Expanding the Definition of Trails

Great outdoor spaces succeed because they provide the opportunity to create meaningful and memorable experiences. Crafting such experiences begin with asking —  “what will people do, see and feel in this space?” Trails, whether urban, rural, large or small, are often thought of as a connection to the outdoors that provides a recreational experience; a place to run, bike and walk. But trails can support an array of experiences other than recreation to become memorable trails; multi-dimensional experiences that tie together culture, history and education.  

Little Sugar Creek Greenway (LSCG) in Charlotte, NC is a 19-mile trail system that connects people to neighborhoods, schools, employment and retail. At a surface level, the greenway seems like a recreation amenity for the community, but if you were to analyze the greenway under a microscope, you would see layers of experiences.

Jane Wilkes Statue at Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Within the LSCG trail system is a hidden experience that celebrates Charlotte’s culture and educates users on Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s rich history. Local non-profit, Trail of History, saw the opportunity to bring awareness to the region’s past by providing a way for the community to learn and engage with the greenway in a unique way. They worked with the County and the greenway’s design team to imagine a trail of 21 larger-than-life bronze statues of the men and women who contributed to the growth of the region.  

“By placing figures of Charlotte’s past along the creek, the user follows the story of growth and development in the community. Charlotte got its start as a mill village, utilizing the waterway as a means for fire insurance. But as growth continued, the floodplains were cleared for new neighborhoods and development. A walk along LSCG is a walk through our history, which is now accentuated with the Trail of History.” — Beth Poovey, LandDesign’s Director of Greenways, Parks + Open Space

As users travel along the greenway, they are greeted by historical figures like Captain Jack, who’s known for his ride to Philadelphia carrying the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence in 1775, and Jane Wilkes, who worked to establish the first civilian hospitals in Charlotte. The most recent Trail of History unveiling was that of multiple figures memorializing Thompson Orphanage. The sculpture preserves the orphanage’s legacy, memorializing its 125 years of impactful work in the Charlotte community.

Thompson Orphanage Statue at Little Sugar Creek Greenway

The Trail of History enhances the user experience at Little Sugar Creek Greenway by layering the trail with public art, education and history. These layers have added to the value of the community amenity, which sees over 1,500 daily users. Before taking a surface-level look at a trail, dig deeper and see what dimensions can be added to create a memorable adventure for users. The Trail of History is located in Midtown Charlotte and follows Little Sugar Creek Greenway between Kings Drive and 7th and Morehead Street. Read more about the Trail and History, here.

Use #NationalTrailsDay to share your National Trails Day adventure, and learn more about how you can get involved with preserving our nation’s trails, here.

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