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Outdoors WCU new trail system completed and open to the public

Sae Smyrl and his dog, Una, and Stephen Benson and his dog, Adele, take an inaugural hike on the Western Carolina University trail system. The 6.7-mile trail, with two access points, is formally open to the public.Western Carolina University’s new trail system is officially open and ready for bikers, hikers and runners. About 100 people turned out Saturday, Feb. 23, for an outdoor campus celebration to mark the trail’s formal opening.

The trail features 6.7 miles of narrow, single- track trail that Nick Bragg, a senior from Abingdon, Va., says is full of “flowy terrain, short burst climbs and wide smiles.”

“Most would say they love the view from the switchbacks, but I love the climb that starts with a bang right out of the parking lot,” said Bragg, who is majoring in engineering technology and serves as president of the WCU Cycling Club. “It is a little heartbreaker and gets the blood moving.”

Volunteers help build the new trail at Western Carolina University. Photo by WCU student John WitherspoonThe trail system is accessible from two points: The parking lot of WCU’s new Health and Human Sciences Building on Little Savannah Road and the pedestrian tunnel under Highway 107 near WCU’s softball complex. The access point through the tunnel connects users to the trail via property of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching.

The trail took approximately one year to construct and was built with support from a $75,000 grant from the North Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation’s Recreational Trails Program and a $5,000 award from Specialized Bicycle Components. A $14,440 grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation in 2009 funded initial development of a master plan for the project. WCU students and community members completed more than 1,500 hours of volunteer labor to help finish the project, said Josh Whitmore, associate director of outdoor programs at WCU and project coordinator.

Chancellor David O. Belcher and Josh Whitmore of Western Carolina University cut the ribbon at a Feb. 23 event to formally open WCU’s new 6.7-mile trail system. Holding the ribbon at left is Sam Miller, vice chancellor for student affairs, with son Zane.“We’re really excited to be wrapping up the construction phase of this project and open the trail to the public,” said Josh Whitmore, associate director of outdoor programs at WCU and coordinator of the project. “This whole concept has been about five years in the making, and the construction phase alone has been under way since April. Overall, it will be a great resource for the university and the region.

For more information, including a map of the trail, click on the “WCU Trail System Info” link on the Base Camp Cullowhee website at basecamp.wcu.edu or contact Whitmore at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or (828)227-3466.


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