By Jeff Nations
The Appalachian Trail might soon be a bit easier to navigate for intrepid hikers making their way into Warren County.
The Front Royal/Warren County Appalachian Trail Community Committee recently announced it has received a $1,000 grant from the Norcross Wildlife Foundation to go toward the purchase and installation of an information kiosk at the intersection of the Appalachian Trail and U.S. 522 in Warren County.
Alyson Browett, Chairman and 2014 Front Royal/Warren County AT Community Ambassador for the committee, said the proposed kiosk would consist of a locator map of the trail, a directional map to Front Royal and information on the town and surrounding area, plus space for school projects and nature-related educational and art displays.
"We are a little bit unsure of the timetable at this point," Browett said. "We're waiting to hear back from one more grant application. We applied for a grant with the American Hiking Society and we'll hear back in May."
Browett said the Norcross grant, plus a significant donation from Warren County businessman George McIntyre, has the group two-thirds of the way toward raising the estimated $3,000 cost for the project.
The kiosk, which would be located on land owned by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), would also incorporate a QR code, which would encourage hikers to scan with their smart phones for additional information. In turn, that would provide some data on usage for that part of the Appalachian Trail. Unlike other areas of the trail that incorporate sign-in books at permanent shelters, there has been no reliable way to calculate use of this portion of the trail by through and day hikers.
"We don't have that here," Browett said. "It's a little difficult to keep track of how many hikers go on this part of the trail in Warren County and Fauquier County."
The kiosk might also aid Browett's committee in convincing the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to make access to the trail safer off a busy section of the state highway.
"It will help us with our efforts to convince VDOT to make it a no-passing zone on 522 or to put in a crosswalk," Browett said. "It's a safety issue. There's no crosswalk there and people drive way too fast for the area."
Browett said the goal is to have the kiosk completed in time for the ATC's Family Hiking Day on Sept. 27.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>