CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, the original headline of this story misrepresented the trail. The trail will be a mountain-to-coast trail. The headline has been updated to reflect these changes.
North Carolina Parks and Recreation is placing a higher priority on Orange County trails included in the hiking route that will connect the Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.
In a meeting on Nov. 17, the North Carolina Division of State Parks gave a presentation to the Orange County Board of Commissioners regarding the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Statewide Master Plan, which includes everything from goals, recommendations and objectives for the project, as well as financial breakdowns and route planning.
The North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail is a 1,150-mile continuous off-road trail that will link Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey's Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks.
The master plan highlights two segments of the trail: one in Southwest Orange County, from the Alamance County Line to Hillsborough, and the other from Occoneechee Mountain State Natural Area to Falls Lake/Neuse River. These two trails are roughly 45 miles in length.
Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends of Mountains to Sea Trail, said she is enthusiastic about the new initiatives proposed by the Division of State Parks.
“Orange County needs to take the lead in making things happen, primarily to work with the water and shore authority to get permission to build trail on King Creek reservoir, and also to help acquire land or easement so that the trail can be extended from that reservoir to connect over to Haw River and then on the other side up to Hillsborough,” Dixon said.
Dixon described the Friends of the Mountains to Sea trail as central to the project. She said volunteers have built over 500 miles of the existing trail, which creates near zero-cost solutions to build natural surface trails.
“My guess is that in the next ten years, we will probably have another 150-200 miles of trail open,” Dixon said. “We are really excited about this whole section through Orange County, and we think it can be really wonderful.”
Dixon’s enthusiasm about the project is shared with that of Orange County Commissioner Penny Rich.
“We were excited to hear that Orange County can be a player again,” Rich said. “I think our board is very supportive of the project. This seems like it’s part of protecting valuable land for everyone to enjoy.”
“It will be an attraction for tourists, and something that North Carolinians will participate in and share once it all gets done.”
Senior Alexi Wordell, a member of the UNC Tramping club, said she hopes to hike the new trails as soon as possible.
“I can’t wait," she said. "Hiking is really spiritual for me and I am looking forward to the new trail. It will definitely be a great way to spend a few days with my friends.”
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