Sunday’s Roanoke Times features a distubring story about the challenges facing the Appalachian Trail, talking about encroaching civilization, pollution and other threats.

Writes John Cramer:

The Appalachian Trail runs beside the properties of the Cochrans and Wingates in the Catawba Valley, making the fabled footpath a part of their lives.

But like landowners from Maine to Georgia, the two Southwest Virginia families have different opinions about encroaching development, which has become the biggest threat to the national scenic trail.

Bill and Katherine Cochran, who live beside the AT, support conservation easements and tough land-use regulations to protect the trail and Catawba’s open spaces. They put several of their acres into a scenic easement, promising never to develop it. They believe some sacrifice is required for the greater good of the community and the natural world.

“We recognize the value of the trail — it’s a national treasure,” said Bill Cochran, an outdoors writer. “When you live alongside it, you’re part of something bigger than yourself.”

Harold Wingate, whose Homeplace restaurant property abuts the AT, said he also supports the iconic footpath.

But he favors a free marketplace and strong property rights, where landowners don’t give up without a fight — or a fistful of dollars.

Some of the same challenges face the Blue Ridge Parkway.