PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The leader of a volunteer group that oversees the Appalachian Trail and the hikers who use it is urging all to stay off the trail for now because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Sandra Marra, president and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, says a large swath of the trail runs through Pennsylvania, and in the past several days, the trail has attracted lots of day hikers — especially families and children — who have been congregating at trailheads and scenic points, risking exposure to the respiratory disease.
“The Pennsylvania section of the trail — lots of beautiful rock outcroppings and overlooks. There’s concerns about how long and people are still trying to understand how long the virus stays on different kinds of surfaces. So, even, you know, you grabbing a handhold of a rock that maybe was touched by someone carrying the virus.”
Many are unable to maintain social distancing while walking on sections of the trail itself, so Marra says the group decided it had to put out a warning.
“We had difficult conversations and we kind of weighed all of the different options, and the only thing that we saw that was the responsible decision for the safety of everyone as well as the resource — not just the people but also the trail itself — was to ask everyone to please just stay away,” she said.
Marra says the group cannot close the Appalachian Trail or physically bar access to trailheads or connecting trails. However, she says the conservancy has an obligation to tell people that hiking along the Appalachian Trail at this time potentially increases the risk of harm to those who disregard this warning.