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Trail News: From the mountains to the sea 
Gathering of Friends: Just a few weeks away...
The 2019 MST Gathering of Friends in Surf City, NC, is March 22nd -24th - and we don't want you to miss our first rendezvous in the Coastal Crescent portion of the trail! Learn more and register here.  
Closing the Gap: New trail outside Cherokee links 347 miles of MST in the mountains

Photo courtesy NC State Parks.

This joyous ribbon cutting ceremony in October of 2018 brought together NC State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson, CMC volunteer Ron Navik, Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent J.D. Lee, former Vice Chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Larry Blythe, lifelong trail advocate Dr. Doris Hammett, CMC volunteer and Friends of the MST board member Les Love, Friends' past president Steve Metcalf and Friends' executive director Kate Dixon. The 346.8-mile route over some of the highest mountains in the Eastern United States is the longest continuous section of the MST built thus far. It stretches from Clingmans Dome on the Tennessee-North Carolina border to Stone Mountain State Park, the MST's gateway to the Piedmont.   Read the  full story.
Trail to Carter Falls opens along MST in Yadkin Valley
Photo by Joe Mickey.

Thanks to a change of heart, a trail to the hidden jewel Carter Falls has now opened along the MST near Elkin in Yadkin Valley wine country.  Until 2018 local attorney Dan Park had rejected any offers to purchase the falls and surrounding property. 

Fortunately, according to an article in the Elkin Tribune, Park decided "I would really love to see it being looked is just a beautiful piece of land and it still is, and I think the trail people will preserve it."   Seizing the opportunity, the state stepped in with Connect North Carolina Bond money  to purchase Carter Falls and the 43 acres surrounding it. 

Now these beautiful and rambunctious falls are officially part of the MST.  Read the  
MST "Hike of a Lifetime" Lands on the Cover of March Edition of Our State Magazine

The MST is featured as the March cover story in Our State, NC's premiere statewide magazine!  The 22-page photo essay features stunning photos from Table Rock and Carter Falls, to Glencoe and Holly Shelter - perfectly capturing the amazing diversity that is found on the trail.  Writer Jeremy Markovich spent time with trail leaders in Elkin and Roseboro, learning what it takes to build and maintain the MST.  He also produced a segment on NPR's Charlotte affiliate, WFAE, which you can listen to here

Our friends at  Our State are showing their support for the MST in another way  - by donating $5 to Friends of MST for each new subscriber who uses the code CPMST at checkout. They'll donate for new gift subscriptions too. 

Thanks to Our State for such thoughtful and beautiful coverage of the MST! 
Friends' Staff Grows; Board Changes
Friends has added two staff members - Ben Jones as Coastal Crescent Project Manager and
Photo by Betsy Brown.
Carrie Vernia as Office Manager.  
Ben is working with local residents along the route of the Coastal Crescent to analyze, plan, and design new sections of trail.  Carrie, a recently retired high school science and ESL teacher, will help keep membership updated and the office running smoothly amongst other things.  Both have fascinating backgrounds. Guess which one did fungi research with NCSU's department of plant pathology and has a masters in forestry?  Meet them both in Surf City!

At Friend's first board meeting of 2019, we welcomed five new members: Dr. Bill Blackley of Elkin, Lynne Bresler of Chapel Hill, Heather Cotton of Marion/Black Mountain, Carl DeAndrade of White Lake and Mark Rostan of Valdese.  We said farewell to Tiffiny Consoli of Raleigh, J. Coward of Sylva, Howard Lee of Chapel Hill and B Townes of Boomer.  Steve Metcalf, our past president, through a by-law change, stays on the board for another year. Read more about our new staff and new and retiring board members.

Left, Howard Lee. Above, Steve Metcalf, Tiffiny Consoli, J. Coward and B Townes receive MST plaques commemorating their board service.  Plaques were made by Andres Sarre, a member of the Carolina Mountain Club. Photos by Marcia Bromberg.
Trail Briefs - Mountains

Before we get into the briefs, we wanted to express our appreciation to the land managers, task force leaders and volunteers across the state who sprang into action following Hurricanes Florence and Michael last fall.  Many sections of the trail were closed due to flooding, storm debris and fallen trees, and most have been re-opened.  These storms impacted nearly the entire MST in some way, and we have again been shown that the dedication and passion of our trail community is beyond compare. 

Thanks to a $5,000 grant from REI stores in Charlotte, we were able to restore 4.4 miles of the MST in the Pisgah National Forest (MST Segment 4) that follow old, eroded road beds along  Betsy's Ridge in Linville Gorge. The funds were used to hire a professional trail builder to re-contour the trail and create water diversions with a small backhoe. 22 volunteers from the Central Blue Ridge Task Force did the finish work of smoothing out 35 water diversions by hand.  REI's Charlotte Market Coordinator Joy Shuck joined the task force on a beautiful winter's day.  REI stores in Raleigh and Durham also support the trail with a $20,000 grant.  Thanks to  REI for its steady support!
Photos by Don Williams.


