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Mountains-to-Sea Trail Segment to be Dedicated May 6

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Michael F. Easley, Governor
William G. Ross, Jr., Secretary

Release Note: 
Charlie Peek
Release Date: 
Monday, May 1, 2006

Mountains-to-Sea Trail Segment to be Dedicated May 6

RALEIGH --A partnership of public agencies and volunteer organizations will dedicate a critical and especially scenic western link of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on Saturday at a 10 a.m. ceremony in McDowell County, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The 10.5-mile section to be dedicated in northern McDowell County completes a 210-mile footpath segment of the trail stretching from US 74 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, at Balsam Gap, in the west, to US 321 and the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock to the east.

The project was accomplished through cooperative efforts of the U.S. Forest Service, volunteer trail-building organizations including the Central Blue Ridge Task Force and the statewide Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The newest link incorporates a 200-foot-long footbridge across the North Fork of the Catawba River as it rises across Pisgah National Forest lands to the Pinnacle at the edge of Linville Gorge Wilderness. The western terminus crosses the river near the U.S. Forest Service work center at Woodlawn and its eastern terminus is at the Pinnacle Parking Area on Old NC 105 north of Lake James.

The trail segment offers spectacular scenery including vistas of Mt. Mitchell and Lake James, and was built by trail volunteers. The wooden footbridge was primarily funded by the Division of Parks and Recreation's State Trails Program through grants from the federal Recreational Trails Program. Matching funds were provided by the Grandfather Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service and Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

"In western North Carolina, this 210-mile segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is second only to the 310 miles of Appalachian Trail in the state," said Darrell McBane, chief of the state trails program. "If the two were linked near Clingman's Dome and possibly near Ashe County, we'd have the longest loop trail in the eastern United States. That's an outstanding goal for trail builders and land managers and should be an inspiration for further partnerships."

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail was envisioned in 1977 as a walking route from the Great Smoky Mountains to Nags Head, with the planned corridors rambling nearly 1,000 miles across the state. Most of the completed trail is on public land in western North Carolina, though momentum for trail construction is growing in the Haw River vicinity of the piedmont and along the Neuse River corridor in the eastern piedmont and coastal plain.

The dedication ceremony will be held at the Woodlawn Rest Area on US 221/226 approximately five miles north of the intersection of US 221 and US 70. Following the event, volunteers will lead a 6.5-mile hike to the summit of Bald Knob.