North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea-Trail (MST) project got one step closer to completion recently when the Oak Ridge Town Council completed the first phase of the first section, approved more money for the project and announced plans to hold a grand opening celebration in May.
The MST is a footpath – really a network of footpaths – that will run about 1,200 miles across North Carolina from Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head on the Outer Banks. The trail that’s been years in the making runs through Guilford County and past small towns such as Oak Ridge and Summerfield.
Currently, about 700 miles of footpath are complete across the state with much of the work being done by volunteers on the routes, which can, in places, include bicycle paths or sidewalks that run along roads.
In the Oak Ridge area, the trail runs through the Cascades Preserve, along local roads and along parts of the Haw River.
Oak Ridge Town Councilmember George McClellan said this week that the town is very pleased with the progress on the trail and officials are looking forward to a formal ceremony marking the achievement.
“We have a dedication coming up in May and we are starting on the second phase this year,” he said.
He said the project has gone smoothly and added that the town has relied on its own funds as well as the work of a good many volunteers.
“My hat’s off to the ladies and gentlemen on that committee,” he said of the town’s committee overseeing the MST in Oak Ridge.
Though not everyone across North Carolina is happy about the construction of the MST, McClellan said that, in Oak Ridge, there’s a great deal of support for it.
“The people of Oak Ridge are very much behind the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,” he said.
Some of those who have been fighting the trail in parts of the state don’t want it running through or near their property – because they don’t want a bunch of hikers or bikers constantly passing through, but McClellan said Oak Ridge has kept any resistance to a minimum by simply redirecting the trail’s path if people in that town don’t want it on their land.
“That’s the way we do things here in Oak Ridge,” he said. “We don’t force things.”
Seven miles away, in Summerfield, not everyone thinks the MST is a good idea: Summerfield Town Council Member Teresa Pegram, for instance, said Summerfield has already spent a great deal on the project but has little to show for it.
“They’ve been talking about the trail since 2014,” she said.
She added that, even if a town or county has an easement through your property, you as the property owner can be legally liable for any accidents that occur to hikers or others on the trail.
Pegram also said it will be expensive to maintain.
“Who’s going to clean the trail?” she said. “Who’s going to get out there and pick up the trash?”