The Chapel Hill community will celebrate National Trails Day in person for the first time since 2019 on Saturday at Umstead Park from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, Chapel Hill Public Housing and the Friends of Chapel Hill Parks, Recreation and Greenways planned the event. They held virtual self-guided events during 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The program will be designed to showcase the many benefits of parks, trails, green space and housing options in proximity to those amenities," Chapel Hill Director of Parks and Recreation Phil Fleischmann said.
National Trails Day has been celebrated on the first Saturday in June since 1992 by the American Hiking Society, which assigns a theme for the day each year. This year’s theme is "a day of service for hometown trails and the people who love them."
Chapel Hill Park Maintenance Superintendent Kevin Robinson said one of Chapel Hill's trails is highlighted every year for National Trails Day. This year’s celebration aims to highlight the collaboration between Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation and Chapel Hill Public Housing by focusing on the refurbishment of a third-of-a-mile stretch of natural surface trail that connects to the Trinity Court residential complex.
"This year, we're really trying to make sure that nobody's left out and really highlight the inclusivity of where the trails are and how they connect people," he said.
Previous projects finished in anticipation of National Trails Day include the finished connector beneath Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the Bolin Creek Trail extension.
Speakers for the event include Chapel Hill Town Council Member Paris Miller-Foushee, who will speak on behalf of the Town Council, and Chapel Hill Public Housing Director Faith Brodie, who will talk about the development of Trinity Court.
Following, attendees are invited on a guided tour led by Recreation Specialist William "Keith" Dodson, known as "Adventure Jones," that acknowledges the work of volunteers on the trail systems and showcases the workout equipment available along a half-mile stretch of the newly refurbished trail.
"I think we're planning to have a couple of kayaks out there, maybe some mountain bikes and just some things for folks to see," Fleischmann said. "They won't be able to kayak in the little creek there, but they can kind of see some of the equipment that we use in our outdoor adventure programs and hear from Adventure Jones about ways that they or their families can get connected."
Chapel Hill Municipal Arborist Adam Smith said the town takes trails and greenways seriously.
He said he and his crew's job is to make the trails as safe and attractive as possible by removing deadwood, planting trees and educating people on the trails.
"It's one of those things that people like me sometimes weren't popular at parties when we were younger," Smith said. "But we are now that we're older and everybody wants to know about certain things, whether it's computers, or whether it's trees."
He added that having green open spaces and wooded lots that are able to be used and maintained is important to both Chapel Hill residents and staff.
Smith said he hopes more people will use trails to get around town as a result of National Trails Day.
The next steps for Chapel Hill’s greenway development include the addition of the Fordham Boulevard Sidepath Project and the extension of the Morgan Creek Trail into Carrboro. Currently, Chapel Hill's trail system spans over 17 miles, including paved and unpaved recreational and scenic routes.
"The greenways and trails and the connectivity is vitally important to the residents of Chapel Hill, and so we get really good participation in this event and hope to continue with that," Robinson said.
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