Following the murder of a hiker last month, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy has redesigned safety features on its website. Here’s the latest:
The conservancy website now features call buttons for 911 and the park service. Additionally an incident report form can now be sent as an email - instead of having to be mailed in as a pdf.
Franklin-hostel owner Colin Gooder says these new safety measures are a welcome change.
“It looks like they have provided people with several different methods for reporting incidents or suspicious behavior,” says Gooder. Over 300,000 people are expected on the trail this year.
An attack on the trail in last month in Virginia resulted in the death of 43-year-old Ronald Sanchez. He was stabbed. A fellow hiker has been charged with his death. Gooder got to know Sanchez, who went by the trail name “Stronghold,” when he came to stay at his hostel, Gooder Grove.
Sanchez was an army veteran who stayed at the hostel for almost a month waiting for a knee injury to heal.
“He was a great guy. Great to talk to. I got to know him really well. He got back on the trail better than when he came in and he feeling strong,” describes Gooder.
Gooder says that he hopes that this attack doesn’t make hikers overly cautious on the trail.
“I think that would also be the wrong lesson to learn from this. I think that the Appalachian Trail has been a safer place than most for decades,” says Gooder.
He also doesn’t think that’s what his friend Stronghold would have wanted.
“I think that would be the opposite he would want people to learn from this. If people came out and were more wary of opening up to others,” he says.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy website discourages hikers from bringing firearms on the trail.