Trail Briefs - Piedmont
A new trail link to a road has made it possible to incorporate the beautiful trails in Guilford County's  Cascades Preserve near Oak Ridge into the route of MST Segment 8 of the MST. 
Photo by Matt Wallace.
Volunteers from the newly formed Western Guilford task force joined forces with the the Town of Oak Ridge's MST Committee to construct the new trail.

An official ribbon cutting and trail opening will take place soon.  For more information, watch the Oak Ridge Mountains-to-Sea Trail Committee's Facebook page and our calendar.

Two miles of new natural surface trail at Seven Mile Creek Natural Area just west of Hillsborough officially opened to the public on October 9. As additional trail is constructed in the area, these new trails will become part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail route in segment 9.

This first phase of trail building, which includes a parking lot, picnic tables and a handicap accessible trail, was completed by Orange County Parks and Recreation.  Seven Mile Creek Natural Area is a portion of a larger 366 acre Upper Eno Nature Preserve, and is one of the largest blocks of natural and undeveloped land in central Orange County. The preserve includes the "Crabtree Creek Monadnock Ridge" and the "Sevenmile Creek Sugar Maple Bottom" which is considered the richest bottomland remaining in the county.  Read more here

Photo by Bill Boyarsky.
Also in Hillsborough (Segment 9),   Friends volunteers and neighbors rebuilt the Cates Creek Bridge that was destroyed during Hurricane Florence. In addition to the construction of the bridge, the group cleared debris and trash left by the flooding, fixed a flood-damaged sign, hauled out the last remnants of the old bridge, and made a first pass at clearing upstream logs (which could damage the new bridge during the next fl ood).

This bridge was funded by a GoFundMe campaign, spurred on by the neighbors who wanted to help get the bridge rebuilt quickly after the hurricane. This was the first time, and we hope not the last, that we've had such great collaboration between a neighborhood and the Friends. 

Another bridge was completed along Falls Lake (MST Segment 10). Thanks to a grant from the Triangle Community Foundation and Durham County, volunteers were able to build a massive 40-foot bridge that now crosses a frequently wet section  near Rolling View. Trinity Designs, Leo Gaev Metalworks, NC Parks and Recreation from Falls Lake and NC Wildlife Resources Commission, project manager Art Kelley, and a huge crew of volunteers made this bridge possible

Photo by Paul Wicklund.

Trail Briefs - Coastal Plain and Outer Banks
We're helping the  Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site  in Johnston County build a new trail that we will soon be able to incorporate into the route of MST Segment 12 thanks to $45,000 donated by the  Atlantic Coast Pipeline  for work our work in Johnston, Sampson and Cumberland Counties. A muddy, but productive, workday was held the first weekend in March at Bentonville.  Volunteers worked with board president Bill Scott, staffer Ben Jones, and a crew from Bentonville to clear and grade trail and install educational signs.  Another workday is tentatively scheduled for April 13th - email  Ben  if you are interested in helping. (Photos by Ben Jones.)

MST Hikers will now cross a new bridge in Surf City   (MST Segment 15), with a wide pedestrian  lane and sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway and Topsail Island.  Gathering of Friends attendees will cross the bridge at sunset on Saturday, March 23rd, in a group hike sponsored by Farm to Feet
with each hiker supplied with a new pair of their NC-made socks.  ( Surf City Bridge Photo by Betsy Brown.)

Because of a major project to restore long leaf pine habitat at the Stones Creek Game Land in Sneads Ferry (Segment 15), we regret that miles of trail and several substantial, beautiful bridges built by volunteers have had to be abandoned recently.  We are excited, however, about the potential for increased biological diversity on this beautiful property, and we look forward to working with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission as the forest matures.  Thanks to our volunteers for their hard, creative work, and their grace in dealing with the transition.

In Segment 18, the replacement for the Bonner Bridge crossing the Oregon Inlet opened midday on February 25.  The patient local public was invited to hike and bike the bridge for an informal community day on February 9th before traffic was allowed. The old bridge has been the one spot on the trail that those looking for completion status have been allowed to bypass because of the high traffic and low pedestrian friendliness.  We're thrilled with the new design, and hope hikers are too, as this bridge really signals the home stretch for an eastbound hiker.  Read one account of a first pass over the new bridge in the Outer Banks Voice.
Thank you, thank you!
In November, we received a $100,000 grant from Duke Energy to support our work in the Coastal Crescent portion of the MST.  This funding  will help us work with community leaders to develop designs for trail in key locations that were identified in the Coastal Crescent master plan. If you'd like to read more about that plan, check it out here. Ben Jones, our Coastal Crescent Project Manager, will give an update about his work in the Coastal Crescent at the Gathering.  Thanks to Duke Energy for their continued support of this exciting work.

