Progress continues to be made on the Mountains-to-Sea trail vision that began nearly 40 years ago.
The Agricultural Heartland Segment, which runs through portions of Sampson County, officially opened in a ceremony April 2015. In the year since the 12th segment’s opening, Bill Scott, board member with the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, said work continues to be done. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is a statewide trail that spans from the mountains to the Atlantic Coast. A portion of that trail meanders through Sampson County.
According to Scott, the portion of the 1,150 mile trail that comes through Sampson County will allow hikers and bicyclists to explore one of the most beautiful and productive agricultural areas in North Carolina. A total of 650 miles of the trail has been completed and is open for use.
“While not much visual progress has been made, there is always progress of some kind,” Scott said in a telephone interview Monday morning. “Approximately 30-50 miles of trail are created each year.”
Scott has been diligently working with plant conservationist in the last year on allowing people to hike in the Pondberry Bay Preserve, which is located near Lakewood Country Club. Those conservationist are in the process of completing inventory of the nearly 2,100 acres.
While many Sampson County residents may know the Pondberry Preserve as the White Woods, the property sits just north of Roseboro. Approximately six to seven miles of natural surface trails cover the property.
“There is limited access to the property now,” Scott said. “We are hoping to have the property open so that anyone can hike those trails. But, there is a lot to consider before just opening the land to anyone.”
Developed by the FMST, the Coastal Crescent Trail serves as an option in eastern North Carolina for hikers who have an interest in completing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Until the full trail is completed, the alternate option is available. To date, the trail is about two-thirds complete.
The portion of the trail that comes through Sampson County encompasses secondary roads and approximately 56 miles of trail. The current trail does go through the downtown areas of both Newton Grove and Roseboro, bringing many of the hikers right into the heart of Sampson County towns.
“The trail brings tourism to the county,” Scott noted. “As people come through, they will spend money, and there is unlimited recreational potential with the trail.”
According to Scott, the Coastal Crescent Trail route will connect Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston and New Bern, following the Neuse River. The segment of that trail that goes through Sampson County will begin in Johnston County and come through Newton Grove, skirt around Salemburg and back through Roseboro.
The Coastal Crescent Trail enters Sampson County near the Bentonville Battleground area outside Newton Grove, extending south toward Clinton before cutting to the west toward Salemburg and Roseboro. The trail will cross both the Little Coharie Creek and Great Coharie Creek and exit at N.C. 242 at the Cumberland County line, progressing towards Suggs Mill Pond in Cumberland County and on to Bladen Lakes.
Sampson County’s portion of the trail offers a vast array of farmland that spreads across the county for hikers to see, including tobacco, cotton, sweet potatoes, hogs, turkeys, cattle, soybeans and timber.
“This has been a long term project,” Scott said. “While we don’t see a lot of impact now, eventually the economical impact will be substantial.”
Sampson County’s portion of the trail is being used by local hikers, and in fact, about 10 hikers have made the entire trip from the mountains to the Outer Banks. Once the final word to open the Pondberry Bay Reserve to the public is made, Scott said there will be nine miles of marked trail that winds through the woods — a perfect day hike for those looking to hike in their backyard.
Guides are available at www.ncmst.org and are constantly updated with trail additions and changes. Those guides not only provide hiking information, but Scott said lodging options and locations to replenish supplies are also listed in the guide.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.