Chapel Hill: Sports

Recreation: Trailheads provide big bucks for Little River

Little River Park Supervisor Mike DiFabio
Little River Park Supervisor Mike DiFabio RANDY YOUNG

In the immortal words of Bull Durham’s Crash Davis, “A player on a streak has to respect the streak.”

Simply put, the TrailHeads’ Little River Trail Run co-race directing duo of Layna “Willow” Mosley and Dave “booda” Elam are on wicked winning streak. The team is what Little River Natural Area in northern Orange County might call “money in the bank.”

At last Thursday night’s volunteer appreciation and donation event hosted by Balanced Movement Studios and Proaxis Physical Therapy, the TrailHeads presented Little River Natural Area supervisor Mike DiFabio and park manager / conservation technician Michelle Pesavento with a contribution of $10,000, a release stated. The donation, representing proceeds from the race in January was the largest to date, bringing total proceeds since the race’s inception to well over $50,000.

“When I first co-directed the event five years ago, we donated $5,000,” Mosley said. “Last year, we gave $8,000, so there’s been a steady increase.”

Mosley is quick to credit a number of reasons for the increase in good fortune.

“Mostly, the reason that we’ve increased the donation every year is because we’ve increased our numbers,” she said. “Some of that is because of an increased interest in trail running.”

Founded in 2006 by TrailHead John “Skwryl” Strange, the first Little River Trail Run event hosted just 300 runners. In 2014, registration reached 650, Mosley said, which reflected a new high for the race.

“We were turning people away in the last week,” Mosley said, adding that the TrailHeads really wanted to concentrate their donations on the park itself this year. “This year we really wanted to give a $10,000 donation.”

The Little River 10-mile and 7K (4.3-mile) Trail Runs take place each January on the forested single track trails through Little River Park Regional Park and Natural Area. located off Guess Road in northern Orange County.

Managed by Orange County, the park offers nearly 400 acres of natural area, comprising a campground, an event space, a butterfly garden, a playground and picnic shelter, horseshoe pits and bathroom facilities. Its pristine natural area includes nearly 15 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails.

The race was founded and is staged by the TrailHeads (, a local group of running and outdoor enthusiasts dedicated to introducing others to the joys of the trails, and to being stewards for the creation and protection of those same resources.

Proceeds from the race benefit the park generally, and trail-building and maintenance specifically. Over the course of nine years, the donated money has been used for a variety of enhancements at the park.

“They’d bought a new Gator (utility vehicle) back a few years,” Mosley said, “and they recently bought a new mower and upgraded the plumbing facilities in the bathrooms. I also think they use it for some of the programming they put on, like nature programming and stargazing with Morehead Planetarium.”

Elam said donations were especially important for areas like Little River.

“We expect our tax dollars to cover these costs, but in recent years, declining tax revenues have forced governments to shift-funding from niceties like parks to necessities like fire protection,” Elam said in the release. “Organizations like (the TrailHeads) can help. In the case of the park, our events have provided funds that support programing that otherwise would have been eliminated or covered with access fees.”

In addition to the donations to Little River, contributions have also been made to Triangle Off-Road Cycling, which has received over $3,000 in funding from the TrailHeads’ race over its nine-year history.

Mosley recognized the volunteer spirit of the TrailHeads themselves.

“Our volunteers make race directing easy,” she said. “We count on fellow TrailHeads to work behind the scenes and on race day, and they do so without fail and with smiles.”

The TrailHeads also were grateful for the involvement of sponsors, including Balanced Movement Studios / Proaxis Physical Therapy, the Open Eye Café / Carrboro Coffee Roasters, Fleet Feet Sports Carrboro and Durham, and Montrail.

A new element this year was a training program created by Fleet Feet Sports and Montrail to introduce people to trail running, the release said. The program had approximately 50 participants, most of whom ran Little River as their “goal race.”

Mosley predicted good things for the Little River Park and the TrailHeads’ annual Trail Run in 2015 and beyond.

“The park’s concern is just fitting people in – that they will carpool so that we can park them in a way that doesn’t require use of another field,” she said. “I think we had just 300 cars including volunteers. They park has said, that if we wanted to go to 700 participants next year, we could do it.”

Next up for the TrailHeads will be their annual Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs at Carolina North Forest. The seventh edition of this event will take place on May 3, generating funds for the Carolina North Forest, where TrailHeads and many local outdoor enthusiasts enjoy a network of natural trails.