Monday, October 4, 2010

An Opening and a Ceremony for a Community of Trail Builders

October 2, 2010 was a great day in these mountains.
We had a brisk 37 degrees at our place.
 I headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and from the first glimpse through the 421 bridge I knew this was going to be a good day.
 How could I pass Elk Mountain with out stopping to look out to the great beyond. I have always thought the high view from these mountains looks like the ocean. The undulating ripples of waves and waves of blues receding to the distant horizon.
 I guess that gives new meaning to the Mountains to Sea trail. Traveling north to Jeffress Park I noted several new trail heads had been designated and posts were in place in the South Ashe section.
 So here we go, off to a ceremony and celebration. Carry those flags high young man, march them forward into your generation, wave our banner, tell the world there is a new trail to be discovered here in Ashe and Watauga Counties.
 So how do you open a trail? Let's have a ribbon cutting ceremony. Why a ceremony? A ceremony is a shared experience in which a community consciously participates to celebrate, recognize, or other wise mark a cultural event. Our ribbon was supported by a standard designed and built by Jim Hallsey using the work tools of the trail. Pretty cool if you ask me.
 Here Jim is setting up his board of trail hikes he has organized for today. His granddaughter points to the trail she helped build. One thing that truly inspired me was to see so many children and grand children participating. It is indeed for them that we build trails for their future. While I am talking about kids, have you ever seen such a proud pack of Hallseys?
 There is a joy, an excitement, and grace that offers inspiration beyond words in the faces of these children.
 The Hallseys, parents, children, and grand children. Here is a family proud of the trails they have left behind and of the trails they have created for their future.

 Many old friends and MST Trail builders were on hand for this momentous event.
 Guests and friends, trail workers and family signed in and registered for the historic ceremony. I estimated nearly 200 people were present.
 State dignitaries and officials from the Park Service were in attendance as well.
 The Watauga Task force volunteers made a good showing as a team representing our sections efforts.
 The Ashe team was out in full force with over 30 of their trail volunteers making it to the Ceremony.
 I took two shots so everyone could be recognized in this crowd of trail creators. Remember, you can click the image to enlarge on this blog.
There were couples, families, folks who drove many miles to gather on this day to celebrate the opening of the South Ashe section of the MST. After photos were made dignitaries and leaders made recognitions.
 Opening comments, welcomes, and introductions were made by Elizabeh King, FMST secretary.
Remarks were made by Monica Mayr, Deputy Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, NPS.

I'm going to do something a little different from here forward in this post. Of all the words that were spoken on October 2nd, and many quite eloquently; the ones that I wish to share verbatim are those spoken by Jim Hallsey, Task Force leader for the Southern Ashe Section of the MST. With his permission to print, I will intersperse his comments with the photos.

Please welcome Jim Hallsey, Father of the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail and listen to the story he has to tell:

" Today we join in the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 33rd anniversary of the Mountains to Sea Trail and Governor Perdue's proclamation of October as Mountains to Sea Trail Month. What better time also to dedicate two new sections of the trail?

"We are here because the Parkway is here. The Parkway is here through the efforts of citizens and staff alike to preserve this great natural and recreational resource. I commend Deputy Superintendent Mayr, the Asheville staff and the District ranger and maintenance staff for supporting the Mountains to Sea Trail and our volunteer efforts to build and maintain it.

I am particularly grateful for the support of District Ranger David Bauer and District Maintenance Chief James Choate and their staff. Their efforts in recovering the parkway for public use after the devastating December ice storm were truly heroic. Doesn't this place look great? You should have seen it the day after last Christmas.
 "We are here also because North Carolina legislative leaders committed to establishing a statewide system of trails and have provided small grants to support our volunteer efforts. I am grateful for our partnership with the State Parks and Recreation Division and the State Trails Program. Thank you Deputy Director Tingley for making completion of the Mountains to Sea Trail a priority.

Thank you State Trails Coordinator Darrell McBane for managing the planning and financial process necessary to support volunteer task forces, local governments, state and federal agencies in our endeavors to realize the dream of a trail across North Carolina.

"We are here also because local leaders and citizen volunteers have embraced that dream and poured their heart into making it a reality. Are there other task force leaders here today? Steven Joines, Alleghany. Bob Benner, Central Blue Ridge? Randy Johnson, Grandfather Mountain? Bruce Wisely, Falls Lake? Thanks for your leadership!

It has been my privilege and honor to serve as the volunteer leader of the South Ashe Task Force of the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Dr. DeHart and I have been friends and colleagues for many decades. What a joy it was for me to receive the proposed trail route maps in September of 2005 and to begin with Allen the strenuous task of locating and marking the trail in the field.
 "In April of 2007 we began construction of the trail at NC 16 heading south. The task was huge and the helpers few that first summer. One workday it was just my grandson and me that came out.

Seeing our plight, Jeff Brewer, founding president and the board of the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail sponsored a three day volunteer blitz known as the Big Dig. We had 33 volunteers that one weekend and built almost a mile of trail through hard digging on steep mountain sides.

