The Pinhoti Trail is the Alabama Trail Foundation’s first Primary Project. The Pinhoti includes six land ownerships, crosses six U.S. Highways, traverses six Alabama counties, and is over 160 miles in length. Volunteers perform most of the new trail development and maintenance of the existing trail.
There is passion by all involved to have the Pinhoti represent this very important part of Alabama as well as tie into the Appalachian Trail, recognizing Alabama’s Appalachia heritage along with that of her sister states of Georgia and Tennessee. Towns along the trail are asking for assistance on how to better derive economic benefits from the trail. All indications are that the Pinhoti is a perfect scenario to launch the Foundation’s Primary Project program.
The Pinhoti has local commitment but lacks the planning and organization to enhance the Pinhoti to a socially, ecologically, and economically sustainable trail system. Achieving this will require coordination across multiple jurisdictional boundaries, obtaining and incorporating contemporary designs, and pursuing and obtaining traditional and nontraditional funds.
The Foundation provides dedicated leadership in developing, mentoring, and coaching a local collaborative to allow the Pinhoti, and other Primary Projects that may come, to grow and evolve into a modern business model that grows volunteerism and advocacy into supportable programing. The Alabama Trails Foundation brings to the Pinhoti the resources to seek out the highest rigor in design, planning, and organization. The Foundation is positioning itself as the organization that Alabama trail groups can rely on to help them through those “pinch points” in organizational growth and guide them into a deep dive towards organizational stability and justifiable trail systems that are adaptive and responsive to engaging new partners and funding sources; and pass the litmus test of sustainability.
The Pinhoti, rises from Flagg Mountain to traverse Rebecca, Horn, Cheaha, Duggar, and Indian mountains before it crosses into Georgia. Navigating the Ridge and Valley province of the Appalachian Highlands physiographic region, the Pinhoti trail invites the hiker into the culture and history of Alabama. Thought to be the boundary between the Creek and Cherokee nations, this area is a rich landscape with native ecosystems such as the remnant mountain longleaf and American chestnut forests. Nestled in the foothills, are small towns and communities embracing their outdoor heritage and looking for ways to host visitors to this special place. The Pinhoti is within an hour drive of over eight million people. While the cities of Birmingham and Atlanta are quickly building more livable communities, the Pinhoti offers a more profound outdoor experience not found in the urban environment.
The Foundation is sponsoring the development of a master plan, engaging stakeholders, and supporting the development of multi-jurisdictional collaboration and governance. By engaging contemporary landscape and structural architects with a history of trail planning and design, the master plan will become a key document to guide future decisions regarding trail enhancements. Complementing the built environment design guide, the trail and surrounding natural environment is being assessed to identify areas along the trail that are not sustainable. The goal: a trail that is user-friendly, safer, that celebrates, protects and makes accessible this special part of Alabama’s Appalachia and that can spur economic development.
Bringing the Pinhoti to a standard equal to the importance of its representative landscape is an important step in developing this Alabama resource to a standard that is expected by today’s trail users. The master plan will embrace the important cultural, historic, scenic and natural aspects of the trail, provide design criteria to improve visitor experiences, and explore linkages to local communities.
The master plan is envisioned as a living document that will be completed in early 2019. It will be presented to the land management agencies and private conservation groups as an analysis and a series of case studies and recommendations to allow the trail to be managed as a sustainable resource. The Foundation will continue to collaborate as a partner to prioritize the plan’s recommendations, leverage funds towards grants, donations, and investments to incrementally make improvements along the trail.
Photos taken along the Pinhoti Trail during the project.
Meetings were held in two locations to gather input from stakeholders of the Pinhoti Trail. Maps were provided. In addition to the location meetings, an online survey was created that allowed people to provide more detailed feedback. This slideshow req …