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McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail receive additional protections through land acquisition

A view of the sunrise at McAfee Knob with hazy skies in the distance.
A view of the sunrise at McAfee Knob with hazy skies in the distance.(WDBJ7)
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 11:07 AM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Appalachian Trail’s McAfee Knob will receive additional protection following the acquisition of three tracts of land near Roanoke.

Nearly 600 acres of permanently protected land will be added to the area in an effort to preserve the views from McAfee Knob, improve access to the Appalachian Trail and provide greater conservation of the surrounding area.

The effort was led by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club.

“The conservation efforts surrounding McAfee Knob continue the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s work to improve access for visitors, conserve the world’s most famous footpath and protect views cherished by millions of visitors,” said Andrew Downs, senior regional director for the ATC. “The A.T. remains a work-in-progress, and through this partnership and others like it across the Trail landscape, the ATC is improving and protecting the A.T. experience every day, one day at a time.”

The new protection follows the 2019 acquisition and conservation of the Hogan Hollow tract, which is located below Tinker Cliffs.

“Piece by piece and property by property, securing these lands adds to our ongoing efforts to protect the beautiful viewshed from the A.T. of the landscape surrounding the ‘Triple Crown’ from Dragons Tooth to McAfee to Tinker Cliffs,” said Heather Richards, Virginia state director for The Conservation Fund. “The A.T. is an important economic driver to the surrounding communities, so protecting lands to enhance the overall trail experience for outdoor enthusiasts fits well with The Conservation Fund’s dual mission.”

In early 2020, the ATC and RATC said they began a fundraising campaign to acquire and restore a property next to the McAfee Knob trailhead on Route 311. RATC said raised more than $44,000 in individual donations from Roanoke Valley residents and people across the county.

The COVID-19 pandemic put fundraising efforts on hold, but a voluntary stewardship agreement signed between the ATC, The Conservation Fund and Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC provided the rest of the money needed to buy the property. It will be included in an ongoing study to improve safety and visiter experience at the Route 311 parking area.

A 197-acre property along Blacksburg Road, as well as a 353-acre area below the McAfee Knob summit, was also purchased.

“Protecting the areas surrounding McAfee Knob is a clear example of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s focus on conserving the areas essential to the unique experience the Appalachian Trail provides,” said Sandra Marra, president and CEO of the ATC. “Land conservation is an essential element of our work, helping ensure the ecosystems and inspiring views the Trail is known for are available for all of us to enjoy and benefit from for centuries to come.”

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