Volunteers making big progress building Kelsey Trail loop

Volunteers have been working diligently since late 2020 to build the Kelsey Trail into a hike-able loop. Kelsey Trail is owned and maintained by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust and is located at the end of 5th Street in Highlands.

Pictured below is the HCLT’s Kelsey Trail where volunteers have been working hard throughout the past year to build the trail into a loop. The current trail extends from 5th Street to Sherwood Forest Road in Highlands.

The existing Kelsey Trail begins on 5th Street and extends to Sherwood Forest Road. Volunteers from the HCLT and Highlands Plateau Greenway are in the process of building a quarter mile of additional trail stretching from Sherwood Forest Road and connecting to the existing trail. The loop is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

HPG Jim Chance has been out working on the trail almost weekly and often brings volunteer students from Western Carolina University. Chance said the HPG first established an agreement with the HCLT last year and then mapped out an exact route for the trail addition, that’s when the real work began.

From left are Jim Chance and Travis Shelley working on building the Kelsey Trail loop.

Chance said they had to choose a route that won’t erode too badly or stay muddy. Then they cut a hole through the woods big enough for workers to access the site. After that, volunteers cleared brush, blowdowns, logs, etc. Chance said he enjoys the work.

“I like it,” he said. “It is pleasant work with pleasant people in a pleasant environment. It is also healthy as you get plenty of both aerobic and strength exercise.”

An aerial view from Sherwood Forest Road overlooking the Kelsey Trail with Highlands and Satulah Mountain in the background.

HCLT Stewardship Coordinator Kyle Pursel said they utilized as much of an old roadway as possible to minimize what needed to be removed, only dead trees were cut down, and they are using rocks to mitigate erosion. HPG President Sonya Carpenter said they are also being mindful of the watershed.

“We’re trying to put in a trail as gently as possible using volunteer labor,” said Carpenter. “We really want to encourage the community to become more invested in this piece of property and realize it’s value.”

One of the trailheads to the Kelsey Trail at the end of 5th Street in Highlands.

Carpenter and Pursel said this project would not be possible without volunteers like Chance.

“Thank you for your service to our community,” said Carpenter. “It is so wonderful to have such dedicated volunteers who are willing to put the hard work in to make Highlands more accessible.”

To volunteer on Greenway Trail projects contact trial supervisor Jim Chance at (337) 344-8004 or email him at jamesallenchance@gmail.com for more information.

Pictured at the top of the article is WCU student and volunteer Stephanie Dillingham removes debris from the new trail.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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