Highlands Plateau Greenway volunteers finish Oak Street spur

The Highlands Plateau Greenway is a trail system that connects many of the natural settings and historic sites throughout Highlands. On June 20, volunteers completed the entrance along Oak Street just in time for the July 4 holiday. HPG is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to develop and maintain this system of trails.

Volunteers finished the extension from Oak to Mill Creek last year. Last month, they put the final touches on the Oak Street entrance after planting a pollinator garden and installing a stone walkway.

Volunteers helped plant the pollinator garden at the Oak Street entrance of the Highlands Plateau Greenway. Pictured above Eric Pierson mans the drill making holes for new plants.

HPG ran into some delays completing the Oak Street project with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but HPG President Sonya Carpenter said volunteers stepped it up to put in the extra hours to finish in time for a scheduled hike on July 4.

“During the period of quarantine, in March and April we encouraged our volunteers to stay home and stay safe,” said Carpenter. “We discussed ways that we could hold workdays but maintain a safe environment by requiring masks and upholding social distancing guidelines. These limitations postponed the progress, but we were able to get the entrance completed by 4th of July, our goal.”

HPG holds monthly volunteer workdays on the third Saturday of each month. Oftentimes projects, such as the Oak Street entrance, require extra hours and additional workdays need to be scheduled to finish the job.

HPG Rick Seigle planting flowers in the new pollinator garden on Oak Street.

“We have wonderful volunteers at the Greenway, with a broad base of knowledge and expertise,” said Carpenter. “Many of our volunteers have participated in trail construction for many years and we as a community owe them a huge thank you for creating this trail system. We have many new volunteers and always welcome new members who would like to learn about trail construction and are interested in making a contribution to our community.”

Youngsters got in on the action planting the new pollinator garden.

After finishing the entrance, HPG held their annual meeting at the Highlands Rec Park and awarded Jim Ward Trail Worker of the Year.

HPG President Sonya Carpenter presents the 2020 Trailworker of the Year Award to Jim Ward.

“The trail worker of the year is awarded to an individual who has shown dedication to the HPG through work hours on the trail,” said Carpenter. “This year it was awarded to Jim Ward, who stepped up and served as Trail Supervisor. Jim helped to organize workdays. This is a big job. For each workday, he would determine what materials would be needed and get them to the site, communicate with volunteers and show strong leadership. We greatly appreciate his efforts!”

Highlands Plateau Greenway volunteers and officers at their annual meeting at the Highlands Rec Park.

Carpenter said next on the agenda is developing a loop trail at the Kelsey Trail Preserve on 5th Street, a portion of the Greenway maintained by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.

“We are looking forward to working with the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust to construct a new trail in the Kelsey Preserve, a lovely green space a few blocks from downtown,” she said. “This project is next on our to-do list.”

Map of the Highlands Plateau Greenway. The purple stripe is the loop visitors to HPG took on July 4 on scheduled Independence Day hike.

Other HPG Business

Projects from past year:

  • Kelsey Trail Hike on July 7, 2019
  • Built the new entrance on Oak Street including trail, steps and pollinator garden
  • Cleared storm damage at Rec Park Trail and Big Bear Pen
  • Planted Atamásco lilies on Oak Street Trail
  • Installed more posts and hand rails along stone steps on Big Bear Pen Trail
  • Improve tread and pruning work on the Rhododendron Trail
  • Repaired handrails on steps to Mill Creek
  • Inspect and improve drainage on trail system
  • Thanked our town employees with lunch
  • Continued Kids Hike Highlands Passport Program for Kids

 Upcoming Projects:

  • Independence Day Trail hike: July 4th
  • Dedication of the Oak Street Entrance
  • Continue installation of posts and railings along the Bear Pen Trail stairs
  • Build loop trail in the Kelsey Preserve
  • Trail maintenance
  • Create Board Walk & platform from Pierson Drive to Harris Lake
  • Update the website

Longterm Projects:

  • Trail to Cashiers
  • Bike Trails in Highlands

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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