On Saturday afternoon, the town of Hillsborough will officially open its completed 1.8 mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail – some 672 miles of dedicated hiking path that will make it possible to trek from one end of the state to another.
The Hillsborough Riverwalk trail snakes along the Eno River from Gold Park to the Occoneechee Speedway.
“In Hillsborough, we pay attention to our heritage – and Riverwalk connects our historic places, diverse cultural histories, and natural heritage all along the Eno,” Mayor Tom Stevens said. “Riverwalk is the most significant addition to Hillsborough in the 21st century.”
Twenty years ago, town planners envisioned an Eno River corridor for walking and hiking trails. After a 2001 feasibility study and nearly a decade of planning, the Riverwalk project was added to the Hillsborough Community Connectivity Plan, adopted in 2009.
“It seemed far-fetched at the time,” said Margaret Hauth, current planning director. “We hadn’t built our first park yet – not even a playground.”
Although the feasibility study recommended a route, Hauth said another was chosen. “A property owner, whose land had been unavailable, changed his mind,” she said. “Then an adjacent owner did the same. It changed everything.”
Saturday’s celebration will serve as the formal grand opening for the greenway along the Eno River.
Three “welcome stations” will be located along the trail:
• Downtown Welcome Station – The main welcome station will be in the parking lot between Weaver Street Market and Eno River Parking Deck, off Nash and Kollock streets. Weaver Street Market is located in the Gateway Center, 228 S. Churton St.
• Eno River Farmers Market – In the Farmers Market Pavilion, 140 E. Margaret Lane.
• Gold Park – 415 Dimmocks Mill Road.
A tree-planting ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. at the main entrance to Riverwalk (at the end of Nash and Kollock Street), and then Stevens will make remarks recognizing contributions to the trail. Other activities will follow the ceremony at the two other welcome stations, including puppet making for the upcoming Handmade Parade, bike decorating, live music and a scavenger hunt.
A schedule and map of activities for the day will be available at each welcome station, as well as information about Hillsborough. Participants are encouraged to bring refillable water bottles to eliminate the excess use of plastic water bottles. Water fountains are available at Gold Park and the Hillsborough Visitors Center, 150 E. King St.