Conference to showcase region’s outdoor opportunities

This summer, residents both in the valley and beyond will have the opportunity to partake a week-long outdoor recreational extravaganza known as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Biennial Conference.

Last held in this area in 1995, the conference will take place from July 17-July 24 at Shenandoah University in Winchester as well as throughout the Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia region.

Randy Motz, conference co-chair of events, said the goal is not simply to advertise the event as merely a conference.

“Because there is so much to do and there’s so much history in the Winchester area, we are … hoping that people will take advantage of all the other great things to see and do in the Shenandoah Valley,” Motz said.

From sun-up until sundown, the conference features a bevy of outdoor recreation and musical entertainment events.

The conference will feature rare opportunities, such as tour of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, alongside numerous hikes along the trail and within Shenandoah National Park.

“We’re going to have a total of 70 different hikes, and some of those are going to be offered more than once,” Motz said. “It totals out at about 180 hiking opportunities during the course of the week.”

A majority of the hikes, Motz added, will center on themes including “nature, history and photography” of the area localities.

The smorgasbord of conference events also covers local outdoor excursions such as post-hike wine tastings, white water rafting, zip lining at Shenandoah River State Park in Bentonville and canoeing on the Shenandoah River.

“Even if you’re not an avid hiker, but you like going outdoors and doing adventure-type activities, there’s a wealth of things you can participate in,” Motz said.

Throughout Shenandoah’s campus, there will also be morning and evening workshops with speakers from the United States Geological Survey, the Virginia Museum of Natural History and the National Invasive Species Council.

“The Shenandoah Valley is one of the points along the trail that everybody looks forward to hiking,” Motz said, noting that Virginia constitutes 25 percent of the entire Appalachian Trail.

Motz noted that the main goal of the conference is “get the surrounding communities” of the Shenandoah Valley interested so that the conservancy can “build the base of membership to continue protecting and preserving the trail.”

Motz also said this event is a rather rare opportunity, due to the size of the Appalachian Trail and frequency of the conference.

“Every other year, they are held at a different location somewhere in the vicinity of the Appalachian Trail, along its entire length from Georgia to Maine,” Motz said.

Motz added, “The way the schedule works, it will probably be 2036 before it’s in this area again.”

Early registration is well underway for the event and will run through May 31.

Motz said registration is “going very well” at the moment and that they are “about two-thirds of the way” to their target of 1,000-1,200 attendees.

Although all registration will not formally end until June 1, Motz said they are encouraging people to register early so that they reserve a spot in one of the numerous events.

More information about registration and conference events can be found at: http://bit.ly/1B8h7jA.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com