Just a short reminder that it is the Year of the Trail in North Carolina. You can learn all about how and why and what in our previous blog detailing the Year of the Trail initiative and how Johnston County plans to be involved. One of those ways includes a monthly blog featuring a trail in JoCo. Last month's featured blog was all about Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. This month's blog is about a unique voluntourism opportunity.

What is voluntourism you ask? Voluntourism is a form of tourism in which travelers participate in voluntary work, typically for charity. Earth Day is an exceptionally good time for visitors, and residents, in Johnston County to give back to the open spaces, parks, and trails they use throughout the year to recreate, enjoy nature, and spend time outdoors with family. And what better time to volunteer to clean a trail than during the Year of the Trail?! During the entirety of 2023 we're celebrating trails, advocating for trails, and working to maintain trails in JoCo and across the state for the enjoyment of everyone!

At Countywide Earth Day Clean Up Event Volunteers Pick Up Trash on Side of Road

The Friends of Johnston County Parks is hosting their third annual countywide clean up in honor of Earth Day.  The event is a coordinated, countywide litter clean up scheduled for Saturday, April 22nd from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. The Friends of Johnston County Parks is a 501(c)3 organization with a volunteer board advocating in support of parks, open space, the arts, and recreational opportunities on behalf of all Johnston County citizens and visitors. The group’s four strategic priorities are advocacy, education, recreation, and stewardship.

The group is working with local parks and recreation departments as well as county partners, in addition to NCDOT as part of the North Carolina Litter Sweep program.  Friends is organizing and promoting the event, with clean ups happening all across Johnston County. Participating partners include Archer Lodge, Selma, Flower Hill Preserve, Bentonville Battlefield, Clayton Area Runners, Neuse River Community Group, plus Poole Family YMCA and Cleveland School Rotary. In addition, the town of Smithfield will be having its own parallel pick-up event. Below is footage from last year's event.

“We’re excited to be hosting our third Earth Day County-wide Cleanup, which presents a great opportunity to get outside and make a positive difference. We look forward to working with volunteers and community partners to coordinate efforts throughout our beautiful county,” said Sarah Bunn, the event organizer and Vice President of Friends of Johnston County Parks, “Our parks, greenways, and open spaces are an important asset and resource for Johnston County, Earth Day is the perfect time to give back and do our part to help keep them clean and free from litter for everyone’s enjoyment.”

Registration is required to participate in the event; the volunteer registration form can be accessed and filled out here. You can select a preferred geographic area of JoCo you’d like to work in as a volunteer on the form. In addition to the towns and sites listed above, Friends board members will also be leading clean up efforts at a few unincorporated areas as well. Bags, gloves, and safety vests may be provided at each location as available, but volunteers are encouraged to bring their own if they have them. 

Lastly, this month's featured trails are Clayton's Sam's Branch Greenway and River Walk on the Neuse. Sam's Branch Greenway is a 1.25-mile, 10-foot-wide paved multi-purpose trail adorned with a public art project involving local artists and school children. The recently completed Sam's Branch trail expansion project means that the trail now takes hikers and bikers into Downtown Clayton proper. Sam's Branch leads to the winding Neuse River and connects with the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse, a 4-mile section of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail that connects with other trails which go up to and past the county line. These trails meet up with other trails that continue through to Wake and Durham counties creating a continuous network of trails running over 70 miles from Downtown Clayton to the other side of the Triangle!

Year of Trail Badge on Sam's Branch Trail Biker in Clayton, NC.