SCOD Letter to Appalachian Trail Conference Members
This proposal letter to be accompanied by AT SCOD Book.
Harpers Ferry Appalachian Trail (AT) Headquarters
My Dear ATC Neighbors,
Please study and consider my book, AT SCOD: Appalachian Trail Sustainable Community for Organic Dwelling. SCOD was my Architecture Thesis for my Masters Degree in 2000 from the Savannah College of Art and Design, GA. In it you will find that I designed a “Sustainable Community for Organic Dwelling” which I feel is similar to the 1921 vision for the AT by Benton MacKaye. To me it represents one of the community farm camps that MacKaye desired to have along the Appalachian Trail. My summary of his ideas and conclusions in support of the agenda are included in the book.
I do not know your financial and legal situation as part of the National Park Service. However I would appreciate your opinion regarding how viable my proposal would be as an official AT Project. For years I have searched for funding and sponsors for this project to be built in the physical world but have not found enough to even begin with permission on a site. The site I chose in the book was only for the purpose of having a hypothetical setting, so naturally the designs would continue to evolve for another site.
Thank you for your consideration,
Walton D. Stowell II
Appalachian Trail SCOD Designer
Benton MacKaye – Appalachian Trail Founder 1879-1975
Emile Benton MacKaye (Pronounced “McEye”)
Harvard University, US Forestry Service, Tennessee Valley Authority, US Dept. of Labor, Critic of Urban Sprawl, Author, Wilderness Society, Social Activist Hell Raiser, Originator of the AT in 1921, Patron of the B.M. Trail,
Geotechnics – balancing humans and wilderness
Original 1921 Vision of the Appalachian Trail
by Founder Benton MacKaye
(Summarized by Drogo for SCOD in 2011)
“An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning”
Purpose: Conservation, Recreation, Sanctuary, Health, Living, and Work
Functional Divisions: Trail, Shelter, Community, and Work
Conclusions from Trail Experiences
AT Purposes Explained:
Conservation, Recreation and Sanctuary
“Throughout the Southern Appalachians, throughout the Northwoods, and even through the Alleghenies that wind their way among the smoky industrial towns of Pennsylvania, he recollects vast areas of secluded forests, pastoral lands, and water courses, which, with proper facilities and protection, could be made to serve as the breath of a real life for the toilers in the bee-hive cities along the Atlantic seaboard and elsewhere.”
Health (Physical and Psychological or Spiritual)
“The oxygen in the mountain air along the Appalachian skyline is a natural resource (and a national resource) that radiates to the heavens its enormous health-giving powers with only a fraction of a percent utilized for human rehabilitation. Here is a resource that could save thousands of lives. The sufferers of tuberculosis, anemia and insanity go through the whole strata of human society. Most of them are helpless, even those economically well off. They occur in the cities and right in the skyline belt. For the farmers, and especially the wives of farmers, are by no means escaping the grinding-down process of our modern life.
Most sanitariums now established are perfectly useless to those afflicted with mental disease – the most terrible, usually, of any disease. Many of these sufferers could be cured. But not merely by “treatment.” They need acres not medicine. Thousands of acres of this mountain land should be devoted to them with whole communities planned and equipped for their cure.
Living and Work
Next after the opportunities for recreation and recuperation our giant counts off, as a third big resource, the opportunities in the Appalachian belt for employment on the land. This brings up a need that is becoming urgent – the redistribution of our population, which grows more and more top heavy.”
AT Functional Divisions Explained:
The beginnings of an Appalachian trail already exist. They have been established for several years — in various localities along the line. Specially good work in trail building has been accomplished by the Appalachian Mountain Club in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and by the Green Mountain Club in Vermont. The latter association has already built the “Long Trail” for 210 miles thorough the Green Mountains — four fifths of the distance from the Massachusetts line to the Canadian. Here is a project that will logically be extended. What the Green Mountains are to Vermont the Appalachians are to eastern United States. What is suggested, therefore, is a “long trail” over the full length of the Appalachian skyline, from the highest peak in the north to the highest peak in the south — from Mt. Washington to Mt. Mitchell.
The trail should be divided into sections, each consisting preferably of the portion lying in a given State, or subdivision thereof. Each section should be in the immediate charge of a local group of people. Difficulties might arise over the use of private property — especially that amid agricultural lands on the crossovers between ranges. It might be sometimes necessary to obtain a State franchise for the use of rights of way. These matters could readily be adjusted, provided there is sufficient local public interest in the project as a whole. The various sections should be under some sort of general federated control, but no suggestions regarding this form are made in this article.
