DOBSON — The Surry County Board of Commissioners gave its seal of approval this month to a regional group for its trail work.
Kayla Kohlmann is the coordinator of Piedmont Legacy Trails, run by the Piedmont Land Conservancy (dedicated to preserving natural areas) and the Piedmont Triad Regional Council (a planning organization).
Kohlmann gave a presentation to the county board at its last regular meeting on her group’s work and vision.
She opened with a quote from John Muir, considered the Father of the National Parks: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”
“Trails can bring a multitude of positive benefits to a community including healthy recreation, increased tourism, economic development, increase in quality of life, environmental benefits and much more,” said Kohlmann. “Trails are a sought-after feature of home shoppers.”
Piedmont Legacy Trails is working to brand the region as a trails destination through online marketing and social media, public education, trails summits, and other efforts.
The group’s steering committee is made up of dozens of people across 12 counties, including Bill Blackely, the coordinator of the Elkin Valley Trails Association for Surry County.
Looking at the Elkin-area impact, Kohlmann said there is now a network of trails in the corner of Surry, Wilkes and Yadkin counties with the E & A Rail, Stone Mountain, Overmountain Victory and Yadkin River trails.
In October 2013, visitation on the E&A trail was only 50 people, she said. A year later, the head count was 2,200.
In the past three years, 16 new businesses have opened in Elkin (including bike shops and restaurants) that could owe some thanks to the trail system.
There has been an increase in business for paddling outfitters.
She also mentioned the start of a birding program and a hatchery-supported trout stream in the area.
For young professionals, trails are the new town square, Kohlmann said. The ones moving away from the TV are naturally congregating there to meet friends, make connections and foster pride in their communities.
A 2016 DOT study found that trails and greenways often increase property values, she said. And a Colorado study showed that every dollar spent on trails and open spaces provided $6 in public benefits.
At the end of the presentation, Kohlmann said she wasn’t there asking for any money at this time. Instead, she is seeking support from the counties in the Piedmont area. A resolution of support might help leverage funding from federal and state sources as well as encourage private-sector funds.
With a new commissioner, Dr. Gary Tilley, in his first board meeting, chair Eddie Harris explained to Tilley, “This board has been very supportive of the Mount Airy greenway and the Elkin trails.” The board has voted to contribute money in multiple years.
It takes a lot of coordination to bring these things to light, Harris said, such as getting easements for the trails. The Piedmont Land Conservancy has been a great partners for years.
The board passed the resolution of support unanimously.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.