‘Year of the Trail’ planned for 2023
The N.C. General Assembly has declared 2023 to be “Year of the Trail” in North Carolina, marking it as a year to showcase, promote and celebrate trails in the state.
“Understanding the benefits trails and greenways bring to our North Carolina communities through increased economic activity, bike and pedestrian transportation, improved citizen health, and the conservation of our natural resources, I thought it was time to showcase these incredible state assets,” said Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke County, one of the bill’s sponsors, in a press release. “Designating 2023 as the Year of the Trail in North Carolina is the perfect way to do that.”
The bill passed the House unanimously on May 5, with the Senate approving it 39-1 on Aug. 10. Republican Sen. Carl Ford, who represents Rowan and Stanley counties, was the sole no vote.
The legislation encourages North Carolinians to “take advantage of their local and regional trail networks, do their part to further enhance North Carolina’s trail networks and pay tribute to everyone who has labored to maintain and enlarge these public amenities.” During 2023, it states, organizations and jurisdictions will offer special programming, festivals and events highlighting various types of trails across the state. The N.C. Great Trails State Coalition supports the designation and will spearhead plans for the year.
The House budget provides even more support for North Carolina’s trails with an appropriation of $29.25 million for a Complete the Trails Fund, to be managed by the N.C. Trails Program within the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation. Rep. Dean Arp, R-Union County and senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Mike Clampitt, R-Bryson City, Erin Pare, R-Wake County, and Blackwell have taken the lead on this funding effort.
North Carolina is not the first state to declare a “Year of the Trail,” with Ohio and Indiana doing so in 2018 and 2021, respectively. However, N.C. is the first to announce the designation with extensive plans to showcase, promote and celebrate the trails. Special trail programs and events are planned throughout 2023 for all 100 counties, with a goal to increase awareness of trails and boost local trail use and tourism. Trails are instrumental to North Carolina’s $28 billion outdoor recreation industry, the sixth largest in the nation.
The year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the 1973 North Carolina Trails System Act, which created North Carolina’s Trails Program. The program is housed in the Division of Parks and Recreation and is assisted by the North Carolina Trails Committee.
Leave a comment
We should be fully behind this trails program. Volunteers have contributed a lot of time to trails. One example has been the Bartram Trail (recently renamed the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conference) that crosses and briefly connects with the Appalachian Trail (Appalachian Trail Conference). The BRBTC now connects a section in Georgia with the Bartram Trail in North Carolina.