What is the Carolina Thread Trail?
The Carolina Thread Trail is a regional network of trails that connect 2.9 million people in 15 counties in North and South Carolina. The Thread Trail is an example of unprecedented regional collaboration that works to connect people and communities to nature and each other through its 1,610 miles of trails, greenways and blueways.
Led by Catawba Lands Conservancy, the Carolina Thread Trail strengthens the region by promoting economic development, education, better health and land conservation.
The Foundation For The Carolinas convened more than 40 regional leaders and organizations to determine the region’s most pressing environmental needs and concerns. From that process, open space preservation surfaced as the number one priority and the idea for the Carolina Thread Trail was born.
The Carolina Thread Trail was successfully launched in 2007 as a project focused on preserving natural corridors and connecting people to nature through a network of connected trails.
110 miles of Thread Trail are complete and open to the public.
The Carolina Thread Trail Master Plan was officially adopted by all 15 counties.
Carolina Thread Trail celebrates its 10-year anniversary and kicks off its second capital campaign.
$5 million in grants distributed to communities.
Frequently asked questions
A greenway is a paved surface trail that can be used for recreation, transportation and conservation purposes.
A blueway, or water trail, is a water path or trail that is developed with launch points, camping locations or points of interest for canoeists, paddle boarders and kayakers.
There are many benefits to having easily accessible trails in your community. Trails can do a number of things including:
- Support economic prosperity by attracting and retaining new employers to the area
- Promote tourism
- Foster the joining of diverse communities
- Serve as an alternative means of transportation
- Encourage healthy lifestyles
- Aid in clean air and water preservation
- Promote permanent conservation of nature and wildlife habitats
- Increase awareness and visitation of cultural and historical venues
- Create a sustainable Carolinas legacy for generations to come
- Educate our children and connect them to nature
Nearly 30,000 acres of open space are protected through the 270 miles of completed trail in the Carolina Thread Trail network.
The Carolina Thread Trail is leader, reference and a catalyst for trails and trail building practices in our region. As a community leader for trails, the organization works to foster collaboration and get the community involved with trails and connected to nature.
There is no exact completion date or timeline for completion of the entire Carolina Thread Trail. The completion date for the entire trail network depends heavily on the demand for trails and the initiative of the local governments, municipalities and towns to expand and complete segments of trail. So, get out and use the trails! The more people want them, the faster they will be put on the ground.
The Carolina Thread Trail Master Plan, which is the blueprint for the 1,600-miles of planned trail, identifies both pre-existing trails and greenways that have been adopted as part of the Thread Trail, as well as future routes that will link trails together. Not all trails in a community are part of the Carolina Thread Trail — only those that will serve as key connections between communities and points of interest are included, but new trails are constantly being built to expand the network and connect existing segments.
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There are currently 260 miles of trails and over 170 miles of blueway that are complete and open to the public. You can find all of these trails on our online, mobile-friendly, GPS-enabled trail map! You can use this map to find trails by location, difficulty and activity.
To develop a regional trail network, planning with the input of local community stakeholders is crucial. The planning component serves as the blueprint for how the network will be laid out. The development of a trail plan typically takes 1-2 years depending on the size of the study area.
Implementing the plan through trail construction is dependent on a variety of factors – property acquisition, funding availability, trail type (natural surface vs. paved greenway) and engineering and design of a project all play a significant role affecting the timeframe needed to complete a trail. Once a trail is fully funded, it can take on average from 3 months to 2 years to complete construction, depending on the complexity of the trail. It is faster to construct a natural surface trail than a large paved greenway.
The Carolina Thread Trail is a private nonprofit entity that has no governmental power, such as eminent domain. Any decision to exercise eminent domain is at the discretion of the community’s governing body. It is very seldom utilized for trails. While the decision to exercise eminent domain is not within the Carolina Thread Trail’s purview, our organization does not support its use for creating trails and greenways. Some local governments choose to adopt trail plans with language indicating that they will not utilize eminent domain in the development of their trails.
The Thread Trail is planned, built and owned by the communities. Community participation is voluntary, and planning is collaborative and based on citizen input. Planning guidelines encourage routing the Thread Trail across public land or rights of way or using land or rights of way acquired from willing landowners. The Thread Trail is a long-term project that is being built as opportunities for implementation of trail segments arise over time.
The Thread Trail is financed with both private donations and public funding. Our model, based on other greenway projects in the US, awards grants from an initial pool of private funding to local communities. These catalytic grants provide the incentive for planning, design, land acquisition and construction of trails, and often help communities leverage additional funds from state and federal sources.
Safety along greenways and trails is of the highest importance. Research suggests that greenways, trails and converted rail beds may actually discourage crime and vandalism in many areas. These areas no longer serve as places for people to hang out, dump trash, vandalize or engage in criminal activity because there is too great a risk that they will be discovered. There is little evidence to support the fear that these natural spaces encourage criminal activity. To read more about safety on trails, click here.
If you experience any safety concerns or unusual wildlife encounter, please contact the Stewardship office at (704)-376-2556 ext. 209.
The name, Carolina Thread Trail, is rooted in our region’s rich textile heritage. This intricate network of trails is weaving together people, communities and nature into a tapestry that will connect our region for generations to come.
The Carolina Thread Trail logo was inspired by one of the oldest, traditional quilt patterns, the Eight-Pointed Star. In quilts, a variety of shaped and colored fabrics come together to form a vibrant and harmonious whole—the individual pieces held together simply by thread. Additionally, this compass-like symbol, with North and South accentuated to represent both Carolinas, is symbolic of adventure and exploration.