Spencer Woods project wants feedback on proposed trail

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 18, 2012

By Emily Ford
SPENCER – Take a hike.
The town of Spencer and the LandTrust for Central North Carolina want nature lovers to hike a proposed trail blazed through Spencer Woods, then share their opinions about the experience.
The trail is blazed in red survey ribbon. Laminated maps have been posted on the property to orient visitors, who can access the trail from Rowan Avenue.
“It was laid out very well,” said Bob Pendergrass, LandTrust board member and Nature Center supervisor at Dan Nicholas Park. “It winds and turns and climbs and twists and makes you feel like you are out on a very much larger piece of property.”
Hiking the trail takes about an hour, Pendergrass said.
The LandTrust and Spencer will host a community forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Spencer Fire Station, 208 S. Salisbury Ave., to review the proposed trail layout and temporary parking plans for Spencer Woods.
On the day of the forum, Pendergrass will lead guided hikes of the proposed trail between noon and 2 p.m. and again at 5:15 p.m.
People must make reservations for the guided hikes by emailing landtrust@landtrustcnc.org or calling 704-647-0302.
First-time visitors to Spencer Woods, a 42-acre passive park within walking distance of downtown Spencer, are in for a surprise, Pendergrass said.
“It is just a gem,” he said. “Beautiful old hardwoods tower around you, and there is a lot of diversity just within a small piece of land.”
While the hike is not strenuous, the LandTrust cautions that the trail has not been cleared or constructed yet, and users may have to walk through and around brush and fallen trees, wet areas, down steep grades and navigate other common impediments in uncleared natural areas.
The LandTrust and town want feedback to make sure Spencer residents have a say in what eventually will be their park. The town is buying the forest from the LandTrust, which saved it from clear cutting last year.
“The purpose of the hearing is to give the public the opportunity to experience, review and give feedback on the proposed trail layout,” LandTrust Executive Director Jason Walser said. “All are invited to attend.”
Like many who have driven past the wooded area for years, Pendergrass said he knew the forest existed but didn’t realize the jewel hidden in plain sight.
The interior trail maintains the primitive beauty of the property and stays away from residences.
“It feels like a nature hike,” said Pendergrass, chairman of the Spencer Woods Trail Committee.
The trail design is based on a concept developed by the N.C. Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects at a Spencer Woods planning charrette held last January.
Five volunteer landscape architects from across the region converged in Spencer for the three-day design workshop.
Jeremy Early, a private trail contractor, blazed the trail. Students from Dr. Jay Bolin’s GIS class at Catawba College helped position the layout and create project maps, said Andrew Waters, operations director for the LandTrust.
With help from the LandTrust, Spencer last year won a $200,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to buy the property.
The LandTrust purchased the forest from Craft Development, a Charlotte-based real estate development company that had planned to clear-cut the land, for $645,000.
The LandTrust is waiting for an appraisal and paperwork to complete the sale to Spencer, Waters said.
In February, the town and LandTrust will collaborate on another grant application to the trust fund for money to implement more parts of the design, including simple footbridges, boardwalks and an outdoor classroom.
The LandTrust will set up a nonprofit board to manage Spencer Woods, similar to the management of Hurley Park in Salisbury.
While leaders are optimistic about landing a state grant to implement the plan, they will need donations to come up with required matching funds, Waters said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.