05/26/14 — Proposed route for North Carolina State Parks Mountains to Sea Trail would bypass Wayne County

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Proposed route for North Carolina State Parks Mountains to Sea Trail would bypass Wayne County

By Matt Caulder
Published in News on May 26, 2014 1:51 PM

The support group for the North Carolina State Parks Mountains to Sea Trail is pushing an alternate route to the trail that bypasses Wayne County altogether in favor of a southern route to the coast.

But Goldsboro Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard said that upcoming construction on the trail in Wayne County this summer means good things for the official trail.

"Johnston County is beginning a county-wide greenways plan and Kinston is about to break ground on a new downtown trail," Barnard said. "And here, we are about to lay down asphalt from New Hope Road on around behind (Wayne Community College) and Wayne Memorial (Hospital)."

The trail, officially designated as a state park in 2000, is a linear, nearly 1,000-mile-long expanse from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks.

About 600 miles of the trail have already been completed.

The Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail are planning to publicize the new route this summer, which the group says utilizes 50-60 miles of existing trail in addition to sections of paved and unpaved roads.

Kate Dixon, Friends director, said progress on the trail in the eastern part of North Carolina has been slow, meaning hikers spend more time along paved roads in-between completed sections.

She said this forced the group to create a new route that she says utilizes more existing trails.

Barnard said he believes the state is committed to continuing the trail through Wayne County and is not concerned about losing the route in the future.

"The people in the (N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation) are committed to Wayne County and keeping the trail here," he said. "They want to see the trail connect into the Cliffs of the Neuse and Waynesborough Park. We're full steam ahead, and we feel like we have the state on our side."

Acting State Parks Director Carol Tingley said the trail will continue to run along the Neuse River and will not be moved away from Wayne County.

"We are not opposed to an alternate route down through the coastal plain," she said. "It's possible once the trail is connected, the second route will be abandoned or it's possible there may be a separate trail down to Wilmington. It could be a win for everybody."

Ms. Tingley said the designated route is difficult to hike in places along the U.S. 70 corridor and the Friends' efforts will help ease that while the trail is under construction.

"The Friends are helping people find temporary road walking routes," she said.

The new route, planned by the Friends group, runs from the Triangle down to Jacksonville through Newton Grove, Roseboro, White Lake, Burgaw and Surf City.

After Jacksonville, the route hooks back into the official trail leading up the Outer Banks to Jockey's Ridge State Park near Nag's Head.

Ms. Dixon said that currently the only way to see the trail as intended is to paddle down the Neuse River, an option she says only one person has taken since the route was officially designated two years ago.