Highlands Plateau Greenway closes in on finishing trail extension

Building a trail is a methodical-laborious process, but that didn’t stop a slew of volunteers who showed up to Highlands Plateau Greenway’s workday last month to get their hands dirty for a good cause.

“It’s great, we’re out here in the woods to support the community, it’s really fun,” said Volunteer Andy Schmar who spent his Saturday morning working on connecting the Mill Creek portion of the Greenway off Oak Street in Highlands.

Hours in the woods can change a person, pictured above from left are Volunteers Ran Shaffner and John Akridge blowing off some steam at the end of a long day on the trail.

Volunteer Phil Miller said he’s proud to be a part of a walking and hiking trail system throughout Highlands.

“It’s satisfying to know that we’re helping to make the trails within Town,” said Miller. “Plus, we’re out in nature and it’s a great group of people.”

Volunteers made a lot of headway in connecting Mill Creek to Oak Street and hopes to complete it on the next trail workday on July 20.

Volunteers brought rocks from Oak Street down the trail to be set by other volunteers.

The HPG is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop a system of walking and hiking trails that protect and connect the natural settings and historic sites of the Highlands, N. C., area, said newly elected HPG President Sonya Carpenter.

The Greenway is intended to be a locally owned and managed trail system for walkers and hikers of existing and planned paths along a continuous, safe, and green route.

The trail system is easily identified through signage, maps, and user guides; and designed to promote the public’s enjoyment and appreciation of the natural and historical environment, as well as quality of life on the Highlands Plateau.

After rocks are dumped onto the trail, volunteers spread them out to give the trail a good foundation.

Carpenter said June’s trail workday accomplished a lot through the hard work of those who dedicated their time.

“Some of our great volunteers worked on installing new railings to assist hikers on the stair portions of the Big Bear Pen trail (an ongoing project),” she said. “Others made great headway working on the Mill Creek connector trail. A few of our volunteers cleaned up the landscape by our gazebo by weeding out nonnative invasive plants and pruning back vegetation that encroached upon the trail.”

Carpenter added that HPG is an all-volunteer organization with wonderful, hardworking volunteers who have worked long-hard hours for many years to build the Greenway and maintain it. 

“In particular, I would like to recognize Ran Shaffner and Hillrie Quin who together launched this Greenway and have nurtured both the project and the volunteers for over 12 years,” she said. “In addition, I would like to thank Jim Ward as our trail work organizer (Trail Boss). Jim does a great job of organizing our volunteers to make the most of their valuable time and accomplish great work on the trail.”

Volunteers were spread throughout the trail including Canty Worley trying to rake that last spot before the haul of rocks travels by.

Ward said he enjoys working outdoors and spending time with good people.

“Most of us are from somewhere else, but we like coming here and hanging out with great people,” he said.

For more information about HPG, join them on the Kelsey Trail hike on July 5, or sign up to volunteer at a Saturday workday (third Saturday of each month).

From left are Volunteers Ran Shaffner and Jim Chance who was voted Trail Worker of the Year at HPG’s annual meeting.

Rocks were loaded on Oak Street to be taken down to where the extension of the trail is being built.

Article and Photos by Brian O’Shea
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