UNC’s Outdoor Education Center breaks new trails on campus

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UNC students now have more trails to choose from for walking, biking, and hiking.

The outdoor education center is developing a network of trails that will stretch nearly 4 miles when complete, which is expected to be this summer. The trails include features such as jumps for mountain bikers.

The Outdoor Education Center’s new multi-use trails are just a few of the many on and around the UNC campus. Carolina North Forest, for example, is home to around 18 trails for mountain biking and hiking.

David Rogers, director of the Outdoor Education Center, said more than 2 miles of the new OEC trail system has been completed so far.

“It’s a great place to be and a seven-minute walk from the Student Union,” Rogers said. “As far as multi-use trails go, it’s fun for everyone.”

He said the trails are part of a three-phase plan under the OEC, which is a 67-acre facility of natural space for the campus community. The project was launched in the fall of 2019 and the first two phases of the project have been completed, Rogers said.

Trail Science, a group of community trail builders in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area, helped build the OEC trails.

“They use the natural topography of the land that we have to build on,” Rogers said. “We stay high on the base so we don’t descend into wet areas, and design the trail to follow the most aesthetically pleasing course.”

Chris Francis, a leader of the Trail Science group, said he has been working on the trails for two years.

Community members who are part of Trail Science come to the OEC every weekend to build, Francis said. The group offered to build the trails at no cost and collected donations to cook meals for those working on the trails, he said.

“We love it, it’s my favorite thing to do,” he said. “You go out early with good friends and new people that you haven’t met, and you just build something outside and it’s really fun.”

Francis said Trail Science plans to continue building the trails for free because many of the community members who build the trails are mountain bikers who plan to use them when completed.

“The reason we wanted to build (the OEC trails) is because we are mountain bike riders from Chapel Hill, and we wanted to control what kind of trails were built there,” he said.

Russell Hobart, assistant director of climbing programs, said some community members have expressed a need for the routes to be safe and not too dangerous for students.

“(We were) making sure that trail signage was appropriate and that we had everything we needed to get maps so people could get around, or if someone had an injury – that they would have the resources to solve it,” Hobart said.

The multipurpose tracks are open to the public. Trail Science hopes to cover the remaining miles over the next four months, Francis said.

For more information on the course of the trails, visit the campus recreation website here.

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