About Friends of Panthertown

Volunteers 2012
Friends of Panthertown volunteers gather for a National Trails Day project.
Friends of Panthertown

Friends of Panthertown provides volunteers and raises funds for much needed conservation projects in Panthertown Valley. We encourage environmental stewardship, volunteerism, and create public awareness of issues concerning Panthertown.

The mission of Friends of Panthertown is to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to conserve this outstanding natural resource while improving the quality and experience of recreational opportunities in Panthertown.

What We Do:

• Engage volunteers in on-the-ground efforts at monthly work days
• Foster environmental stewardship through outreach and education
• Restore and maintain 30 miles of public non-motorized 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 membership contributions

Are you a friend of Panthertown? All donations and memberships are tax-deductible.

Please watch this video for detailed information about Panthertown and the work we do.

We provide funding and volunteers for conservation projects:


Due to budget cuts in recent years and the size and increased visitation of Nantahala National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service Nantahala Ranger District does not have sufficient funding or personnel available to provide more than minimal levels of maintenance; therefore, the Friends of Panthertown are providing funding and volunteers for much needed projects and conservation efforts in Panthertown.

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 on 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.

Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance

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, the 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.

In 2011, after several years under the fiscal sponsorship of J-MCA, and having grown its funding and membership base, Friends of Panthertown, Inc. was recognized by the IRS and State of North Carolina 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 blazes match the colors and usage designations on the USFS trail system map.

In 2017, Friends of Panthertown partnered with Mainspring Conservation Trust to purchase and protect the 16-acre private property located adjacent to the Salt Rock Gap trailhead entrance. Through the generous support of our members, donors, and the community, the conserved land was transferred to U.S. Forest Service in 2019 to become part of Panthertown. The public is invited to explore the land and enjoy the new parking area and camping spots.

Currently in 2020, eleven dedicated volunteers representing many of the primary Panthertown user groups serve on our Board of Trustees. These volunteer Trustees serve as leadership for Friends of Panthertown and our Executive Director is responsible for the day-to-day organizational duties. Our monthly Board meetings are open for anyone from our membership to attend, and an annual membership gathering is typically held in the summer or fall. All are welcome to participate and join our organization.

Friends of Panthertown 2020 Board of Trustees:

  • Margaret Carton, President
  • Mike English, Vice-President, Trails
  • Mike Purdy, Vice-President, Trail Boss Emeritus
  • Virginia Willard, Vice-President, Membership & Development
  • Abbey Bearer, Treasurer
  • Tony Austin
  • Paul Johnson
  • Mike Kettles
  • Peter Pavarini
  • Margo Purdy
  • Marcia Shawler

Friends of Panthertown Staff

  • Jason Kimenker, Executive Director
  • Krista Robb, Trail Stewardship Coordinator
  • Kara McMullin, Intern
    Western Carolina University Environmental Science

Our former Friends of Panthertown, Inc. Trustees:

  • David M. Bates, co-founder, our first President (in loving memory)
  • Brenda Council, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
  • Bill Jacobs, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
  • Burt Kornegay, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
  • A. William McKee, co-founder, Trustee (in loving memory)
  • J. Dan Pittillo, co-founder, Trustee Emeritus
  • Tom West, Trustee (in loving memory)
  • Wynette Wiles
Autumn in Panthertown
Panthertown Valley Autumn (Photo by Bill Johnson)

We work on your behalf and advocate for the interests of our membership.

Everyone is welcome to get involved!

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 member, 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.

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 employed and volunteer workforce, membership, 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 Valley and its unique natural resources.

Greenland Creek Falls

Contact Us!

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Friends of Panthertown

Contact Information:
Friends of Panthertown, Inc.
P.O. Box 51
Cashiers, NC 28717
Phone: 828-269-HIKE (4453)
Email: friends@panthertown.org
Website: www.panthertown.org