Published: Aug 25, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 24, 2012 06:37 PM
We don’t get out enough.
We’re not talking about going out on the town. We’re talking about getting out into the woods, into fields, onto stream banks and lake shores. It’s all too easy to spend days, weeks, months and years rarely – or never – setting foot in a natural setting.
But it’s worth making the effort to get out there once in a while. It’s especially worth it to make sure our kids get out there. Voluminous research – as well as experience and common sense – makes clear that spending time outdoors, hiking or boating or biking, is good for you. It’s beneficial for physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and well-being.
Here in Orange County, we like to think we know that, and we support outdoor recreation. So we were a little surprised that a meeting recently about the proposed portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail drew so much opposition.
It’s an ambitious and inspired project, a 1,000-mile footpath running the length of North Carolina, from the Great Smoky Mountains at the Tennessee border all the way to the Outer Banks.
It reaches the highest mountain peak – Mount Mitchell – and the highest sand dune – Jockey’s Ridge – in the eastern United States. It passes through three national parks, three national forests, two national wildlife refuges and seven state parks. It takes a little more than 2.1 million steps to walk from one end to the other.
Most importantly, the Mountains-to-Sea trail will highlight this state’s incredible diversity and beauty. Few states are as blessed with the variety of natural environments as is North Carolina, and the trail will take its users through most of those, from beaches, saltwater marshes and swamps to spruce forests, whitewater rivers and steep mountain gorges.
The route isn’t solely natural; it showcases the state’s cultural diversity, as well, passing through dozens of towns and cities. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail will be one of North Carolina’s treasures.
It’s about half finished (which hasn’t stopped 28 people from hiking the whole thing already, using bike paths and back roads to span the gaps).
The proposed route through Orange County (one of 37 counties on the trail) runs from the Haw River near Saxapahaw northeast along Cane Creek to Hillsborough, and then east along the Eno River to cross into Durham County.
At a meeting earlier this month, a number of attendees complained about possible downsides to the trail’s proposed path. Some landowners will be asked to sell or donate easements for the trail, and they worried about the possibility of increased crime and traffic, about losing certain rights to their land, about liability issues. The trail, one resident said, would be nothing more than “an attractive nuisance.”
We’re convinced that the benefits will far outweigh the drawbacks, but landowners have every right to be concerned about the effects the trial might have on their property. All those concerns deserve addressing.
The trail’s planners have to address those concerns, just as they have to deal with other obstacles. Nobody imagined it would be easy to build a footpath from one end of the state to the other.
For our part, we think it’s worth the effort, and we’re proud that the trail will run though our neck of the woods, about halfway between the mountains and the sea.
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