ASHEBORO — It’s the Year of the Trail and the county trails coordinator credits the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) with getting it all started.
Mary Joan Pugh, who also serves as the natural heritage coordinator for Randolph County, gave an update to the TDA Board of Directors on Oct. 18. She said the TDA “chose the Deep River corridor as an initiative area in 1998. … We finally got it designated a state trail in 2007.”
Meanwhile, Franklinville, Randleman and Ramseur began constructing their own trails. The TDA set up a task force to coordinate their efforts in 2015.
In 2016, Pugh said in a Powerpoint presentation, the county put together a strategic plan in which trails were significant in health/wellness, economic development and quality of life. The next year, funds were appropriated for an engineering study for the Sandy Creek bridge to connect the Franklinville and Ramseur trails.
The trails coordinator position was created in 2019 as part of the county’s wellness program. Along with that was the establishment of the county Trails Advisory Council with representatives from eight municipalities, the TDA, Piedmont Legacy Trails, Uwharrie Trailblazers and other trail groups. The Deep River State Trail (DRST) also received county money for the Sandy Creek Bridge construction, Seagrove sidewalks and a Creekside Greenway bridge in Archdale. Funds were also made available for the Worthville to Central Falls paddleway, the Randleman Deep River Greenway Phase III and the Sandy Creek Bridge.
During the COVID-19 shutdowns, families chose to use trails for recreation to be safe. To meet the demand for more trails, the county provided $1 million for “investment ready” Deep River State Trail projects, thus leveraging money for required matching grants.
Pugh revealed that with the 2023 Year of the Trail in North Carolina, the Legislature appropriated $29.25 million for state trails. The Deep River State Trail is receiving $860,828 for trail construction and $50,000 for capacity building.
The Deep River State Trail, when completed, will stretch from Jamestown in Guilford County to Moncure in Chatham County, a total of 125 miles. A steering committee includes representatives from Randolph, Guilford, Moore, Chatham and Lee counties along with High Point and the Piedmont Triad Regional Water Authority.
Each state trail, Pugh said, is required to have a nonprofit partner. “The Piedmont Land Conservancy, which has protected land on Deep River and in Randolph County, agreed to be the DRST partner. As the partner, Piedmont Land Conservancy administers the Complete the Trail Fund grants, including the Capacity Building Fund. Each state trail receives $49,500 for two years for building capacity, she said. For the DRST, that includes salary for the trails coordinator, maps and administration.
Pugh said the future of the DRST includes 2.5 miles at Franklinville, extension to Sapona of 1.74 miles, extend to Cedar Falls of .75 miles, complete the Sandy Creek Bridge to connect the .75 miles to Ramseur, and 3.25 miles that the county owns at the Great Oak Landfill, for a total of nine miles. Add the three miles of the Randleman trail and the total comes to 12 miles.
In other trail news, Archdale’s Creekside Park has received $450,000 to repave parts of the Creekside Park Greenway. Meanwhile, Seagrove has funding for construction of one mile of sidewalks downtown to connect potteries, other businesses, the library and Seagrove Elementary School.
The City of Asheboro has received a NC Department of Transportation grant for a North Asheboro Greenway feasibility study. The greenway would extend along Haskett’s Creek from Vision Drive to North Asheboro Park. The NC Zoo has added 2.7 miles with the Spring Trail at the Ward Nature Preserve. In addition, the PLC opened the 190-acre Caraway Creek Preserve, located between Mount Shepherd and Caraway Mountain, on May 18.
Pugh said the TDA has helped develop a Deep River State Trail brochure and a Randolph County Trail Guide. The TDA is also providing promotional materials such as banners, stickers, yard signs and T-shirts.
A Year of the Trail video was sponsored by the TDA and distributed statewide. It features the Deep River State Trail, the Uwharrie National Recreation Trail and the Archdale Greenway. The Year of the Trail has also been promoted with a radio spot by Richard Petty airing on 75 stations across the state as part of the Year of the Trail Curtis Media contract.
The Year of the Trail events in Randolph County include Healthy Communities monthly hikes, ribbon cuttings in seven municipalities, Randolph Creek Week and Mayor’s Fitness Challenge walks and hikes.
Pugh said Randolph County has been at the forefront of trail development and promotion, rivaling much larger population areas such as Wake County and Asheville. “We’re hitting it out of the park,” she said.
Pugh also emphasized that the success of trails in the area would not be possible without the initiatives of the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority.