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LETTERS / NC’s Parks and Trails for Health (PATH)

Dear Editor,
The past six months have vividly demonstrated how important access to public lands is to the physical and mental health of all North Carolinians. Blue Ridge Conservancy has been inundated with stories of individuals and families who are grateful to have greenways, State Parks and State Trails where they can spend time in the outdoors while practicing social distancing. However, reports that our State Parks turned away visitors because parks were at capacity show that additional investments in public lands are desperately needed.
This week the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes to decide how to apportion approximately $900 million in federal COVID relief funding. Governor Roy Cooper has proposed spending $20 million of those funds for an innovative jobs and health initiative known as Parks and Trails for Health (PATH). The Governor’s proposal will address needs at State Parks and Trails caused by the high demand and record visitation levels. Specifically, Grandfather Mountain, Elk Knob, New River and Stone Mountain State Parks will benefit greatly from PATH. Eligible uses include trail construction, trail maintenance, safety and health maintenance needs, temporary employees for cleaning and safety and other uses that promote health and safety in our State Parks.
I urge you to contact your State Representative and State Senator to ask them to include the $20 million PATH initiative in the State Budget for spending the federal COVID relief funding. Not only will PATH provide all people more places to safely recreate outside, it will also provide needed jobs at the same time. Locally, State Representative Russell and State Senator Ballard have been consistent supporters of land and water conservation. Their contact information is available at https://ncleg.gov/. Time is of the essence as the Legislature convenes on Wednesday, September 2, for a session that is reported to last only two days.
Please help us stand up for our State Parks and State Trails!
Charlie Brady
Executive Director
Blue Ridge Conservancy