Great Outdoor Provision Company is donating $20,000 this year, and will be the exclusive sponsor of the 2019 MST Birthday Hike in September!  GOPC is also a Blue Heron sponsor of the Falls Lake Challenge, a 12-mile and 50K trail race along the MST in segment 10.  Another popular way Great Outdoor supports our work is to feed our trail workers breakfast before they start a trail workday.  When you stop in your local Great Outdoor Provision Co., make sure to thank them for the support and visibility that they continue to give the MST.
May 31 - June 2, 2019: NC Trail Days in Elkin, NC
A celebration of the MST and other local trails, outdoor recreation and advocacy/education in the town of Elkin in the Foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bring your boots, bikes, and boats and play for the whole weekend. Events include
guided hikes, 5Point Adventure Film night, outdoor-oriented exhibitors and non-profits, kid's events, guest speakers, a 5k trail race at Stone Mountain State Park, food trucks/beer garden on Main Street, Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail Revolutionary War encampment, REI mountain bike clinics and rides, a family flotilla on the Yadkin River and much more. Info here.  
Consider bringing your hiking club, trail building group or outdoor advocacy/educational group for the weekend and participate with an information booth on Main Street on Saturday, June 1 to let folks know more about you. Non-profits participate FREE. Retailers, manufacturers and outdoor-oriented non-profits are invited to sign up here.  
New MST Merch for Sale!

A 20 x 40 inch wall map of the trail is now available in our online store for $14.  The  statewide map shows the current and planned route of the MST, national and state recreation lands, major cities and trail towns. 
Also now back in print is the 2nd edition of the MST Trail Guide - Coastal Plain and Outer Banks.  

Check out all our MST merchandise.  Members save 10% on all orders!
Trail Happenings Across the State
The events section of our website lists workdays and other events across the states.  Look here for ways to get involved, and if you are hosting events, make sure you submit them to us for inclusion.

Saturday, March 9 - To celebrate trail volunteer and pizzeria owner Brian Rollin's birthday, GoodWood Pizza will be hosting a Benefit for the MST in Lincolnton ( 209 N Aspen St, 28092). 10% of gross sales that day will be donated to the Friends of the MST. There will also be a gift basket raffle (goodies provided by the Friends and REI), $1 per ticket with 100% of tickets sales going to the Friends of the MST. Everyone who purchases a raffle ticket will receive a segment 4 trail guide while supplies last.  We'll also kick off Brian's birthday and celebrate local trails with a hike on the South Fork Rail Trail (Paul and Agnes Rhyne Conservation Preserve.) Meet at Alki Outfitters at 10 am at 111 E. Main Street in Lincolnton. 

Friday, March 15
 The annual Piedmont Legacy Trails Summit brings together recreational professionals, community leaders and other trail partners to learn and share best practices to advance trail and greenway development in the 12-county Triad region of North Carolina. Learning sessions will cover all aspects of trail development including trail planning, funding sources, and much more. The day will conclude with an optional hike on the Salem Lake Trail. You will have the opportunity to network with other trail advocates and gain valuable information to help expand trail networks across our region.  More info.

Saturday, March 16 - Visit MST volunteers at Reptile and Amphibian Day at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and the Adventure Program Festival in the Park at the Chapel Hill Community Center, 120 Estes Drive. 

Sunday, April 7 - Runners, sponsors and volunteers are needed for the 10th annual Falls Lake Challenge, a 10-mile and 50k trail race that follows the MST along Falls Lake in segment 10, north of Raleigh.  The race, produced by Durham's Bull City Running, is a favorite amongst racers because of the beautiful course and the friendly and supportive atmosphere.  If you're not a runner, you can still participate by volunteering or asking your employer to become a sponsor.  Thanks to the Falls Lake volunteers for keeping course race ready, and to Bull City for giving over $32,000 to the Friends over the years! More info, at Bull City Running.    
Four great ways to support the MST
ONE: Become a member. Join online or print and mail your membership form today.

MST license plate with HK TWO: Buy an MST license plate. For $30 per year, you can show the world your love of the trail and help financially too. $20 of your annual fee will come back to Friends of MST to build, protect, and promote the trail. Order your plate directly from NC DMV.

THREE: If your employer hosts a workplace-giving campaign, look for Friends of MST as a giving option. We are a member of EarthShare NC which promotes workplace giving for conservation and environmental groups. We are a giving option in all North Carolina state and federal employee campaigns and in many local government and corporate campaigns too. Friends code numbers are: State employee campaign -- 1102; Federal campaign - 30392; United Way of the Triangle - 60001159.

FOUR: Give through Amazon Smile, Amazon's way of letting you support nonprofits when you purchase online. The Amazon Smile website works the same way works, has the same products, and uses your same passwords. The only difference is that Amazon will donate 0.5% of your purchase directly to the charity of your choice if you enter through the Smile portal. Use this link to start giving to Friends of MST every time you buy on Amazon.
Happy Trails to You!

Betsy Brown                           

Volunteers are the heart of Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  We need people with a wide variety of skills and interests to build and care for this beautiful trail.

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