Not all of the trail within a section could, of course, be built all at once. It would be a matter of several years. As far as possible the work undertaken for any one season should complete some definite usable link — as up or across one peak. Once completed it should be immediately opened for local use and not wait on the completion of other portions. Each portion built should, of course, be rigorously maintained and not allowed to revert to disuse. A trail is as serviceable as its poorest link.
The trail could be made, at each stage of its construction, of immediate strategic value in preventing and fighting forest fires. Lookout stations could be located at intervals along the way. A forest fire service could be organized in each section which should tie in with the services with the services of the Federal and State Governments. The trail would immediately become a battle line against fire. (accompanying map proposed trail location)
These are the usual accompaniments of the trails which have been built in the White and Green Mountains. They are the trail’s equipment for use. They should be located at convenient distances so as to allow a comfortable day’s walk between each. They should be equipped always for sleeping and certain of them for serving meals; after the function of the Swiss chalets. Strict regulation is required to assure that equipment is used and not abused. As far as possible the blazing and constructing of the trail and building of camps should be done by volunteer workers. For volunteer “work” is really “play.” The spirit of cooperation, as usual in such enterprises, should be stimulated throughout. The enterprise should, of course, be conducted without profit. The trail must be well guarded against the yegg-man and against the profiteer.
These would grow naturally out of the shelter camps and inns. Each would consist of a little community on or near the trail (perhaps on a neighboring lake) where people could live in private domiciles. Such a community might occupy a substantial area; perhaps a hundred acres or more. This should be bought and owned as a part of the project. No separate lots should be sold therefrom. Each camp should be a self-owning community and not a real-estate venture. The use of the separate domiciles, like all other features of the project, should be available without profit.
These community camps should be carefully planned in advance. They should not be allowed to become too populous and thereby defat the very purpose for which they are created. Greater numbers should be accommodated by more communities, not larger ones. There is room, without crowding, in the Appalachian region for a very large camping population. The location of these community camps would form a main part of the regional planning and architecture.
These communities would be used for various kinds of non- industrial activity. They might eventually be organized for special purposes for recreation, for recuperation and for study. Summer schools or seasonal field courses could be established and scientific travel courses organized and accommodated in the different communities along the trail. The community camp should become something more than a mere “playground”: it should stimulate every line of outdoor non-industrial endeavor.
Work at Farm Camps
These might not be organized at first. They would come as a later development. The farm camp is the natural supplement of the community camp. Here is the same spirit of cooperation and well ordered action the food and crops consumed in the outdoor living would as far as practically be sown and harvested.
Food and farm camps could be established as special communities in adjoining valleys. Or they might be combined with the community camps with the inclusion of surrounding farm lands. Their development could provide tangible opportunity for working out by actual experiment a fundamental matter in the problem of living. It would provide one definite avenue of experiment in getting “back to the land.” It would provide an opportunity for those anxious to settle down in the country: it would open up a possible source for new, and needed, employment. Communities of this type are illustrated by the Hudson Guild Farm in New Jersey.
Fuelwood, logs, and lumber are other basic needs of the camps and communities along the trail. These also might be grown and forested as part of the camp activity, rather than bought in the lumber market. The nucleus of such an enterprise has already been started at Camp Tamiment, Pennsylvania, on a lake not far from the route of the proposed Appalachian trail. The camp has been established by a labor group in New York City. They have erected a sawmill on their tract of 2000 acres and have built the bungalows of their community from their own timber.
Farm camps might ultimately be supplemented by permanent forest camps through the acquisition (or lease) of wood and timber tracts. These of course should be handled under a system of forestry so as to have a continuously growing crop of material. The object sought might be accomplished through long term timber sale contracts with the Federal Government on some of the Appalachian National Forests. Here would be another opportunity for permanent, steady, healthy employment in the open.
“Let’s put up now to the wise and trained observer the particular question before us. What are the possibilities in the new approach to the problem of living? Would the development of the outdoor community life, as an offset and relief from the various shackles of commercial civilization, be practicable and worth while?”
Conclusions from Trail Experiences:
Clean Air (Trees and plants make Oxygen and filter out pollution)
Deep Thoughts from an Environmental and Agricultural Perspective
Naturalist Observations for the sake of Science and Resource Conservation
MacKaye’s proposal was an American Post-WWI social, political, planning, and development agenda of the first order. As all good utopian plans it is both philosophical and pragmatic. With the help of Avery and Whitaker the Appalachian Trail was completed in 1937.