Thursday, December 11, 2014

Master Plan to be Prepared for Mountains-to-Sea State Trail

Ideas to be gathered from partners, stakeholders and the public will be a major component of a master planning process underway to guide completion of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.

The 1,000-mile trail corridor will ultimately link Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast. Nearly two thirds of the cross-state route has been completed as a continuous, off-road trail experience, offering opportunities for hiking, biking and horseback riding through some of North Carolina’s most scenic landscapes. Where the trail has not yet been completed, detours along secondary roads allow ambitious hikers to complete the trek.

A completed master plan will chart a path toward official designation of remaining portions by setting priorities for completing trail sub-sections. It will also unify regional planning efforts, identify potential new partners and funding strategies, and establish guidelines for signs and publicity. The state parks system has hired Planning Communities, LLC to prepare a detailed master plan by late 2015 at a contract price of $120,000 supported through the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund.

A Planning Communities Website linked from offers a route to get involved in the planning effort, with updates on planned regional stakeholder meetings to be held in early 2015 and a survey to gather planning resources.

“As we move toward completion of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail, it’s important to have a guiding document that will focus our efforts for a project that has captured the public’s imagination since it was proposed in the 1970s,” said Mike Murphy, state parks director. “The master planning process will attract partners and volunteers to the concept, and we’re eager to gather ideas from local governments and citizens.”

A unit of the state parks system, the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail is envisioned as the backbone of a network of regional hiking, paddling and multi-use trails across the state, which could be easily connected to local trail and greenway efforts. Eventually, the trail will link 33 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and offer local access to 40 percent of the state’s population. The state parks system, other state agencies, federal agencies, local governments and volunteers organized by Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail have built sections of the trail, representing a partnership that includes hundreds of citizens and every level of government.

For more information on the MST in the Great Smoky Mountains, please click here.


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