President’s Letter

President’s Letter
A Singular Cause

WHEN LIVING AT THE BLACKBURN TRAIL CENTER as resident caretaker (along with my husband Chris Brunton), I often treated hikers to a home cooked meal. Blackburn is not an official hostel and we do not charge for the stay or refreshments, but I always opened dinner with a short talk — telling folks that listening to me was the cost of the meal. I had a captive audience and did not want to miss the opportunity to share the personal story of my lifetime commitment to the Appalachian Trail. I explained how the Trail was built, managed, and maintained by volunteers. I explained the need for responsible hiker behavior and the importance of Leave No Trace ethics. And I asked everyone there, in gratitude for the meal they were about to enjoy, that they pay it back when they got home — by joining the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and a local Trail club, and by contributing their time and dollars to support Trail maintenance on whatever section of Trail they may find in their backyard.

In this issue, we talk about the importance of advocating for the Trail. The verb advocate is defined as “publicly recommend or support.” Having spent most of my adult life working on, and for, the Appalachian Trail, I define advocacy as a much broader and richer concept.

The Appalachian Trail exists because of the power of dedicated advocates.

In my evening talks with hikers at Blackburn, I advocated for their support and help in the work that is necessary for us to protect and preserve this national treasure. But I’ve also advocated in quieter ways — by being a lifetime member of both the ATC and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), by contributing annually to both organizations above my membership dues, by taking on volunteer leadership roles in the ATC and PATC, and by joining my husband in personally managing three miles of the Trail. I’ve visited elected officials and had conversations with current and potential donors. And Chris and I both will share, with whoever sits still long enough to listen, our personal love and commitment to the Trail and the immeasurable joy and meaning it has brought to our lives.

Even with this long history of advocacy, I could not have predicted where I find myself now. Taking on the role of President and CEO is affording me the opportunity to champion the Trail in new and, hopefully, even more impactful ways. But committing to be an advocate does not come without cost. Personal time and dollars have always been necessary, but this new role has also required me to significantly shift my life plans — leaving semi-retirement and travel time with Chris — and to take on a full-time leadership role that is both challenging and rewarding. But it is all necessary.

The Appalachian Trail exists because of the power of dedicated advocates. From Benton MacKaye advocating for its creation, to Myron Avery advocating for its reality, to all the volunteers, members, donors, and dreamers who advocate for its continued existence, the Trail represents the best that people can bring when they commit their lives and loves to a singular cause. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor.

Sandra Marra / President & CEO

Staying True Signature
Responding to Covid-19 / The health and safety of the Appalachian Trail’s visitors, volunteers, communities, and partners will always be our top priority. But, we will also continue to fulfill our mission of managing and protecting the Trail. Advocacy is one critical way we ensure the A.T. will be ready to receive visitors and volunteers once we are past this difficult time. We hope this issue gives you the information and insight to become an advocate for the Trail now and into the future.