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Spirit of Rowan: Experience the outdoors

There’s something about the outdoors that inspires, uplifts and nourishes us all.

Whether it’s a simple walk through the neighborhood or a weekend spent camping in the woods, being outdoors connects us to the natural environment and makes us whole.

In Rowan County, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a day outside. From sitting on a park bench reading a book to patiently waiting to hook a big fish while on the lake, Rowan offers a variety of wonderful activities for people eager to escape the confines of home or work.

Joe Morris, development director for the LandTrust of Central North Carolina, is an avid outdoorsman and has spent the past 28 years in Rowan County. He makes his home in Salisbury, where he was the city’s planning director before retiring two years ago.

Morris has had a connection with the outdoors since he was young. He grew up hiking and hunting in rural Richmond County.

He passed his love for the outdoors on to his son. The pair was always looking for new outdoor activities — which led to Morris getting involved with the LandTrust.

The LandTrust for Central North Carolina works to conserve the natural environment in a 10-county region along the lower Yadkin River and the upper Pee Dee River basin.

The Yadkin serves as the eastern boundary of Rowan County and, Morris said, is the county’s biggest natural asset. It supplies drinking water, recreation and is a source of hydroelectric power.

Morris loves to kayak on the river and really enjoys the Tuckertown Reservoir area south of High Rock Lake and the dam.

He was a longtime volunteer with the LandTrust before joining the organization full time. He said the primary goal of the LandTrust is to preserve natural environments as wildlife habitats, but it also works to conserve farmland and historical sites.

One of the areas the LandTrust worked to protect is Eagle Point Nature Preserve near the southeastern corner of the county. The 100-acre site off Bringle Ferry Road sits on the banks of the Yadkin River and offers peaceful, quiet walking trails. In the summer months, there is canoe access to High Rock Lake.

Sparkleberry, Black Walnut, Japanese Honeysuckle and other trees line the trails, which offer views of the lake.

After working to obtain and preserve the area, the LandTrust  transferred ownership of the site to Rowan County, and today Eagle Point is managed by the county’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Morris said it’s important to have preserved properties that allow people to reconnect with nature. With all the technology in today’s world, he said, people are becoming disconnected from the natural world.

“There’s something that’s being lost in that,” he said.

Morris referred to “nature deficient disorder,” a hypothesis that states human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a range of behavioral problems. The hypothesis was coined by the writer Richard Louv in his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods.”

And there is plenty of evidence that being outdoors is good for people’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people of all ages to get outside and do physical activities. Simply walking for 30 minutes a day can help reduce the risk of disease, control weight and blood pressure, and reduce symptoms of depression.

A brisk walk can also help prevent Type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk of heart attack, according to the CDC.

A short drive north on Bringle Ferry Road from Eagle Point is Dan Nicholas Park, the perfect place to spend a day or weekend with the family.

The park offers everything from a children’s playground to campgrounds for RVs and campers. Dan Nicholas Lake is a great spot for fishing or relaxing by the water.

Even on a chilly Saturday morning, the park is the perfect place to walk the dog or go for a jog. There are paved pathways and trails through the woods.

Sandy and Mike Drake were camping in the park in mid-January with family and friends. They’re from Concord and said they camp at Dan Nicholas at least once a month.

“it’s convenient,” Sandy said, “It’s kind of like being in the mountains and 30 minutes from home.”

She added that coming to the park gets her kids away from the video games for a few days.

Mike said people have to reserve a spot way in advance during the summer months, or they won’t be able to get one because it’s so busy.

He said Cabarrus County doesn’t offer anything like Dan Nicholas Park.

The park also has a nature center, barnyard animals and a water plaza for kids to play in. There are small, wooden cabins available and plenty of shelters for an afternoon picnic or cookout.

“Dan Nicholas is a wonderful gateway to the natural environment,” Morris said.

The city of Salisbury has more than 15 parks. The city also has 4 miles of greenways — outdoor walking paths that run through parks and other areas of the city.

Morris said Hurley Park, near downtown, is a wonderful place to visit. The park has woodlands, streams, gardens and pathways. It’s near the 41-acre City Park, which offers plenty of space for children to play.

Out Statesville Boulevard west of Salisbury is Salisbury Community Park on Hurley School Road. The park has baseball fields, a walking trail, trails for mountain biking and a lake for fishing.

Morris also said Sloan Park, in the western part of the county off Mooresville Road, is a nice spot. It has 100 acres of green space, three miles of trails, a playground and several picnic shelters. It’s also home to the historic Kerr Mill, a grist mill built in the 1820s.

In the town of Spencer, the Stanback Loop Trail runs through the Spencer Woods. The hiking trail offers residents the opportunity to be enveloped by the forest after barely leaving their driveway.

Fort the best view in the county, nothing beats Dunn’s Mountain Park. The rock quarry east of Granite Quarry rises to over 1,000 feet above sea level and offers visitors a 360-degree view of the beautiful landscape.

To the north is Salisbury and to the east is High Rock Mountain, rising up just beyond High Rock Lake. A clear day offers spectacular sights. And the giant boulders on the path to the top of Dunn’s Mountain are just as awesome as the views.

And for those who love the water, High Rock Lake is the place to go. Boating, jet skiing and fishing are all popular activities on the lake, which is one of the larger lakes in North Carolina and is accessible year round.

“It’s a critical need for us in this country to get back to the environment,” Morris said, adding that Rowan County is very fortunate to have an excellent county parks and recreation department, as is the city of Salisbury.

There’s so much to learn, and enjoy, about the outdoors, he said.

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