Benton MackKaye

  • Benton MacKaye is best-remembered as the originator of the idea for an Appalachian Trail. MacKaye received a Masters degree in Forestry from Harvard University where he then taught for several years. Later he worked for the U.S. Forest Service, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Department of Labor. A long-time advocate of regional planning and land preservation, in 1921 he wrote ‘An Appalachian Trail: A Project in Regional Planning’ in which he proposed a trail along the crests of the Eastern mountain chain. MacKaye spent the next four years lobbying for such a trail and in 1925 founded what would become the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. In 1935 MacKaye was one of the founders and later President of the Wilderness Society. In 1937 the Appalachian Trail was completed, fulfilling the dreams MacKaye laid out in his original 1921 proposal: The camp community is a sanctuary and a refuge from the scramble of every-day commercial life…cooperation replaces antagonism, trout replaces suspicion, emulation replaces competition. An Appalachian trail, with its camps, communities, and spheres of influence along the skyline, should, with reasonably good management, accomplish these achievements.