Trail club to inspire conservation efforts
Friends of the Valdese Rec

Trail club to inspire conservation efforts

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Only $3 for 13 weeks
Burke River Trail - Zakk Heile photo

Zakk Heile, a Draughn High School student who will be a member of the club, is pictured wearing the FVR Trail Blazer T-shirt while exploring options for the Burke River Trail corridor.

Friends of the Valdese Rec is offering an opportunity to Burke County high school students to gain trailblazing skills and learn about the environment with a new club.

In January, Friends of the Valdese Rec started building a sustainable trail at Valdese Lakeside Park. Volunteers learned there was a big difference between existing deer trails and the techniques used to build a lasting trail. A sustainable trail has minimal impact to the natural area, does not adversely affect wildlife, manages water flow and requires little long-term maintenance.

With Draughn High School students joining the trail building workdays, Beth Heile, Friends of the Valdese Rec president, started exploring ways to get trail building classes for high school students into Burke County Public Schools. The classes would provide students a skill relevant to the region and hopefully keep students in the county after graduation – either working on trails professionally or volunteering on them.

While starting the process of contacting people, schools closed, making the future of the project uncertain. Wendi Craven, a member of the Burke County Board of Education, expressed interest in exploring the idea when school resumes for in-person instruction. While Heile, Craven and DHS principal Shane Gardner were in a meeting regarding the Burke River Trail this week, they decided the best course of action for now is to start a trail building club under FVR’s guidance. In the future, it may move into a school-sponsored club, or the curriculum may be used in a new or existing class.

The trail club will include:

» Classroom work - sustainable trail layout, construction, and maintenance – using the book “Trail Solutions” as a guide

» Field work – building and maintaining trails in the area

» A process in which club members will follow the Burke River Trail’s development from start to finish, including learning how to get trail easements from property owners, meeting with officials to plan the trail corridor, laying out trail, building and beyond

» Presentations by speakers in trail related fields –planners with government agencies and private firms, botanists, trail building companies and geographic information systems map specialists

» Field trips – go hiking together on area trails to see and discuss methods used

The first meeting of the Friends of the Valdese Rec Trail Blazers Club will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Valdese Lakeside Park, located at the end of Lake Rhodhiss Drive in Valdese. This will be an informational meeting where high school students can find out more about the club and see if it is for them. Students will walk the new trail built by FVR volunteers and get a brief overview of sustainable trails. All beginning activity will take place within a half mile. After the meeting, attendees can go on an optional guided hike along other trails of the park.

The Trails Blazers Club is free to attend and is open to any high school student in Burke County. The club will meet every other week. The dates and topics will depend on work available, speakers available, meetings needed to attend and weather.

For more information, contact Beth Heile at

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