KINGFIELD – Residents and outdoor enthusiasts gathered at Sillanpää’s Trading Post Sunday to celebrate the town’s recognition as an Appalachian Trail Community. Kingfield obtained the designation last year. This was the first annual celebration honoring the partnership between the town and the AT, with demonstrations of ox pulling, an Alaskan sawmill and workshops on trail ethics and survival skills.
“I felt it was important to include other uses of the woods besides hiking,” Organizer Lisa Standish said.
Standish has been involved with the A.T. in one way or another for the last eight years. Aside from being an avid hiker, Standish has supported hikers by letting them stay at her bed and breakfast, often offering work exchanges to make the stay affordable. She has offered free rides to and from town, and often helps hikers over the strenuous Bigelow Mountain Range by picking up their backpacks at one end and meeting them at the other end.
“I love the stories. It’s one of the reasons I do it,” she said.
Standish is currently in one of those great stories, hosting a man from the Czech Republic who stayed with her four years ago.
“His visa ran out while he was on the trail, so he ended up staying with us for a while. Now he’s come back, with a new visa, and is restoring some of the barns on our property,” she said.
Kingfield has attracted people from all over the world with its ski town charm, but Standish said the A.T. Community designation opens the doors to a whole different kind of tourism.
“Having the recognition helps to bring people into sharing the responsibility of the trail,” she said.
There are three other A.T. Communities in Maine- Rangeley, Millinocket and Monson. The towns not only help to promote good trail etiquette and environmental practices, but also get national recognition with the AT brand.
“You can already see new signs around town, marking different local hikes. A lot of that is because of the influence of being an A.T. Community,” A.T. Committee volunteer Tony Barrett said.