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Gullah Trail Wins Park Service Support

The 30-mile-long North Carolina Gullah Geechee Greenway/Blueway Heritage Trail project, sponsored by the Brunswick County Branch of the NAACP, has been selected to receive project assistance from the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Program.

“This is terrific news!” said Brayton Willis, NAACP’s Chairman of the trail initiative. “The National Park Service brings to the table exceptional national experience helping local communities throughout the country to develop greenway and blueway trails, and to receive planning assistance from them is quite an honor.”

The Gullah Heritage project is one of 14 nationwide to receive the Nation Park Service’s assistance this year. NPS Project Manager Deirdre Hewitt recognized the growing use and appreciation of outdoor recreation areas. "“More people in the past year have awakened to the power of parks to improve health, wellness and community wellbeing,” she said. “We are excited to work with these communities and help provide more Americans access to the Great Outdoors.”

According to the NPS, the project goal is to develop an overall conceptual plan that utilizes public and local government input. The plan will inform a routing approach for the multi-use trail that includes an outline for marketing and promoting the many historical sites along the 30+ miles of the trail.

The North Carolina Gullah Geechee Greenway/Blueway Heritage Trail project starts at the Town of Navassa, meanders through the Towns of Leland and Belville and currently extends through Brunswick County to the City of Southport. NAACP Branch President, Mr. Carl Parker said, “Collaborating with the National Park Service along with our local Brunswick County governments, the State of North Carolina, and our local non-profits on this ambitious project will bring national recognition to our area. This award will certainly help us plant a seed, a community-based vision, from which this project will grow for our children, grandchildren and their children.”

Since February of 2020, the Brunswick County Branch of the NAACP has been engaged with Brunswick County citizens, local communities, state government agencies and local nonprofits to develop the concept of the proposed heritage trail. The trail will be useable from both land and water and will be supported by a future online digital guide. The digital guide will contain the information and resources needed for either land-based or water-based tourism and will highlight many of Brunswick County’s historical and cultural features.

“In our rapidly growing area, this unique opportunity will serve to educate our community and its visitors on the history of our people and their linkage to the Lower Cape Fear River area,” Willis said.

The proposed trail, consistent with the Brunswick County Trail Plan adopted in 2017, will accomplish the following:

  • Preserve, protect, and celebrate the important cultural heritage and historic sites located in Brunswick County while developing sustainable cultural heritage-tourism opportunities and recreation which will include the planned Navassa Heritage Trail, several proposed parks, and other important local historic venues.

  • Link into other community-based trail efforts on-going in Brunswick County such as the N.C. 211 East Coast Greenway Feasibility Study.

  • Provide a link to other important greenway and blueway network connections which currently exist or are planned by communities in Brunswick County.

The RTCA supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation. RTCA’s national network of conservation and recreation planning professionals partner with community groups, nonprofits, tribes and state and local governments to design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to rivers, protect special places, and create recreation opportunities.


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