CHARLOTTE, N.C. — State leaders plans to increase awareness of trails and boost local trail use as well as tourism by designating 2023 as the “Year of the Trail” for North Carolina.
North Carolina is not the first state to do this, with Ohio and Indiana declaring a Year of the Trail in 2018 and 2021 respectively, but North Carolina is the first state to announce the designation with extensive plans to showcase, promote, and celebrate trails in all 100 counties.
The N.C. Senate and N.C. House came together on August 10th to pass HB 554, officially making 2023 the “North Carolina Year of the Trail.”
The designation is supported by the North Carolina Great Trails State Coalition, who will be taking charge of plans for the year.
Representative Hugh Blackwell, R-86 (Burke) says “Understanding the benefits trails and greenways bring to our North Carolina communities through increased economic activity, bike and pedestrian transportation, improved citizen health, and the conservation of our natural resources, I thought it was time to showcase these incredible state assets. Designating 2023 as the Year of the Trail in North Carolina is the perfect way to do that.”
North Carolina offers hiking, biking, paddling, off-road vehicle, and equestrian trails that showcase the natural and urban landscapes of the state.
State officials say trails and greenways are a vital part of community infrastructure and they provide significant health, economic, and transportation benefits.
Trails are also the cornerstone of North Carolina’s $28 billion dollar outdoor recreation industry (the 6th largest in the United States) according to a news release.
Not only will the “Year of the Trail” highlight the importance of trails, but it will shine a light on the vital role volunteers play in building and maintaining them, from nature loops to long-distance, statewide trails.
State officials say the year 2023 was chosen since it marks the 50th anniversary of the 1973 North Carolina Trails System Act, which created North Carolina’s Trails Program housed in the Division of Parks and Recreation and assisted by the North Carolina Trails Committee.
Officials say the 1973 Act also envisioned a State Trail System of long-distance State Trails that would be units of the North Carolina Park System.
That trail system now includes 11 State Trails, including the Dan River State Trail and East Coast Greenway, according to a news release.
“Year of the Trail will be a tremendous opportunity to highlight North Carolina’s exceptional network of trails, and educate the public and elected officials about their value to our residents and communities,” says Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, North Carolina’s flagship State Trail which extends 1175 miles from the Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.