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New nature trails will open in 2023

ORANGE COUNTY, NC – Outdoor organizations across the state are gearing up for a major milestone in the new year. Next year will be officially declared the “Year of the Trail” in North Carolina.

The North Carolina Trails System Act was signed 50 years ago, assisting the state in planning, developing and managing nature trails.

The Eno River Association is an organization working to open a new trail in time for the milestone celebration.


what you need to know

  • 2023 is officially declared the “Year of the Trail” in North Carolina
  • The new year marks 50 years since the signing of the North Carolina Trails System Act
  • The Eno River Association is working to open new hiking trails in Orange County in time for this milestone

The Eno River Association trails in the Panther Branch Natural Area have been in the making for years.

“We’re building a few miles of trails … so people can come and have fun,” said Kevin Reiner, a volunteer and board member of the Eno River Association. “In 2017, 2018 we cleared a lot. Now for the past few years we have focused on building trails, setting up the parking lot and gate and getting it ready for the public.”

Reiner is just one of many volunteers who bring new trail ideas to life, and he says it’s more work than you’d expect.

“We have to pay close attention to water runoff and drainage, finding the best areas to keep people safe when walking and making sure nothing is overhanging. There’s a lot in there. As you can see, a lot of people work here,” said Reiner.

The Panther Branch Natural Area trails are scheduled to open to the public in the first quarter of 2023, the same year Eno River State Park celebrates its 50th anniversary.

As Reiner reflects on these milestones, he recalls why he originally got involved with the nonprofit.

“I mean, I moved here about 10, 11 years ago. Ever since I’ve been here, hiking along the Eno has been a great comfort to me. It feels so good to go out into the woods and clear your head and be in nature and [give] people the opportunity to do this, more opportunities to do this. I think it’s important,” said Reiner.

With 2023 being declared the Year of the Trail in North Carolina, this is another opportunity to celebrate the importance of nature and protect and preserve it.

“During the pandemic, we saw heavy foot traffic through the state park and on many of our properties. I think opening the Year of the Way is kind of a reminder for people of the health benefits they’ve seen during the pandemic and getting outside and just giving people another opportunity to explore,” Reiner said.

The Eno River Association says large funding from corporate partners and volunteers has helped make these new trails possible.

In addition to opening these new trails, the Eno River Association is also planning other ways for people to get involved in celebrating these milestones.

The nonprofit hopes to announce these initiatives in time for the new year.

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