Mountain bikers, runners and hikers now have a place to take a break after making strenuous climbs up the Cullowhee Connector and Upper Long Branch and Lower Long Branch trails on Western Carolina University’s multi-use trail system.
Two benches donated by the Nantahala Area chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association were recently installed at the intersection of the three trails to provide a respite for trail visitors.
The donation is one of the byproducts of a partnership between NASORBA and Base Camp Cullowhee, WCU’s outdoor programming organization, that began with association members providing volunteer assistance in the construction of the trail system about five years ago, said Jeremiah Haas, the university’s associate director for outdoor programs. That ongoing collaboration enriches the programs and events that Base Camp provides for the campus community such as trail service days and trail steward training, he said.
“Many times during the year, we receive reports from local riders of fallen trees on the trail, and it is often the case that NASORBA can assist in that cleanup, helping to remove some of the burden from Base Camp Cullowhee,” Haas said. “Collaborations such as this one are a prime example of the importance of community partnerships to institutions such as WCU.”
There are natural ties between NASORBA and the university, as some members of the faculty and staff are members of the biking organization. In fact, NASORBA President J.P. Gannon is a WCU assistant professor of geology and the group’s trail liaison Peter Tay is an associate professor of engineering and technology.
Gannon said NASORBA’s mission is to aid land managers in keeping local trails fun and safe for all users via maintenance, and to advocate for new trails when appropriate. The group was organized in 2012, and each year members spend hundreds of hours helping maintain trails at WCU, Tsali Recreation Area and Panthertown Valley. Last September, the group’s members also spent two days helping clear downed trees from trails at Sylva’s Pinnacle Park after the remnants of Hurricane Irma passed through the area.