Thread Trail opens its100th mile
Five years ago, a group of forward-looking individuals, businesses and community groups came together to support a vision called the Carolina Thread Trail – a planned network of trails and greenways, which connects communities and preserves green space across 15 counties. Saturday in Davidson, we commemorated the completion of The Thread’s 100th mile.
It was a day for celebration, to recognize what good leadership and public-private cooperation can achieve. Thousands of people are already enjoying The Thread’s serene wooded paths, open fields and paved urban landscapes.
Here in Union County community members came together to develop a master plan of 101 miles of trail weaving through our cities, towns and countryside. Mineral Springs recently marked its popular greenway as part of the Carolina Thread Trail network. We hope that other Union communities will follow by taking the next steps to turn plans into paths for good health and economic vitality.
The Carolina Thread Trail initiative began in 2007 when the nonprofit Catawba Lands Conservancy – backed by the Foundation for the Carolinas – set out to engage our region in the creation of a connected network of green spaces, regional destinations, parks, towns and neighborhoods. Today, 14 counties have completed master plans to create their part of The Thread reaching more than two million people in North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina.
• What began as a campaign to create 500 miles of trails now encompasses plans for 1,400 miles of trails due to tremendous interest.
• $3 million in privately funded grants for planning and building trails have been awarded to communities across the region.
• 1,300 acres of natural lands have been permanently conserved as future home of The Thread, thanks largely to North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund.
Anyone can find the closest trail with our new interactive online map (http://www.carolinathreadtrail.org/map/) , which highlights 59 trails for hiking, biking, walking and running, along with sites for canoeing and kayaking on the Catawba and South Fork rivers.
As we embark on our second 100 miles, we hope more people in our 15 counties will recognize the value of The Thread that connects us. We need continued leadership from more than 70 local governments, businesses, non-profit partners and volunteers. The Thread not only links people, places, towns and attractions, it will help preserve our natural beauty, expand recreational opportunities and continue to boost our economic vitality. As a long time healthcare professional, I can attest to the need to increase safe, freely accessible outdoor opportunities for our citizens to improve their physical and emotional health. From the vantage point of the Carolina Healthcare System, we witness and welcome the healthy activities that trails are generating in close proximity of our facilities.
There is much work ahead. We are still early in our journey to realize The Thread, but with continued leadership by community leaders, elected officials, the business community, non-profit partners and volunteers, planned trails will become actual ones. With simultaneous individual community efforts, new trails will be added each year, celebrating what’s special about a particular community, while enhancing the tapestry that is our region.
• Michael Lutes is president of CMC-Union.