Bridge added to Northampton Nature Trail

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 11, 2006

JACKSON – The last piece of the puzzle has fallen into place for the Northampton County Nature Trail.

Last Monday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved a bid for a 160 ft. foot bridge that would complete the loop in the one mile trail.

“The foot bridge would raise the path a few feet off the ground in a wetland area that gets quite a bit of water when we get a lot of rain,” County Extension Service Director Rose Massey said.

The Cooperative Extension Service in partnership with the North Carolina Forestry Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have been working on the project for the past three years.

Construction for the trail, located behind the J.W. Faison Administrative Building on Highway 305, began to take shape in 2005.

The trail features a platform for water sampling, shelters, surface material with fossils in it and a beaver pond with an island. Extension agents are available to give tours as well.

“The trail has three focuses,” Massey said. “The first is for environmental stewardship, the second is recreation and the third is eco-tourism.”

Massey hopes the nature trail will help fight many of Northampton’s health issues related to obesity by encouraging outdoor activity.

Currently only half of the nature trail is open to the public, but has already been listed on the North Carolina Birding Trail’s web site and has hosted students and groups.

“We try to talk about the diversity we have,” Agricultural Extension Agent Craig Ellison said about giving trail tours. Ellison explained the land that the trail sits on changes in elevation, making the area rich in different species of plants and animals.

Ellison said the response has been mostly positive and that the criticism they have received has been constructive.

“People have suggested that the trails could be wider,” Ellison said.

Ellison also said there have been washouts on the trail and that there are still more improvements to be made.

Massey said that as the trees along the trail get older they will reduce some issues with the soil erosion and there are plans to place some water diversions in the problem areas.

Northampton County Public Works is providing maintenance for the trail as of now. However, in the future Massey said they will be looking to the community to help out.

Money for the project has come from grants and donations from community groups.

Massey said grant funding for the project has reached $55,000. Grants for the project have originated from the Northampton Soil and Water Conservation Foundation, North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation and the Albemarle-Pamlico Natural Estuary Program.

The Recreational Trails Program grant is the most recent allowance from the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation for the trail. Part of the money will pay for the construction of the foot bridge.

Public help has come from the Jackson Women’s Club, the North Carolina Farm Bureau and the Northampton Rotary Club. Through those groups the nature trail was able to get picnic tables, benches as well as signs and a front entrance.

Massey said there are visions for adding to the trail and the Cooperation Extension Service could pursue other grants once the current grant is done.

An official dedication ceremony for the nature trail will be held after the loop is constructed.