Trailblazers packed the Elkin Center Thursday for a meeting seeking community input on the development of a trail master plan connecting Stone Mountain State Park to Pilot Mountain State Park.
The meeting was coordinated by Destination by Design, a planning consultant firm; the Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA); NC State Trails; and the Friends of Mountain to Sea Trails.
“We are trying to create a trail master plan. We are trying to establish a primary and secondary route between the two destinations,” said Eric Woolridge, principal, Destination by Design.
“The meeting gave the public an opportunity to provide insight and ideas on how the trails can best impact and connect…it was absolutely a phenomenal turnout truly showing the engagement of the community. It’s very obvious to everyone that the trail development is an economic development project as much as it is a recreation project,” said Woolridge.
After a presentation, about 80 residents split into six breakout sessions chiming in on what they would like to see included in the master plan.
Woolridge said all ideas for the route are being considered along with spur routes that breakout from the main route, but serve as a point of interest for community and trail users. Woolridge expects for drafts to be developed through late summer leading to another public meeting for the community to chime in on a more focused draft plan.
Destination by Design was hired by the Northwest Partnership for Public Health who received funds through the Community Transformation Grant Project. A second client of the planning company is the State Trails Program, part of the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation.
Woodridge said that 40 projects previously were identified and vetted by Destination by Design through a grant project. Eight projects were considered priority. However, the development of a trail from Stone Mountain to Pilot Mountain was ranked as the highest priority.
John Lanman of the Friends of Mountain to Sea told guests that this project is leading the way for others. “You are establishing a model to serve and show how to get community involved. Keep it up,” he said.
“EVTA is proud to be a partner and partnership-maker in creating this unity for the common good. The public meeting demonstrated unanimous support for the direction that the EVTA and partners are taking in bringing the Mountain to Sea Trail into reality in the 60-mile sections of trail between Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain State Park. The meeting demonstrated broad regional and statewide support for our efforts. This kind of united support will encourage investment for the common good of our region. All who have contributed time, money, thought and energy to this adventure are to be credited for where we are now after two years of hard work,” said Dr. Bill Blackley, chairman of EVTA.
According to EVTA, there were over a hundred ideas related to the master plan and forwarded to Destination by Design. Such ideas were to create a unique crossing between Elkin and Jonesville; closer working relationships and cooperation in the Mountain to Sea Trail; to loop trails on both sides of the Yadkin in Jonesville and Elkin; campgrounds for hikers and paddlers; improve horse access to the area around Elkin, Wilkes, Surry and Yadkin; add mountain bike courses, trail heads, amenities along the trails; and identify most important natural resources along the trail.
Others were recognized for their contributions to development of the trail project. Darrell McBane, NC State Trails director; Friends of the Mountain to Sea; volunteers of EVTA; officials with Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain state parks; Friends of Sauratown Mountain; Yadkin Valley Riders Club; and the Yadkin Valley Heritage Corridor.
“I want to make it clear. What we’re witnessing tonight is history in the making,” said Elkin Commissioner J.L. Lowe Jr.
Anthony Gonzalez may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @newsgonz.