In 2006, community leaders gave birth to a collective vision for hundreds of miles of trails, greenways and blueways connecting 2.3 million people across 15 counties in the Carolinas. Today, passionate individuals and supporters like Susanne Sellers are working closely at the local level to advance the Carolina Thread Trail…mile by mile, county by county. And for Susanne, advancing The Thread in Lincoln County is not just a passion, it’s personal.
“I wholeheartedly believe in the quality of life enhancement, the health benefits and economic value of The Thread to our community and residents,” she says. “That’s why I work so hard in Lincoln County to ensure that we are continuing the process of advancing The Thread and providing this resource for our community.”
A few years ago Susanne, who is a retired bank executive, was appointed to The Thread’s Governing Board while her friend David Clark joined the Catawba Land Conservancy Board of Directors. Not content with just being board members, they quickly set out to establish a leadership group to promote the importance of conservation and trails in their home county. And with that, Wandering Around Lincoln County (WALC) was born in 2012.
David and Susanne have been strategic about targeting a comprehensive representation of people, skills and knowledge for WALC. Local leaders, planners, community residents, politicians, business owners and corporate executives meet together regularly to share information, ideas and resources on how to enhance Lincoln County’s outdoor amenities and natural areas while promoting the economic, health and community benefits of The Thread.
“WALC advocates an important ethic to preserve, explore and make sure we are doing all we can as a community to protect the green space and natural areas in our county. The word ‘wandering’ in our name is intentional. We want people to explore and enjoy the natural areas and trails within our towns and cities, but sometimes a little aimless wandering within these beautiful places is just as restorative as focused exercise,” she says.
WALC has taken its message across Lincoln County to community meetings, business roundtables, healthcare professionals’ gatherings, and even to the North Carolina General Assembly. And, their efforts are paying off.
WALC members meet regularly with Lincoln County’s NC State Representative Jason Saine and NC Senator David Curtis; both have been helpful in advocating the economic advantages of The Thread and promoting its benefits to their Raleigh colleagues and associates. U.S. Congressman Patrick McHenry’s staff regularly participates in WALC meetings to inform the group of national legislation and efforts of interest.
The business community is also on board with WALC. Local area contractors have recently joined the group to offer expertise on trail projects. Lincoln County based manufacturing company, Blum, Inc., has engaged its employees about volunteer opportunities and has made a donation earmarked for The Thread in Lincoln County.
“Access to trails throughout the county is so important because they encourage us all to get more exercise and they preserve the natural beauty and character that we love about this region,” said Karl Rudisser, president of Blum, Inc. “Trails are a way we can invest in our future and everyone can benefit.”
Susanne agrees and leads WALC by example by volunteering to maintain trails or taking walks along The Thread regularly. There are currently 5.6 miles of The Thread open to the public in Lincoln County consisting of the Marcia Cloninger Rail Trail, South Fork Rail Trail, East Main Street Sidewalk Connection, Ramsour’s Mill Park Trail, and Sally’s Y Trail. Over 65 more miles of trail have been identified in the county’s master plan, including a cross-county trail along the South Fork River at Catawba Land Conservancy’s Viles Preserve. This portion of The Thread would consist of approximately three miles of natural surface trail, a canoe launch, gravel parking area and direct access from Blackburn Bridge Road.
Among WALC and The Thread’s other priorities is the construction of a pedestrian bridge over Forney Creek near the Sally’s YMCA in Denver and the construction of approximately one mile of additional natural surface trail along the east side of the creek on property owned by Catawba Lands Conservancy. This would continue the work of an ongoing trail corridor project that will eventually connect Rock Springs Park, Sally’s YMCA and the East Lincoln Community Center. A number of trail projects are in various stages of planning and implementation across Lincoln County.
When asked about WALC’s successes, Susanne proudly says, “Whether gathered around the lunch table or wandering its trails, at its heart WALC remains a great mix of friends who want to tout the benefits of The Thread and conservation. We care about the future of Lincoln County and it’s that shared passion that is making The Thread a reality in our communities and across the region.”