The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) designated the town of Bennington, VT as its newest AT Community yesterday. The Conservancy’s AT Community program recognizes a network of 49 cities and towns along the trail that provide exceptional resources for hikers in the form of hospitality, food, recreation, or that have historical significance. The ATC considers these communities stewards of the trail and the hiking community.
“This designation as an AT Community and participation in the program is designed to act as a catalyst for enhancing economic development, engaging community citizens and trail visitors and stewards, aiding local municipalities and regional areas with conservation planning, and helping local community members realize the trail as a resource and an asset,” said Hawk Metheny, senior regional director for the northeast region of the AT, at the designation ceremony. “The program also serves to recognize communities that are taking steps to ensure the ongoing protection of the natural, cultural, and recreational resources including Green Mountain National Forest and the Appalachian Trail.”
Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) spoke at the designation ceremony about enjoying the trail with his family during lockdowns. “I was so grateful for being able to walk on the trail, enjoy nature, and to observe how much care was provided by people I never saw to maintain these trails,” said Welch. He congratulated the town of Bennington on their recognition and continued service to the trail community.
The designation will bolster Bennington’s hospitality and tourism industries, said Jeannie Jenkins, Chair of Bennington’s Select Board, in her speech during the designation ceremony. “It also acknowledges the special place we hold for both the Long Trail and the Appalachian Trail as incredible local assets.” Jenkins said that the designation would not only encourage more thru-hikers, but also bring out local hikers from the Bennington area to enjoy the trail.
Vermont’s 150-mile stretch of the AT overlaps for 105 miles with the Long Trail, the nation’s oldest long-distance hiking trail.
As an AT Community, the town of Bennington will organize and publicize resources for hikers in the area. Bennington boasts a number of lodging options for hikers including the Catamount Motel along with a selection of breweries and restaurants.