Representing more than 800 people who volunteered time and labor to the completion of the E&A Rail-Trail, an unexpectedly large crowd gathered together to be among the first to cross this newest section of the nearly 1,000 mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail at the Elkin Park Sunday.
After enjoying live music by Julian Charles and Naomi Orr, the crowd was welcomed by the chairman of the Elkin Valley Trail Association (EVTA), who was proud of the volunteers who worked so hard at “punching through obstacles to get (the trail) done.”
Following an invocation by the Rev. Stuart Taylor of the Elkin Presbyterian Church, the Pledge of Allegiance was led by the nephews of U.S. Army Capt. Mark Garner, a local casualty of the war in Afghanistan.
Adam McComb, director of Elkin Parks and Recreation, then thanked the “exceptional” contractors and the volunteers for their “sweat, determination and hard work” that went in to creating something that, “we can use and our children can use from here on out.” Elkin Mayor Lestine Hutchens stated she was looking forward to being able to use the trail where “wonderful dreams take place.”
Kate Dixon, executive director of Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail, said, “This bridge is a huge accomplishment. All across the state people are watching what (Elkin) is doing and are excited about it.” The Mountains-to-Sea Trail crosses North Carolina, starting at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains and ending at Jockey’s Ridge in the Outer Banks. More than 680 miles of the trail is completed, with work continuing on sections including the E&A Rail-Trail.
The building of this trail benefits all of North Carolina by “nurturing private, state and local relationships,” said Carol Tingley, NC State Parks Division deputy director. North Carolina Senator Shirley Randleman agreed, reporting that visitors to Surry County have increased by 20 percent, noting, “The real tribute belongs to (the EVTA).”
For more health benefits and fun, Tingley encouraged those present to log this .8-mile trail at https://nc100miles.org/ to participate in North Carolina State Parks Challenge to be active through 100 miles. Participants are encouraged to walk, ride, paddle, swim, or in some other way travel at least 100 miles in a year.
Throughout the trail, placards share information about the history of Elkin as well as the environment. Benches provide places to rest for those on the trail. As a reminder of the Elkin Roots Music Festival, which will celebrate its fifth year next year, the Yadkin Valley Fiddlers entertained Sunday’s visitors to the E&A Rail-Trail. Piper Randy Tulburt awaited the crowd to lead them across the creek to the ribbon cutting for the new 178-foot footbridge over Big Elkin Creek, which lengthens the trail northward.
In 1977, Howard Lee initiated the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. With the 40th anniversary next year, Elkin will host several events including the Gathering of the state Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in March at which time participants will be able to register for the Sept. 9 attempt to have the entire trail in use. Learn more about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at www.NCMST.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Twitter @TBeanieTaylor.