A Lifetime of Trail Building

By Hawk Metheny

Bob at the Great Wall in China (during a visit to explain Trail design)

The Appalachian Trail Community lost a long-time supporter and trusted friend last October. Known to many of us from Georgia to Maine and beyond, Bob Proudman passed away while with his family on October 18 after a brief and courageous struggle with cancer.

Bob began his Trail career in 1965 as a member of the Appalachian Mountain Clubs’s (AMC) trail crew in the White Mountains. And so began a lifelong career path highlighted by a bounty of accomplishments ranging from innovative high-end trail reconstruction techniques to volunteer engagement to the creation of important long-term Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) polices, guiding our current and future Trail management direction. Bob also authored several definitive guides to Trail Construction including AMC’s Trail Building and Maintenance and the ATC’s Appalachian Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance.

Bob worked at AMC until 1978, where he was known as “Bobe.” He came to work at ATC in Harpers Ferry in 1981 and worked there until his retirement in 2015 after a full 50 years in professional trail management. Most recently, Bob was elected president of AMC’s Trail Crew Alumni Association, bringing his involvement with trails full circle back to his roots.

During his time with the ATC, he founded and inspired Trail crews, caretakers, and ridgerunners. He also formalized the Trail’s exterior boundary survey program and is widely recognized as the architect and tireless champion of the nationally recognized Cooperative Management System that the ATC relies on every day for the successful management of the A.T. with land managers and local Trail clubs.

Bob served as a mentor to many of the ATC’s staff and Trail club volunteers, and was often the go-to source for his unmatched knowledge, experience, and remarkable memory and record keeping. All the while, Bob maintained a consistently humble and approachable demeanor, a generous spirit, witty sense of humor, and wide smile. All of these admirable attributes combined to further complement his remarkable accomplishments and influence in a way unique to the one-of-kind Bobe.

Hawk Metheny is the ATC’s New England regional director