By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
FRONT ROYAL -- Front Royal and Warren County have good reason to celebrate their joint designation today as an Appalachian Trail Community, the executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said Friday.
The town and county will be joining about 15 other communities in committing themselves to using the trail for education, conservation and appropriate tourism businesses, Mark Wenger said.
Wenger described his organization as a non-profit foundation that works with the National Park Service and other governmental agencies in managing the more than 2,000 miles of Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Communities in Virginia that have already been designated under the trail community program include Harrisonburg, Pearlsburg and Bland County.
"The normal process is a town or county will notify us and form a committee in getting the designation," Wenger said. "We want the community to adhere to a few principles. The most important is an appreciation and understanding of the Appalachian Trail."
Adhering to those principles includes a commitment to use the trail for educational and conservation purposes and "not to commercialize it in any way." Wenger said.
Some low-key tourism businesses are also compatible with the community trail designation, he said.
"We're not looking to turn this into a Rock City, Tenn.," he added.
Wenger said the trail community designation promises several benefits to Front Royal and Warren County. The conservancy's website lists several of them. They include recognition and visibility involving signs, press releases and mentions on the conservancy's website and in publications.
"We think it's a great vehicle for them to use from a visitor's standpoint," Wenger said. "It's branding and stature. We will be working with them on the use of [conservancy] information."
Wenger noted that Front Royal has long served as a gateway to Shenandoah National Park and in less obvious ways to the George Washington and Jefferson national forests.
"Front Royal is very interested in trying to make sure they have a presence with regard to the trail because they realize not many people have been coming through" to visit local businesses, he said. "I'm just excited they were interested enough to talk about it with us and get the ball rolling."