March 15, 2010
Renovation Begins on Historic Grist Mill to Become Appalachian Trail Museum
GARDNERS, PA - Permits have been approved and work has begun on a 200-year-old historic stone grist mill that is being transformed into the Appalachian Trail Museum -- the first museum dedicated to hiking in the United States.
"Years of planning, volunteer hard work and dreaming have gotten us to where we are today," said Larry Luxenberg, president of the Appalachian Trail Museum Society -- the non-profit organization that was formed in 2002 to lead efforts to establish the museum. "The museum will be more than a building and the midway point on the 2,178 mile trail that stretches from Maine to Georgia. It will be a tribute to the thousands of men, women and families who have hiked and maintained the Appalachian Trail, making it arguably the most famous hiking trail in the world."
Exhibits at the museum will tell the stories of the founding, construction, preservation, maintenance, protection and enjoyment of the trail since its inception in the 1920s. The museum will portray not only the history of the trail but also the essence of the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual human experience of the Appalachian environment and the culture of hiking.
Luxenberg said the initial featured exhibit at the museum will tell the story of one of the region's favorite sons - York County, Pennsylvania, outdoorsman Earl Shaffer, who in 1948 became the first person to hike the Appalachian Trail in a single season. The trail shelter that this humble hiker, poet and WWII soldier built on Peters Mountain, Pennsylvania, was recovered in 2008, and it will be part of the exhibit.
Artifacts from other early hikers including Grandma Gatewood, Gene Espy and Ed Garvey and general trail history will be on display. Also planned is a children's discovery area to introduce children to the trail, hiking and other outdoor activities. The museum will include an inside and outside center to welcome hikers and give visitors a chance to hear directly from them about their Appalachian Trail experiences.
The museum also will display on a large screen the more than 12,000 thru-hiker photos taken at Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC) headquarters in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, since 1979. Thru-hikers are hikers who hike the Appalachian Trail from start to finish rather than in sections - an experience that typically takes six months. The photo project, with support from a grant by the Quimby Foundation and in cooperation with ATC, includes a website where all the pictures will be accessible. More information and forms granting permission to display individual photos are available by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The grand opening for the museum will be at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 5 -- National Trails Day. The museum is approximately 15 miles west of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. "We will mark the occasion with a grand celebration: a ribbon cutting ceremony, three days of hikes sponsored by local clubs and interpretative programs with children and families in mind," Luxenberg said. "At first, the museum will operate on weekends in the spring and fall and five afternoons per week from Memorial Day to Labor Day."
The museum is adjacent to the National Historic District of Pine Grove Furnace State Park and the Pine Grove General Store. It also is near the Ironmasters Hostel, and two miles from the midway point of the Appalachian Trail. Both the store and the hostel are popular stops for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.
Restoration work on the Old Mill will be done largely by volunteers under the leadership of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club's North Chapter "Yankee Clippers" crew. Luxenberg said the museum society is looking for volunteers to help staff the building and others to lead programs such as talks, nature walks and demonstrations of outdoor skills with an emphasis on programming for children. The museum society is continuing to collect artifacts. More information is available at the museum's website, www.atmuseum.org and email@example.com.