“[E]ngagement coupled with the support and technical assistance from the Carolina Thread Trail turns a line on a map to a trail on the ground.” – Bret Baronak, Director Carolina Thread Trail, Led by the Catawba Lands Conservancy
This story is an installment of our “Partnership Pairing” series powered by OrthoCarolina.
Three thousand miles of trails in 15 counties in North and South Carolina.
That’s a bold vision. It’s the vision for the Carolina Thread Trail, a regional initiative that launched in 2006 with a mission of preserving natural spaces while at the same time connecting communities in the greater Charlotte area and establishing local partnerships.
The name itself is indicative of the communities the group seeks to connect – a reference to the heritage of the textile industry woven into the history and industry of the region.
Led by the Catawba Lands Conservancy, local partnerships have established 330 miles of public trails. An additional 191 miles of trails are planned over the next 5 years.
Bret Baronak, director of the Carolina Thread Trail, says it’s the connections that exist between people to the land and to their shared vision that has sown the Thread Trail initiative together.
“[E]ngagement coupled with the support and technical assistance from the Carolina Thread Trail turns a line on a map to a trail on the ground,” said Baronak.
A Vital Resource Realized During the Pandemic
If people didn’t understand the value of having and protecting trails prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Baronak says they do now.
“Trails represent access to personal wellness and play a therapeutic role,” said Baronak. “Trails have gained significant prominence throughout the COVID pandemic. So many people have discovered nature and have realized all of the benefits that trails bring to their daily lives.”
“There are so many mental and physical benefits to being out on the trail – a sense of peace, relaxation, appreciation for nature, a time for contemplation and healing and spiritual well-being,” Baronak continued. “Even if a visitor has had a challenging day, the solace … of a trail puts them at ease and in a positive frame of mind.”
“If users are in a group, trails allow for fellowship and create an environment for meaningful conversation and the opportunity to connect with each other,” said Baronak.
There’s no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” approach to trailmaking. And, the land belongs to everyone. With that in mind, the Thread Trail and its collaborators have worked to provide a wide array of experiences for explorers.
“Access for all is a key theme with trails,” said Baronak. “There are many different types of trail to suit one’s needs – paved, natural surface, paddling. Being able to walk and bike is and should continue to be a choice afforded to everyone.”
An Active Creative for an Active Subject
Baronak’s comments about how the Thread Trail has taken on new significance since the onset of COVID-19 struck a chord with us … and brought to mind Charlotte photographer Brooke Brown, who spoke with us in 2020 about her newfound passion for walking the streets of Charlotte, camera in hand, to discover Charlotte’s burgeoning mural culture and share her experience through the art of photography.
“COVID brought many shut-downs, but public art was still on full display,” she said. “I loved walking, running and driving around town looking for and photographing Charlotte’s murals. The scale, the technique, the materials, the design — it all fascinates me.”
In thinking about how to make the trail come alive for this installment of our Partnership Pairing series with OrthoCarolina, we knew Brown was the right person to hit the trails (again, camera in hand) to capture one of the Thread Trail’s many offshoots – the West Branch Nature Preserve Trail located at the end of the West Branch Rocky River Greenway in Davidson, NC. You can see a beautiful collection of the photos Brown captured below.
The nature trail connects with the West Branch Rocky River Greenway to ******* and also features an observation deck for viewing the wetlands. The trail encircling the wetland was named after Roy Alexander of the Davidson Lands Conservancy to honor his commitment to conservation. Visitors can see mature trees, numerous bird species, beavers and more. Nearly all of the amphibian species native to the Piedmont of North Carolina can be found here.
“My dogs and I loved this trail,” Brown said. “It’s an easy drive from Charlotte and the leaves are so beautiful this season. The leaves are both on the trees’ branches as well as on the ground — so it was beautiful to see them above us and hear them crunch below us. The trail is shaded/tucked in the trees, so it would be a perfect hike in the summertime, too.”
NOTE: Brown donated her time for this photoshoot to fund two $250 HUG Micro-Grants.
Get Out There … And Get Involved
In addition to hiking, running, walking and biking, here are other ways Baronak offers to weave the Thread Trail into your life:
- Volunteer for trail maintenance and upkeep of our conserved properties
- Contact Thread Trail staff and share any concerns and joys about your trail experience
- Continue to state to your local elected officials the importance of trails
- Attend public meetings, and never hesitate to drop a message to local staff, councils and commissions how trails represent a valued amenity
Baronak says the success of trails lies at the local level: “Grassroots support of trails throughout our numerous cities and towns helps bring a much larger system to reality – relatively speaking, we should ‘think globally, act locally.”
Photo Tips from Brooke Brown
When embarking on the West Branch Nature Preserve Trail … or any one of the incredible paths on the Carolina Thread Trail – here are some pro tips from Brooke Brown.
What to Bring … (P.S. Your Phone is OK!)
The best camera on the trail is the one you have with you — whether it’s a fancy camera with interchangeable lenses or your cell phone or something in between. [Anyone else love their Polaroid camera like I do mine?].
Experiment with Framing
- It’s fun to take different types of shots to remember where you’ve been.
- Try wide shots to capture the full scene of the sky, trees and trail
- Add close-up shots of things you enjoyed seeing, like a leaf, or some moss or mushrooms on some bark.
- If you’re using your cell phone, move closer to the subject physically rather than zooming in by pinching or hitting (x2) … that just makes the photos grainy and low resolution.
- Mix up how you frame your shots — sometimes have your subject be in the center of the photo and other times use the rule of thirds to offset what is most important.
- It’s also fun to use “leading lines” as you frame your shot, so include the lines of the trail, the lines of a bridge, or even the lines of a bench.
What Time of Day to Go
- Timing is everything. The prettiest light for photos is the first two hours after sunrise and the last two hours before sunset.
- During these “golden hours,” the sun isn’t quite so high so the light is softer and warmer.
- With that said, any time you are free to get outside is a good time!
Photo Gallery from Brooke Brown
Brooke Brown: INSTAGRAM
The Partnership Pairing series is powered by OrthoCarolina.
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