Friends of the MST Board Meeting – A few gems

Move over Wilbur and Orville. You’ve had a good run with “First in flight” but now North Carolina will be known as the Great Trails State.

That was one of several exciting developments at the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Board meeting today. Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the MST talked about a coalition of three trails, the North Carolina Trails Coalition, in or passing through our state.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, of course, is one trail, going from Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 1,000 miles through North Carolina to the Outer Banks. The Carolina Thread Trail, based in Charlotte, is the second. A 2,900 mile project, the East Coast Greenway, is slated to go from Maine to Key West – an ambitious undertaking.

I like to think about trails in terms of hiking or biking. But it’s more than that. These trails connect places and pass through or close to where more than half of the NC population lives. Trails improve the economy and offer jobs. At its simplest, let’s think about the number of visitors who discover the white circles on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The meeting hosted two guests, Brad Ives, Assistant Secretary of NC DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and Mike Murphy, Director of the Division of Parks and Recreation.

Murphy, on the job just 14 days, has already seen that people are passionate about our state parks. But with the reality of budget cuts, there has to be additional ways to generate revenues. Yep, the national parks have learned a while back that they need friends.

Another exciting development. The NC legislature has directed a study of road signage for state parks, including the MST. Most of our state parks have at least one brown sign on the highway, directing visitors.

Not so with the MST. If you don’t know where to go on the MST, you won’t learn about it driving around. At the end of this blog post, for your amusement, I’ll print the actual signage study law. We were all pretty excited at the potential of having the general public learn about the MST, but we have to remember that it’s just a study now.

Who are the people in the photo above? From left to right, Jerry Barker, president of the Friends of the MST Board, Kate Dixon, E.D. of Friends of the MST, Mike Murphy, Director of State Parks and Brad Ives, Assistant Secretary of NC DENR. We should know who makes all those decisions about our North Carolina parks.

OK… Driving to Raleigh yesterday wasn’t that exciting and driving home was even slower, but the meeting was very interesting.


(a) The Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the State Parks and Recreation Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Commerce, and Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Inc., a nonprofit corporation, shall study the use of highway signage as a means of improving the North Carolina residents’ and tourists’ awareness of State parks, including historic and cultural sites as well as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The study shall include an examination of at least all of the following:
(1) Whether signs currently located on or near highways in this State are sufficient in number, location, and size and presentation to make travelers on the highways of this State aware of the existence and location of all State parks, including historic and cultural sites as well as the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
(2) Whether signs currently located on or near highways in this State adequately inform travelers that portions of the roads they travel on are part of the current route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
(3) What measures could be taken to improve the efficacy of highway signage in achieving the goals described in subdivisions (1) and (2) of this subsection.
(4) What the costs and benefits of implementing the measures described in subdivision (3) of this subsection would be.
SECTION 34.15.(b) No later than April 1, 2015, the Department of Transportation shall report the results of the study required by this section to the chairs of the Joint Legislative Transportation Oversight Committee and to the Fiscal Research Division.


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