Jeffrey Marion, Virginia Tech professor and a recreational resources management expert with the U.S. Geological Survey, has carved out some recommendations to prevent destruction of overused campsites on the Appalachian Trail.

The study, recently cited in a Washington Times article regarding the conservation efforts of the popular Maryland campsite of Annapolis Rocks, evaluated problems facing the campground as well as offered solutions and ways to implement them and evaluate their effectiveness.

The influx of campers, reaching numbers as high as 280 campers a night, wreaked havoc on the campsite's fragile environment. After years of campers pitching tents, building bonfires and washing dishes in the nearby spring, the area suffered from trampled vegetation, exposed and eroded soil and polluted spring water.

In collaboration with the Appalachian Trail Conference (ATC), Marion developed several solutions. Campsites were carved into hillsides in order to limit erosion and prevent campers from wandering too close to the edge of the potentially fatal cliffs. The sites were also placed well apart from each other to provide privacy.

The creation of these new sites brought with it restrictions placed on campers to help preserve the land. One such regulation limited the number of people permitted to spend the night. In the past, hundreds of campers lodged at Annapolis Rocks but on-site caretakers now restrict that number to 75 campers a night. Other visitors are directed to campsites less than two miles away. Another regulation is the prohibition of alcohol on the campgrounds in order to reduce the number of partiers who visit the cliffs. Virginia Tech graduate student Melissa Daniels will work with Marion and the ATC to conduct research gauging visitors' perceptions of the new policies.

"Under normal circumstances, recovering from such extensive damage is a long and arduous process but Annapolis Rocks is doing remarkably well," Marion said. He attributes the vast amounts of rain this summer for helping the ground vegetation recover so quickly. Marion believes Annapolis Rocks will heal within approximately three years.

"Adaptive management is a learning by doing process," Marion explained. "If our strategy for Annapolis Rocks doesn't work then we'll adapt and change until it does."