Pam Underhill and James Smyle
A.T. Ambassadors for the Appalachian Trail Community of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar
Pam Underhill devoted her career with the National Park Service to the Appalachian Trail, beginning in 1979 and culminating in her appointment as Park Manager (Superintendent) in 1995.
Nine months after retiring from NPS in 2012, she found herself drawn back to the A.T. and began volunteering at ATC’s visitor center in Harpers Ferry. Pam says, “After 33 years of working on the A.T., securing the land base and establishing the cooperative management system, it was a refreshing change to actually meet the visitors/hikers and have the opportunity to interact with them.”
When Harpers Ferry and Bolivar needed an A.T. Community ambassador, she shifted her focus to supporting the A.T. Community™ program, whose development she had encouraged, this time in a local, on-the-ground capacity. Working with the Harpers Ferry and Bolivar Trail and Town Alliance, she helped establish a temporary camping area for A.T. hikers, enlisted a number of local businesses to become A.T. Community supporters, and helped with the planning of the Flip Flop Festival from its launch in 2015 through this year.
When James Smyle decided to thru-hike the Trail a second time, he was sold on the idea of a flip-flop hike, starting in Harpers Ferry. He was a big fan of the town and ATC, and successfully applied to be an A.T. Ambassador. Pam welcomed the assistance, especially with the Flip Flop Festival, and they became co-ambassadors.
James was a significant asset in helping organize and conduct the 2016 Festival, while preparing for his own flip-flop hike that year. He took the lead in planning the 2017 Festival. James says he most enjoys “making a tangible difference about something I truly love, and introducing people to the magic that is the A.T.”
James sees the A.T. Community™ program as a benefit to all involved. “By engaging community partners such as area businesses, residents, and the hiker community, everyone comes out ahead. Businesses receive additional exposure, residents are assured that hikers are aware of town amenities and treat the town with respect, and the Trail receives exposure that leads to conservation support, volunteer support, and a more rich community.
According to Chris Craig, who chairs the Trail and Town Alliance of Harpers Ferry and Bolivar, “For the past two years, Pam Underhill and James Smyle have shared duties as A.T. Ambassadors for the Harpers Ferry and Bolivar A.T. Community and as organizers for our Flip Flop Festival. They have provided so much in the way of energy, enthusiasm, organization, and wisdom that we truly couldn’t have done much of what we’ve accomplished without them. A big ‘thank you’ from not only ATC, but also our two towns.”