North Carolina trails receive over $29 million in budget deal

People take in the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains from atop Grandfather Mountain near Linville, N.C., Monday, Oct. 18, 2021, as autumn arrives in the highlands. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH — North Carolina’s recently approved state budget includes $29.25 million for fiscal year 2021-22 for the Complete the Trails Fund to be managed by the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation’s N.C. Trails program.

“The pandemic made clear how much trails can mean to public health and quality of life in North Carolina. Thanks to the General Assembly and the Governor for recognizing the need and making this first ever major investment in our 12 official State Trails,” executive director for Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Kate Dixon told North State Journal in an emailed statement.

“This funding can be transformational, particularly if the State continues this kind of investment for a number of years,” Dixon said.

The fund will allow for grants to be made for state trail projects and support the state’s 12 official trails. It will also aid in building capacity for nonprofit partner organizations. Additionally, the state budget creates a new permanent trail coordinator position.

In a press release, The Great Trails State Coalition said the organization “acknowledges and greatly appreciates the leadership of Representative Dean Arp, R-69 (Union), Senior Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Representatives Hugh Blackwell, R-86 (Burke), Mike Clampitt, R-119 (Swain) and Erin Pare, R-37 (Wake) who have taken the lead on this funding effort with help from many other members of the House, Sen. Brent Jackson and Gov. Roy Cooper.”

The Great Trails State Coalition describes itself as a “broad-based group of more than 30 diverse organizations, agencies and supporters advocating for increased state investment in all types of trails statewide – hiking, paddle, mountain bike, equestrian, and shared-use paths.” For more information on the coalition visit: www.greattrailsnc.org

Earlier this year, Cooper signed House Bill 554 into law, which designates 2023 as the “Year of the Trail.” The year 2023 was chosen to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1973 North Carolina Trails System Act. The state’s longest hiking trail system, the Mountain to Sea Trail, turned 44 this year. The trail system spans 1,175 miles across the state from the Smoky Mountains all the way to the Outer Banks.

About A.P. Dillon 565 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_