Wild Alabama announces the First Ridgerunner Deployed to Pinhoti Trail in Alabama!
October 17, 2023
Wild Alabama, with the support of the Talladega National Forest district ranger, is launching a Ridgerunner program for the Pinhoti Trail (PT) in Alabama. The first official PT Ridgerunner is David Lyons, a seasoned Wild Alabama volunteer and Volunteer Wilderness Ranger. The PT Ridgerunner program is adapted from the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner program developed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy which has been in use for over thirty years. Ridgerunners are trail ambassadors who help to engage trail users about Leave No Trace while helping to care for and protect the trail. This includes supporting the established Pinhoti Trail maintainer community by conducting routine trail maintenance such as brushing, lopping, and sawing small blowdowns. Ridgerunners also remove trash from the trail, trailheads, and primitive campsites.
As more and more people are hiking the Pinhoti Trail, and its impact on Alabama’s overall economy continues to grow, there is a need to ensure consistent resource stewardship across the whole trail. Ridgerunners offer additional boots on the ground and act as eyes and ears for the Forest Service and other agencies and volunteer groups. The presence of Ridgerunners on the trail is good for trail users since they play an important ambassador role.
“The Pinhoti Trail is unique as is the culture of the trail community that supports it. It was therefore important to us that we develop a program that fits the trail and the community” said David Lyons, the first Pinhoti Ridgerunner deployed to Section 12, a 16.2-mile section of the trail in Calhoun and Cleburne counties. Appalachian Trail Ridgerunners typically cover larger sections of the trail and require full-time seasonal commitments, often with multiple days sleeping on the trail. By deploying a dedicated Ridgerunner to each section of the Pinhoti Trail, the Pinhoti Ridgerunner is open to a broader base of people at different life stages who have a passion to serve the trail and their local community.
Wild Alabama already trains and deploys a cadre of Volunteer Wilderness Rangers that work in the state’s three designated Wilderness Areas. Sections 6 and 11 of the Pinhoti Trail pass through the Cheaha Wilderness Area and the Dugger Mountain Wilderness Area respectively. Wild Alabama also trains and supports a Forest Ambassador program engaging visitors at the busy Cheaha Trailhead and trailheads across the Sipsey Wilderness Area. “With Wild Alabama’s existing expertise” said Maggie Johnston, Executive Director of Wild Alabama, “we took the best practices from various Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner programs and from our existing trail-focused programs to develop the concept of the Pinhoti Trail Ridgerunner.”
David Lyons is a Wild Alabama volunteer and Volunteer Wilderness Ranger. He is a Wilderness First Responder and a Level 2 Leave No Trace Trainer. Retired from a career in pharmaceuticals and banking, he and his wife Julie recently moved from Birmingham to Piedmont, AL to be closer to the Pinhoti. He also serves as a trail chaplain. “The Pinhoti Trail was a liminal place for my personal and spiritual development. I am so blessed that Wild Alabama offers opportunities for me to give back to the Pinhoti Trail and the trail community.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Pinhoti Trail Ridgerunner Program, the Wilderness Ranger Program, or the Forest Ambassador Program should reach out to Jonathan Kelly, Outreach and Stewardship Coordinator for Wild Alabama in the Talladega National Forest area. email@example.com
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