Summer Snowball

trail feature collage 5It seems like our long, cool spring came to an abrupt end this year, and we’ve been slammed into intense summer heat.

Usually this kind of heat tends to slow things down, forces us indoors and impedes growth. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with our as yet unnamed “Trail Project.” It’s snowballing.

For years Lyle has been pestering us to build a “Nature Interpretive Trail.” He’s a Richard Louv fan—the guy who coined the term “Nature Deficit Disorder” and the author of Last Child in the Woods.

Lyle’s idea was that we would build a trail that would circle The Plant, which is the “Eco-Industrial Park” we inhabit.

We work at the Plant on a daily basis. So maybe we lost sight of the fact that a trail traversing our sustainably farmed vegetable fields, an orchard, woodlands, specimen trees, herb gardens, a creek, our constructed wetland, solar panels and greenhouses, would make for a really unique spot to walk. To us, it just looks like home.

It also looked like lots of poison ivy, ticks, and hard work. And at Abundance we are busy. Plus, Lyle bothers us with lots of ideas on a regular basis, and we usually find we are better able to get work done by ignoring his suggestions.

Enter Lexie Wolf from Chatham County Partnership for Children.

She’s funded by Shape NC, which is a project of Blue Cross Blue Shield. It’s focused on promoting healthy, active lifestyles for young children and families. She was excited about the trail’s potential to not only get kids outdoors and active, but teach them about all of the components of the healthy, sustainable communities this trail highlights: physical activity, local food, water, energy, nature – and all in a compact .78 miles that even the smallest of kids can handle.

What happens when you pair a nature freak (Lyle) with an exercise freak (Lexie)? You get a project which snowballs. 

Through coercion, charisma, obsession, and sheer force of will these two have pushed in a “rough cut” of a trail that encircles all of the businesses at the Plant. Piedmont Biofarm has jumped in. The trail crosses some of their space and affords some wonderful views of their produce farm. Screech Owl Greenhouses is on board. The trail winds through their greenhouse operations. The Fair Game Beverage Company is on board. The trail will cut through their apple orchard. Piedmont Biofuels is on board. They are providing the fuel for this project. And the folks at Ecoblend are providing the bioherbicide to knock back the toxic weeds.

Arlo, Giles, Austin, and Mackenzie (all high schoolers) have provided muscle in the oppressive heat. Giles and Arlo built a bridge to get us over the spring fed creek. Jim Nitsch provided the cedar in a pinch. Bob Armantrout and Ray Robinson helped get the bridge in place, and Bob removed an offensive piece of black plastic from the wetland.

Steve Bevington helped us figure out how to handle drainage, and guided us on picking a bridge location. Trip Overholt agreed to do the finishing grade, and Luck Stone has agreed to donate many tandem loads of screenings. Leif Diamant, a local herbalist/shaman-type has taken an interest in the trail. He took a summer camp group down to the creek for an “eco-spirituality” session. This week Abundance hosted a Bikes’n’Barnyards summer camp, and Arlo led the campers on a trail tour.

This trail is getting used and it’s not even close to being finished!

Next week Andy Upshaw is bringing his summer camp out from Central Carolina Community College. He’s a big birdwatcher in our community and we are looking forward to his take on what we might do to enhance birding habitat.

As is often the case in when you dive into the woods of Chatham County, there is some trash to remove. Chatham County Solid Waste is on board with helping us sort and remove this trash such that it all makes it into the proper waste streams.

Lexie and Lyle are writing grants, tapping trail building experts, meeting with everyone from the Chatham Conservation Network to the NC Office of Environmental Education—and everyone in between. This trail thing is exciting.

There is trash to be removed, and grading to be done, and landscape fabric to be laid, and rock to be distributed and compressed. There’s signage to erect, and plant labeling, and a monster-quantity of work to be done.

But this trail is happening. Everyone who brushes up against it gets excited by it. When all is said and done this is going to be a terrific asset that will be open to the public and will provide a place to move, explore, learn and discover.

This trail is clearly the largest snowball we’ve seen this summer…

trail collage

About the Authors 

Lexie-Wolf1Lexie Wolf is the creator of Healthy Activist. She’s also a wellness fanatic, community public health advocate, mom and blogger.



LyleBook4Lyle Estill is an author and the publisher of Energy Blog. He has been with Abundance NC from the beginning, and is well known for his fanatical interest in renewable energy, conservation and our local foodshed. He helps run Piedmont Biofuels and has a passion for incubating new farms. Lyle is loved for his new ideas, his vision and for getting things done.