About 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 Valley.
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 Valley.
You may contact the Nantahala District Ranger office at (828)-524-6441 or 90 Sloan Road, Franklin, NC 28734
A History of Friends of Panthertown:
Panthertown is public land that has been part of the Natahala 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, 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 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 installed trail-head bulletin boards with maps, and trail markers with trail usage designations at each of the major intersections.
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 an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization.
Currently in 2016, ten dedicated volunteers representing many of the primary Panthertown user groups serve on our Board of Trustees. These Trustees serve as leadership for Friends of Panthertown and a part-time 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 2016 Board of Trustees:
- Margaret Carton, President
- Mike Purdy, Vice-President, Trail Boss
- Virginia Willard, Vice-President, Membership & Development
- Paul Johnson, Treasurer
- Tom West, Secretary
- Tony Austin
- Mike English
- Mike Kettles
- Dan Pittillo
- Margo Purdy
- Jason Kimenker, Executive Director
We would also like to honor these former Friends of Panthertown, Inc. Board members:
We wok on behalf, represent and advocate for the interests of our membership. 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.