National Public Lands Day (NPLD) was established in 1994 and is held annually on the fourth Saturday in September. This year, that was September 23rd, and Three Rivers Land Trust held a hike to the top of Little Long Mountain to celebrate the day.

National Public Lands Day celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship, and encourages use of open space for education, recreation, and health benefits. It’s also a “Fee-Free Day” where entrance fees are waived at national parks and public lands. With support from federal and state agencies, corporate sponsors, and nonprofits, NPLD ensures resilient natural spaces for generations to come, encouraging volunteering and environmental engagement.

National Public Lands Day is organized annually and led by the National Environmental Education Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service and other federal agencies. The theme for this year—30 Years of Care and Community—celebrates the 30th year of National Public Lands Day.

These are the places Americans use for outdoor recreation, education, and other activities. Public lands include national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges, forests, grasslands, marine sanctuaries, lakes, seashores, and reservoirs, as well as state, county, and city parks that are managed by federal, state, and local governments.

Three Rivers Land Trust chose to hold our NPLD hike at Little Long Mountain. Three Rivers Land Trust took out loans to purchase this property from the private landowners who had it, and we acquired it on June 9, 2011. We worked with the US Forest Service to seek funding through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and were able to finally transfer the tract to the US Forest Service on September 3, 2015.

We worked with a group of volunteers who eventually became the Uwharrie Trailblazers to build 2 miles of trail on this site over the course of 2 years, through help from an Adopt-A-Trail grant. A portion of this property is still retained by TRLT and has conservation easements on it made possible through the NC Land and Water Fund. The Uwharrie Trail section is entirely on US Forest Service land though.

We had a small group of about 7 folks join us for this hike, but it was a rainy morning as the edges of the latest tropical storm came through North Carolina. We enjoyed our climb to the top, where we stopped and rested at the trail shelter located there. There was a group of backpackers who had camped that night in the shelter and were headed on their way to Yates Place to camp Saturday night, then on to Highway 24/27 on Sunday.

We are fortunate to have public natural areas to enjoy, and I’m proud to be a part of an organization that added 8 miles to the Uwharrie Trail over a number of projects and trail building efforts. TRLT will host our 14th thru hike October 12-15 this year on the entire 40 mile Uwharrie Trail, and this event continues to gain in popularity and numbers.

It’s not often when you hike a trail that you think about why it is there or how it got there, but it’s never there by happenstance. Usually it is thanks to a group of dedicated individuals and organizations who have worked hard to protect land and create footpaths for all those who come after to enjoy.