More trail talk…

A regional trails map showing hiking trails, greenways, public lands, rivers and other outdoor recreation landmarks in the seven western counties has recently been completed by the Southwestern Commission — marking one of the first such publications for Western North Carolina.

While there’s a slew of trail maps for every occasion — national forests, national parks, wildlife game lands, privately conserved tracts, county greenways — there was no single source that amassed all the paths in one place.

The trail mapping project also had a secondary goal in mind: identifying where new trails or connections may be needed.

“There are so many opportunities to build new trails and greenways throughout the mountains,” said Don Kostelec, project manager for the plan. “Balancing the needs and interests of hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians and other users —along with finding  money to implement the plan — will always be a challenge but I think we have represented those interests well.”

Ideas from the public included everything from new paddle trails, long-distance trail connections and intown greenway expansions.

The maps can help tourism entities market recreational opportunities in their area more easily and promote the outdoors as an economic development tool.

“Say the chamber of commerce wanted to create a hiking map,” said Kostelec. “We now have compiled all the files to make that done more easily.”

The project was funded through a grant from the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

To gather public input on that front, the Southwestern Commission is hosting an open house from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the Jackson County Public Library in downtown Sylva for people to review and comment on the maps or point out any features omitted.

The maps can be viewed at: Comments can also be submitted online through Friday, March 1.

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