'); } -->
By percentage, it’s barely a fraction of the overall trail space planned to connect the Carolinas. But for Belmont, planners say, trails surrounding Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden could be a significant step in the right direction.
“It’s really about connecting the community,” said Cynthia Klemmer, education director at the garden.
Garden staff members, along with Andy Kane of the Catawba Lands Conservancy and Randi Gates with the Carolina Thread Trail, updated about 30 people last week on progress being made with two stretches of trail near the garden that should open by next spring.
One, a 2.3-mile natural surface trail with three wooden bicycle/pedestrian bridges, will hug the lakefront near the garden; construction is expected to begin in November.
Funded by a private grant and federal money, the trail will have a hard-packed dirt surface and be three-and-a-half feet wide. At its closest, it will be just 30 feet from the shoreline.
“A lot of people will be able to access the property that haven’t been able to before,” Kane said.
That main trail, part of the 77-acre Seven Oaks Preserve, will stretch roughly from Worrells River Road to South New Hope Road. A half-acre trailhead will include about 20 parking spaces on the South New Hope end. Also connecting both ends will be a 1.2-mile stretch of trail placed by, and circling, the garden.
“During open hours, at least, you can do a loop around the garden,” Klemmer said.
Leaders expect that the established draw of the garden will help promote the trail, but eventually that the trail might reciprocate.
“The trails will attract a lot of people to the garden, too,” Gates said.
The Seven Oaks trail is seen as a major connection between the Carolinas in a proposed trail system that will stretch 1,500 miles — about 78 square miles in overall area — across 15 counties in both states. In all, the Thread Trail will serve an area with about 2.3 million people and has commitments from more than 70 municipalities.
And one of the leaders, Kane said, is Gaston County.
“This is going to be a huge change for the Gaston County community,” he said.
November marks five years of the Carolina Thread Trail project. In that time, Gaston County has been active with 116 miles of future trails already planned. Of the 1,500 overall trail miles planned, 10 already are on the ground in Gaston County. Which may not sound like much, until compared with the remaining counties.
“We have 97 on the ground,” Gates said. “We’ve made a lot of progress, but we have a lot of work to do.”
Highlighted by the Democratic National Convention, Gates said, the Thread Trail is having work done on a new website feature allowing people to search area trails by criteria — natural surface, sidewalk, parking areas, etc.
Potential trail passes are studied in quarter-mile wide areas while the actual walkways are just a few feet.
The larger area allows the trail to find landowners willing to participate.
“It’s the public determining what trails they want and what sites they want connected, as well as where trails could potentially be located in the future,” Gates said. “It’s all community-driven.”
At Seven Oaks, much of the remaining work includes land clearing.
“It’s a gorgeous area,” Kane said, “on most of it.”
Volunteers are helping to remove non-native plants with goals of replanting native ones, maintaining homes or residents like box turtles, marble salamanders and more than 40 native trees.
So, too, are goats brought in to devour the biggest problem, something that could take several more years.
“Kudzu is public enemy number one,” Kane said.
“The goats are our friend.”
Three to five years is an “achievable” goal to eradicate acres of kudzu, while herbicides may be needed “in some spots,” he said.