"The word spread and more volunteers signed on. There were additional Big Dig weekends in 2008 and 2009 as well as a Big Spring Cleanup of ice storm debris in 2010. Another significant boost were two grants from the Recreation Trails Program which we received in 2008 and 2009. These grants purchased the hand tools we needed to get the job done. In September of 2009 we reached US 421 essentially completing the heavy clearing and digging work.

"I am proud to say that the South Ashe Section of the trail was built entirely by volunteers using only hand tools! Like the ones you see supporting our ceremonial ribbon.
 "I hope you received a handout at registration listing all the volunteers who worked on the South Ashe Section for the last three and a half years. Everyone on that list is a hero in my mind whether they worked one day or dozens of days. Our workers included parents and children, grandparents and grand children. There were college students and retirees. Strangers quickly became friends and comrades in a goal that was bigger than any of us. I would like to recognize those volunteers who contributed more than 100 hours of trail work from 2007 through 2010.
 "Sharon Anderson, Chuck Besaw, Jan Jones, Haywood Ferguson, Bob Johnson, Lorris Pannel, B Townes, John Smyre, Bruce Wisely, Allen deHart. B, Bruce and Ken Canter did most of the initial chainsaw clearing work and Lorris did a large part of the ice debris clearing this spring. And Chuck just started this spring.
"The following volunteers contributed more than 200 hours. Barry Clemmer, Tom Dillon, Steven Mierisch. This volunteer, Keith Roberts contributed more than 300 hours including days of chainsaw clearing of the ice debris. The following volunteers contributed more than 750 hours. Don Bergey, (the de facto assistant task force leader), and Husband of Jennie (AKA Grampa of Haywood, Hallsey and Hamilton).

The following volunteers contributed more than 750 hours. Don Bergey, (the de facto assistant task force leader), and Husband of Jennie (AKA Grampa of Haywood, Hallsey and Hamilton).
 "I must thank my dear wife Jennie who has supported me and the South Ashe team every step of the way including arranging many of the details of today's luncheon. THANK YOU JENNIE!!
 "In summary, 150 volunteers contributed a total of 6,700 hours and 730 worker days in the construction of the South Ashe Section. They averaged almost five workdays per volunteer with two logging in 85 and 100 days. A conservative estimate of the value of all this volunteer time and travel expenses would be $75,000!

In the process we have become a fellowship of friends who have literally had a hand in building this trail. Many more, perhaps thousands, after today will have their feet on the trail. But you, my dear friends, can always say you had a hand in building the trail!

"Please take the opportunity to thank them for the bruises, blisters, poison ivy rashes, bee stings, sweat, tears and laughter they put into the trail you get to walk on for the first time today.

"And now it is truly my pleasure, on behalf of the 150 volunteers of the South Ashe Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail to declare our section of the trail finished. We present this trail as a gift and legacy to the people, built by the people, for the benefit of all people today and for generations to come."  ~ Jim Hallsey, Remarks October 2, 2010.

 John Lanman offered humor and fact in his comments on behalf of the Watauga Task Force.
 Dave Johnson who has served in the past as the Watauga leader made a presentation and comments about John and the Watauga Section.
 The continuing presentations and ceremony were interesting and entertaining.
 Don took the microphone and made a gifting to Jim of a placard designed and created by Keith Roberts.
 Jim is truly touched by the craftsmanship and the meaning found in this gift from his co-workers and trail team mates.
 I'd like to share the description written on the back and hope someone will send it to me (hint hint).
 Carol Tingley, Deputy Director of the NC Division of Parks & Recreation made inspiring comments about the hopes for the future of our parks and trails and officially, did I say OFFICIALLY dedicated the opening of the South Ashe and Watauga sections of the North Carolina Mountains To Sea Trail.

Oh yes, and there was a Ribbon Cutting indeed!

I love this photo, there is that moment when, after all is said, the Deed is Done!

 Food was bountiful, something for everyone in this pot luck luncheon. I kept feeling like I was at my church homecoming with all the good home cooked foods.
 Here and there were conversations and memories being made.
Jim and John had planned out a few featured hikes and soon
it was time to do what we all love more than speaking, more than eating, even more than trail building (well maybe) and that was,
time to get out on the trail and follow our paths in this present and into our future on the MST.

I hope you have enjoyed this posting, it is long for my norm. But I felt it was a momentous event for our part of the state. Thank you Jim for sharing your comments with me. Thank you to everyone who worked to pull this together as a significant ceremonial event.
Thanks to everyone who worked on these sections of the trail.

In closing, I'll offer Jim's words to our future:

We present this trail as a gift and legacy to the people, built by the people, for the benefit of all people today and for generations to come."  ~ Jim Hallsey, October 2, 2010.


  1. what a great post! It's such a great idea to put in their speeches verbatim. Danny Bernstein

  2. Congratulations on a great accomplishment and motivating story! It's impressive what unpaid volunteers can do for NC trails and parks...

  3. We've been anticipating a continuation of our westward hike from Alleghany Co. and your blog is a great announcement and send-off! Thanks so much for all your work on it AND the trail!
    Bess Cheney-Smith, Sparta area