After recognizing the economic impact the Appalachian Trail has on the Franklin community, David and Bonnie Pickartz with Goshen Timber Frames donated a trail shelter on the Long Branch portion of the trail in Macon County.
Earlier this month, community volunteers and members of the Nantahala Hiking Club joined together to erect the timber frame skeleton and begin the work on the shelter, which is anticipated to be finished by the end of the year.
“After Franklin received its designation as an Appalachian Trail Gateway Community, David and I wanted to donate a trail shelter to celebrate the distinction,” said Bonnie Pickartz. “We had worked with a hiking club in Georgia to build one a few years back and felt that this would be a fitting way to help. We worked closely with the Nantahala Hiking Club to make sure that our design met all the specifications of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. There were lots of pieces to pull together and it finally happened.”
The trail shelter is designed as an open, three-sided structure with bunks for sleeping that allow hikers to come in and get out of the elements. There are similar shelters located at intervals all along the Appalachian Trail.
Because the influx of 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, Franklin was looked at as being a possible designated Gateway Community in 2008. 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, N.C.
"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," said Bill Van Horn, club president.
After coordination with the land manager, USFS Nantahala Ranger District, NHC presented the application to the town board and county commissioners, and both bodies voted to submit the application. A steering committee was developed, made up of representatives from the county commission, board of aldermen, town and county planners, NHC, county school system, library, chamber, tourism businesses and USFS. This group processed the application, and the area has already seen success from Franklin’s journey as an Appalachian Trail Community.