What Exactly is Year of the Trail, Anyway?
2023 is the Year of the Trail here in North Carolina, the Great Trails State. If you’re reading this, then you likely think that trails are great and, it’s indeed a catchy slogan but, there’s a lot more to it than just that. People have long noticed and significantly benefited from trails in NC. For instance, you may use a greenway nearby to go for a walk or take a bike ride on or to a trail right in your community, or travel to hike along a path with views that reach for miles.
These trails not only help make NC a healthier, more accessible, and fun place to live, they also strengthen the economy in a big way – the outdoor recreation industry in NC has an economic impact of over 28 billion dollars and provides over 260,000 jobs in the state. Trails are the cornerstone of the industry, and all of this is a large part of why NC is the Great Trails State. Historically, the trail networks that make this all possible have rarely been part of the mainstream public discussion, but in 2023, that will change.
So, why 2023? Why not every year? Well, in 2021, a bill was introduced and easily passed in the NC House of Representatives: House Bill 554 designates 2023 as the “North Carolina Year of the Trail.” With that, it was written that “the State of North Carolina would encourage all North Carolinians to use their local and regional trail networks, to further enhance the State’s trail networks, and to pay tribute to those who maintain these public amenities.” Simply put, celebrating and continuing to invest in trails and trail networks along with the communities and people who support them and make them possible is the law.
So, in 2023, the Great Trails State Coalition is leading the charge to do just that. We’re going to celebrate communities and individuals from the mountains to the coast and everywhere in between that have worked to make NC the Great Trails State. We’re going to provide resources to help get more people out on trails, demonstrate how to get more trails in more communities, and promote increased access and equity in trail access, use, and outdoor recreation. We’ll be making this all a central part of conversations and provide tangible & relatable examples of how trails change lives and communities and make North Carolina a great place to live.
So, what kind of trails are we talking about here? Everything from greenways and doubletracks linking city neighborhoods to singletrack, rocky scrambles to views found in the mountains, and, of course, sandy paths at the beach. We’re talking about paddle trails along North Carolina’s scenic rivers and bridle paths too.
These many trails are used by North Carolinians and visitors alike to exercise, recreate, move, and explore, but how often do you stop and ask yourself: “Where do trails come from? How are they built & maintained? Who pays for trails? And, most importantly, how do we get more trails? We’ll answer these questions and more throughout 2023 with engaging content and examples from places you’ve actually heard of, been to, and can relate to – all here in North Carolina.
How can you get involved? Follow along on our social channels (embed link) and here on our website. You’ll be the first to know about local Year of the Trail events across the state and the first to hear about exciting things happening in NC communities. Take a friend or a neighbor out on a trail for their first hike, bike, paddle, or ride. Be a part of this conversation – share your stories with us and talk about this initiative with everyone you know. Tag us on social media and show us how you use trails and how they impact your life. Help us amplify how we, as a state, value, steward, and invest in one of our most important assets.