Hikers coming to the Winding Stair Gap/hwy 64 junction in Macon County usually can’t pass up the temptation to hitch a ride 11 miles down the road to the hiker-friendly town of Franklin, NC. Macon County hosts 47 miles of the A.T., and Franklin sits 111 miles north of Springer Mountain, a perfect resupply point between Hiawassee, GA and NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) at Wesser, NC.
"When the Nantahala Hiking Club (NHC) informed the town of the ATC’s developing Appalachian Trail Community designation program in fall of 2008, it was a no brainer for the town to pursue the designation," Bill Van Horn, club president. In Oct 2008, NHC brought the program to the attention of a local hiker-friendly businessman, a town alderman that was an NHC member, and the Executive Director of Franklin’s Main Street Program. They all agreed that the program could clearly benefit the town economically and at the same time benefit the AT and its hiker community.
After coordination with the land manager, USFS Nantahala Ranger District, NHC presented the application to the town Council and County Commissioners, and both bodies voted to submit the application. A steering committee was developed, made up of representatives from the county commission, alderman, town and county planners, NHC, county school system, library, chamber, tourism businesses and USFS. This group processed the application, and has already seen great success from Franklin’s journey as an Appalachian Trail Community:
- Local timber frame business (Goshen Timber Frame) donates a shelter to the AT
- Franklin’s new town logo modified to include AT blaze
- Franklin's Hiker Brochure and Map developed
- 5 County school teachers enroll in TTEC
- AT Community Committee (ATCC) conducts review of first Trail Event, Franklin's April Fools A.T. Hiker Bash
- County teachers brief the ATCC about their TTEC curricula
- ATCC conducts a Visioning and Goals setting exercise led by ATC’s Southern Office
- Develops and expands annual April Fools Trail Days event
- County Library develops “Walking With Spring” program
- ATCC develops Hiker Survey to capture demographic information and hiker comments
- Official ceremony designating Franklin as an Appalachian Trail Community
- Media highlights in The Franklin Press and Appalachian Trail Journeys