About Friends of Panthertown
We acknowledge that Panthertown and its surrounding forests are located on the ancestral lands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Cherokee, East), and possibly other tribes.
Since 2005, Friends of Panthertown has trained and coordinated hundreds of volunteers, and raised funds for trail maintenance and much needed conservation projects in Panthertown Valley. We encourage environmental stewardship, volunteerism, and create public awareness of issues concerning Panthertown.
Diversity & Inclusion: Everyone is welcome.
Friends of Panthertown has a strong and abiding commitment to diversity and inclusion that is important to our mission. By welcoming individuals and groups from diverse backgrounds among our visitors, employed and volunteer workforce, board, and donors, we seek to further the U.S. Forest Service’s goal of creating a culture of inclusion which awakens and strengthens everyone’s connection with Panthertown and its unique natural resources.
What We Do:
• Engage volunteers in on-the-ground efforts at weekly work days.
• Foster environmental stewardship through outreach and education.
• Restore and maintain 30 miles of public non-motorized multi-use trails.
• Construct trail-head facilities and repair bridges and existing structures.
• Protect natural resources and monitor fragile ecosystems.
• Collaborate with stakeholders to develop solutions to natural resource issues.
• Provide funding for conservation projects through grants and contributions.
Are you a Friend of Panthertown? All donations are tax-deductible.
We provide funding and volunteers for conservation projects:
In recent years and in response to the increased visitation to national forest lands, the U.S. Forest Service has entered into partnerships with volunteer organizations to augment their recreational and conservation services. Friends of Panthertown raises funds and provides staff to coordinate stewardship and conservation projects in Panthertown, and recruits and trains volunteers for the much-needed projects.
We work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service Nantahala Ranger District. You may contact U.S. Forest Service Nantahala Ranger District at 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734 or (828)-524-6441 with questions, or for additional information about recreating within Nantahala National Forest.
A History of Friends of Panthertown:
Panthertown is public land that has been part of Nantahala National Forest since 1989.
In 2003, the U.S. Forest Service began planning for a Panthertown Trail Project. The project consisted of creating a sustainable trail system that would reduce resource conflicts between hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, the primary users. Local stakeholders from the conflicting groups started to come forward with concerns about the future of Panthertown. Some of these stakeholders offered to volunteer and help.
In 2005, these volunteers came together under the leadership of Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance to begin the work of reducing user conflicts by gathering input from the public. They began to establish a relationship with the U.S. Forest Service to help protect Panthertown Valley. The original goal was to create a group of supporters that would provide funding and volunteers in an effort to address the many unmet conservation and maintenance needs in Panthertown. This project became known as Friends of Panthertown.
In 2007, J-MCA hired a coordinator for the Friends of Panthertown project, created a Board of Supervisors, and formalized a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service with a volunteer agreement to maintain the Panthertown Valley Trail System.
In 2009, working with Friends of Panthertown to gather public input and maintain the trail system, the U.S. Forest Service Nantahala District Ranger Mike Wilkins signed a decision memo concerning the Panthertown Trail Project. A trail system map was released and trail uses were designated for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.
In 2010, at the request of U.S. Forest Service, and due to many visitors getting lost in Panthertown, Friends of Panthertown funded and built trailhead information kiosks containing detailed maps of the Panthertown Valley Trail System, and installed Carsonite trail markers at each of the major intersections to indicate trail usage designations.
Also in 2010, after several years under the fiscal sponsorship of J-MCA, and having grown its funding, Friends of Panthertown, Inc. incorporated in North Carolina, and in January 2011 was certified by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization.
In 2014, at the request of U.S. Forest Service, Friends of Panthertown installed trail blazes on trees along 30 miles of Forest Service trails in Panthertown Valley. The colors of the trail blazes match the colors and usage designations on the 2013 USFS trail system map.
In 2017, Friends of Panthertown partnered with Mainspring Conservation Trust to raise funds together and purchase 15.92 acres of property located adjacent to the Salt Rock Gap trailhead entrance. Friends of Panthertown then funded and built a small parking area on the newly acquired land.
In 2019, the conserved land and new parking area were transferred to the U.S. Forest Service to be officially protected and maintained as part of Panthertown Valley. We also hired our first Trail Stewardship Coordinator to oversee our conservation and stewardship programs, and to provide Leave No Trace education and trainings.
In 2020, Friends of Panthertown worked with a local Boy Scout troop to install two bear-proof food storage lockers in Panthertown. Bear close encounters have dropped off significantly as a result. Three additional boxes are planned for installation.
Currently in 2022, nine dedicated volunteers serve on the Friends of Panthertown, Inc. Board of Directors (Trustees), with a staff of three managing projects and programs. Everyone is welcome and invited to participate. Please contact us with your interests.
Friends of Panthertown 2022 Board of Trustees:
Margaret Carton, President, Board Chair
Has served since 2012
Mike Purdy, Vice President, Trail Boss Emeritus
Virginia Willard, Vice-President Development
Has served since 2015
Has served since 2014
H.A. Moore, Governance Chair
Has served since 2021
Has served since 2022
Margo Purdy, Events Chair
Has served since 2021
Friends of Panthertown Staff
Jason Kimenker, Executive Director
On staff since 2010
Krista Robb, Trail Stewardship Coordinator
On staff since 2020
Kara McMullen, Stewardship Assistant
On staff since 2022
Honoring our past Friends of Panthertown, Inc. Trustees:
- Abbey Bearer, former Trustee
- Mike English, former Trustee
- Brenda Council, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
- Pat Hawkins, former Trustee
- Bill Jacobs, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
- Burt Kornegay, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
- Peter Pavarini, former Trustee
- J. Dan Pittillo, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
- Marcia Shawler, former Trustee
- Wynette Wiles, former Trustee
In Loving Memory
Tony Austin, Trustee (served 2012-2021)
David M. Bates, Co-Founder, our First President
> The Sandbar Pool staircase was built by Friends and is dedicated in memory of David.
A. William McKee, Co-Founder, Trustee
> In loving memory of our friend.
Tom West, Trustee (served 2012-2017)
> In loving memory of our friend.
We are working on your behalf.
Everyone is welcome to get involved and participate!
Contact Jason Kimenker, Executive Director, if you wish to volunteer, serve on our Advisory Committee, participate at one of our trail work days, Adopt-A-Trail, become a supporting Friend, or be considered as a future Trustee. We are an equal-opportunity organization. All are welcome to join us and help protect and maintain Panthertown.