside the Green Mountain Club and the Town of Manchester, with input from representatives of the Forest Service, area schools, and local businesses.

"This seemed like a natural progression for us as a town," said Houser. "Manchester does so much already, and it's really a great spot for hikers. We're following through on what hikers have told us already, and the AT Conservancy is supporting us as much as we're supporting them."

Part of a program begun in 2010, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy's community designation program is designed to promote awareness of both the local and national importance of the trail system, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.

"I think it's a great way of getting businesses more involved in the trail systems," said Marge Fish, president of the Manchester Chapter of the Green Mountain Club.

The Green Mountain Club is the steward of Vermont's historic Long Trail, the oldest long distance hiking trail in the United States running from Massachusetts to Quebec. All sections of the Appalachian Trial within Vermont are also maintained by the Green Mountain Club.

"All of the local support that can be found in the community really benefits hikers," said Fish. "As people in town become more involved in the hiking community they become much more aware of the trails maintained by the Green Mountain Club."

Currently, the only other Appalachian Trail Community in Vermont is Norwich, designated in 2011.

"I've been a member of the Green Mountain Club for about 15 years now," said Dave Ratti, Trails and Shelter Chair for the Manchester Chapter of the Green Mountain Club. "The benefit is really two fold - the hikers benefit because they know where in town to go, but it also draws more business into town."

Manchester's newfound status as a hiker friendly community will help through hikers locate local businesses that welcome droves of individuals each summer.

"Signage will be a huge aspect," said Houser, "There will be window signs designating businesses as hiker friendly, as well as some road signs near the major trails."

The designation of Manchester as an Appalachian Trail community is meant to engage the local community and thank the town for its continual support of through hikers and the trail systems. The program also encourages sustainable economic development and environmental conservation.

"The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is proud to celebrate communities that are helping to protect and promote the Appalachian Trail," said Julie Judkins, Community Program Manager of the ATC.

The Vermont Trail Fest, held on September 16th, will celebrate Manchester's designation as an Appalachian Trail community with a proclamation signing alongside educational booths and entertainment.

Reach Chersise Madigan at 802-490-6471.

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