The end goal of much of the work I do is to help build a culture of health. I’m interested in helping to create places where it is easy to eat fresh, healthy food and move your body and where people see the value these things. As simple as that may sound, this sometimes feels like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Helping to create the Pittsboro Farm & Forest Trail this past year felt good. We created a permanent asset for the county for healthy, active outdoor living. Through our successful trail opening celebration, we were able to spread the word around town and we hope it gets used and enjoyed a LOT.
It took almost exactly a year for us to get the trail done. When I say “us,” I generally mean Lyle, who built most of the trail himself. He did have some serious help from Trip, Malcolm, and Arlo. We were lucky to have Dashel, an intern from the UNC Institute for Environmental Studies Field Internship Program. He learned to drive the tractor, spread lots of fines, planted trees, and never once questioned Lyle’s choice of trail fashion. Here he is at left gamely simulating tree identification for the camera on a cold winter day. We also had help from Marga and Denise, from the NC Office of Environmental Education Certification Program. We had some volunteers, and some teenagers who were conscripted – “Volun-told” as Austin would say. And we had many, many generous people who donated their time and expertise throughout the year.
Our two nonprofit organizations, Chatham County Partnership for Children, and Abundance NC were working together for the first time. We discovered we had a shared interest in nature, the outdoors, and healthy living, and this trail is what came out of it. Thus far.
“Trail Muse” was the title Lyle gave me. I wrote grants, created spreadsheets, organized, coordinated, made signs. Lyle explained to me at our first meeting that my biggest job would be to keep him on task. I didn’t fully understand the gravity of this assignment. Now I do. In the year since we’ve been working on the trail, it’s true, he’s had about 1000 other ideas for interesting projects. Lyle moves through his world like a brilliant toddler in a toy store. That’s a compliment. A shiny object catches his eye. The synapses start firing…..
The best part for me was meeting tons of interesting people. I am relatively new to this community, and I feel like I got to know it much better. So many people were generous with their time and expertise and encouragement. Sometimes all you need is some enthusiasm.
We definitely got that enthusiasm a couple of Saturdays ago when we celebrated the trail’s opening and that felt great. We started the day with a fun ribbon cutting led by Pittsboro Mayor Cindy Perry and Town Commissioner John Bonitz along with his adorable kiddos.
Our partners who came and did outreach and led activities made some huge contributions to the event and we look forward to continuing to collaborating with them. Thank you to Learning Outside, Momsrising.org, Chatham County Soil and Water Conservation, Chatham County Solid Waste, Chatham County Health Department, Haw River Assembly, Chatham/Orange Sierra Club, Chatham County Fairgrounds, Chatham Conservation Partnership Shakori Hills Community Arts Center and Grand Trees of Chatham.
The Real Official impressed everyone and got everyone up and dancing. They are eighth graders, and they appeared bemused and possibly a little bit appalled about the fifty year olds rocking out to their music, but they kept it together like the pros they are. The spoken word poetry led by Gary Phillips and Paul Richmond added a lot of fun and character to the event. Food from Bella Donna and Breakfast and Beyond was delicious.
The little kids loved the Be Active Kids playmobile, and all of the activities that our partners brought with them. They reveled in unstructured play – especially mud puddle splashing and fort building – and the older ones also got to do some neat stuff like creek sampling with Haw River Assembly.
At the trail opening event it felt like we built a miniature culture of health and it was satisfying. Children were playing everywhere outside. Everyone was walking the trail, and talking about what they’d seen on it. Visitors enjoyed fresh, wholesome food from local purveyors and sampled local wines. There was music, and poetry, and dancing. The dessert truck didn’t show up and you know what? Nobody noticed.
We’re not done. There’s much more to do. We hope to connect our little trail to the Robeson Creek Greenway when the Town of Pittsboro expands it. We want to support that project wholeheartedly. We’d like to build an outdoor classroom and a viewing platform for the wetland, improve other areas of the trail, add to the website, and organize programming.
For the moment, we’re celebrating the fact that the the first phase of the trail is complete, the sun came out, and we got to play and dance with our friends and neighbors. At the end of the day, this happened: