Day Long Celebration Recognizes Town of Warwick, NY as Appalachian Trail Community

Andrea Minoff
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


One of the key goals for the Appalachian Trail is to “connect communities” along the East Coast of the United States. On June 30, the Town of Warwick, NY became a part of that vision. A day-long event, jointly organized by the town and volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), celebrated ATC’s designation of Warwick as an Appalachian Trail Community.

Just off the 2,181-mile long trail, at the crest of Bellvale Mountain in the Town of Warwick, the Bellvale Creamery (a popular ice cream stop for hikers that also offers a sweeping view of the valley below, hosted the formal designation ceremony. Elected officials and other dignitaries spoke to more than 100 outdoor enthusiasts from near and far, including several Appalachian Trail thru-hikers. Mike Sweeton, Warwick Town Supervisor, and Karen Lutz, Director, Mid-Atlantic Region for ATC, read a proclamation and proudly displayed a sign announcing the designation.

Ed Goodell, Trail Conference Executive Director, served as master of ceremonies, with remarks delivered by Pamela Underhill, National Park Service Park Manager for the Appalachian Trail; Mark Wenger, ATC Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer; Congresswoman Nan Hayworth; State Senator John Bonacic; Orange County Park Commissioner Rich Rose; and Barbara Moore, Mike Newhard, and Jim Pawliczek, mayors of the villages of Greenwood Lake, Warwick, and Florida, respectively.

Trail Conference volunteer Gene Giordano, chair of the New Jersey AT Management Committee and a Warwick resident, got the designation process rolling almost two years ago by approaching Supervisor Sweeton with the idea and getting an enthusiastic reception. Giordano led a team of residents and volunteers who completed the application and organized the event.

The ATC program, now in its third year, includes 18 communities located along the trail. Plans call for the addition of 12 more communities; Rangeley and Monson in Maine are to be dedicated later this year.

For many of these communities, their primary economic underpinning, be it “lumbering, mining or farming has gone by the way side,” said ATC CEO Wenger. “Our hope is that by reaching a broader breadth of people who understand the importance of the trail, we can bring ecotourism and other economic benefits to these communities.”

In conjunction with another ATC program, Trails to Every Classroom, the Trail Community program enables the ATC to educate local residents, elected officials, Chambers of Commerce, students, and teachers, about the trail, including its potential economic benefits. In addition to spreading the word both within and beyond the communities, the locales benefit from sharing information with other Trail Communities. “A community in North Carolina is realizing that a town in Massachusetts faces similar challenges, and they are reaching out to each other for mutual benefit,” Wenger said.

Nine hikes, ranging from easy to difficult, were held both before and after the dedication ceremony, including a short hike to the Fitzgerald Falls AT stairway project. The Jolly Rovers Trail crew, volunteers highly trained in rock work techniques and led by Crew Chief Chris Ingui, demonstrated the methods used to construct almost 100 steps to reduce erosion and improve the climb up the side of the falls and stream crossing. Using a metal cable line called a high line, the crew “flew” a 500-pound rock from the top down to the stairs and split a large boulder to serve as a step.

Volunteers and staff from the Trail Conference, ATC, Sustainable Warwick, and employees of event sponsors Ramsey Outdoors, Campmor, and REI staffed booths, dispensed maps and information, and chatted with event participants. Sponsor Bellvale Creamery hosted the event on their property.

Thanks to hike leaders Don Weise, Jesse Dwyer, Les Ferguson, Gene Giordano, Alan Breach, Jill Arbuckle (AMC), and Aaron Schoenberg (North Jersey/Ramapo ADK).

For more information about the AT and volunteering on trails, visit the Trail Conference website ( and ATC (

Andrea Minoff is a Trail Conference member and volunteers as a writer and photographer.