Hill archaeologists are working through a diverse coalition to build an obtainable trail network, civicpride-kusatsu.netover the region’s history and spur equitable economic growth in the small western phibìc Carolina city of Old Fort. The project is supported by the southern Futures initiative.

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Carolina archaeologist Jennifer Gates-Foster (pictured in the Carolina North woodland near her home) is component of a varied partnership working to ignite economic breakthrough in the town of Old Fort, north Carolina. (Photo by Donn Young)

The beauty, beauty of Old fort is in its geographic access — that is a gateway to the untapped organic resources in the 500,000-acre Pisgah national Forest.

And unequal in adjacent Black Mountain and Asheville, friend don’t have actually to get in a vehicle to navigate to a trail.

Jason McDougald, executive director that the town’s Camp Grier and also its nonprofit G5 trail Collective, paints this picture:


From left, Brett Hauk, Caleb Lightfoot and Linda Gosner (all that Texas Tech) and also Jennifer Gates-Foster that Carolina along the old carriage road in the royal Gorge in McDowell County. (Photo through Christopher Witmore)

“You have the right to be sitting at the Old fort Ride house (a regional gathering place for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts) and see people walking down the street in waders due to the fact that they’re fishing Mill Creek,” that said. “Or you can hop on your bike and in much less than a mile you on a trailhead. You have the right to stay in ~ our camp all summer long and also never touch your car.”

The famous Catawba falls trail, obtainable via an departure off I-40 close to Old Fort, winds v a mossy, shady forest, end bridges and rocks and streams, to a collection of waterfall at the headwaters that the Catawba River.

The small McDowell County town of around 1,000 citizens was once house to a prospering textile finishing plant but has seen economic decline in recent decades after the plant to be shuttered.

But what might happen if a dynamic team of leader from different disciplines reimagined a brand-new kind the future for Old Fort? How deserve to a college share its toughness in civicpride-kusatsu.netovering and also understanding history, amplifying diverse voices and helping a neighborhood tell its own story?


Project leaders have a commitment to developing outdoor accessibility for all. (Photo through Bren Dendy)

Project leader say the magic of Old ft is additionally in that is commitmentto access, to developing a sustainable future through outdoor recreation methods open to all.

Jennifer Gates-Foster, an combine professor of classics and also archaeology at Hill, is part of a groundbreaking partnership the is helping Old fort to phase its comeback.

“We want something various for Old Fort,” she said. “It’s about to step out onto a much more national phase — some folks are declaring it ‘the next good mountain town’ — and we want the future to reflect the worths of the community. It is an extraordinary place.”

Creative collaboration

Gates-Foster’s main research interests are in the archaeology the Egypt in the Hellenistic and also Roman periods; she has actually led worldwide projects in Egypt and also Israel. So just how did she get connected in a job in phibìc Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains?


Camp Grier and also its nonprofit G5 Trail cumulative are amongst the partner coming with each other to redefine the idea the rural economic development in the Old ft Trails Project. (Photo by Bren Dendy)

Gates-Foster stated she has constantly had an attention in Southern and also mid-Atlantic archaeology. She thrived up in Mississippi and once worked for colonial Williamsburg and for a cultural resources monitoring firm. Once a long-time colleague Christopher Witmore said her about a project in Old fort to increase the trace network in the Pisgah nationwide Forest, she was hooked. Witmore is an archaeologist at Texas tech University and a college friend of McDougald’s.

Through the Catawba Vale Collaborative, a number of partners space coming together to redefine landscape economic development in Old Fort. Forty-two miles of easily accessible trails room planned with a permanent project in the forest’s grandfather District. Ground will be damaged soon because that the very first six mile of trails, with a goal because that that portion to be open to the public next summer. The team is hope to lure outdoor recreation businesses come the area.

The collaborative includes a mix of university archaeologists, Camp Grier and its non-profit G5 trace Collective, the non-profit Eagle market Streets breakthrough Corporation, the ar organization human being on the relocate for Old Fort and also the U.S. Forest company Grandfather Ranger District.


The “Outdoors because that All” summit lugged together a diversity of assumed leaders, market partners, community participants and also outdoor enthusiasts to talk about how to rise equity in mutual outdoor spaces. (Photo through Bren Dendy)

The score is to determine outdoor recreation heritage that have the potential to ignite economic advance while placing the local ar to take benefit of this growth. The collaborative desires to produce a trace network the is inviting not only to outsiders, yet to the town’s citizens as well. Partners want to open access to civilization of color and to people of every physical abilities, indigenous casual hikers to avid mountain bikers and equestrians. McDougald and others recently hosted the inaugural “Outdoors because that All” summit in Old ft to bring together a diversity of thought leaders, market partners, ar participants and also outdoor enthusiasm to talk about how come work collectively to produce positive readjust and rise equity in mutual outdoor spaces.

The job is sustained by Carolina’s southern Futures initiative, a cross-campus commitment to support emerging leaders in the arts and also humanities act community-engaged scholarship.


In 2020, the organization people on the move for Old fort organized the manufacturing of a mural honoring the town’s local background that added to the national struggle for civil rights. (Photo by Lavita Logan of human being on the move for Old Fort)

Stephanie Swepson-Twitty, president and CEO the Eagle sector Streets, is a aboriginal of Old Fort and also is passionate about her job-related in helping little businesses to thrive, particularly businesses led by civilization of color.

“I’ve to be party come both a time of growth and also a time of decline in Old Fort. We need a balance that manufacturing, little business breakthrough and affordable real estate in stimulate to have actually a healthy, growing community,” she said. “With this partnership, we space a merry band of soldiers coming together and saying, ‘Let’s watch what happens if we work-related together in a bottom-up not top-down approach.’”

Understanding the previous to shape the future


Carolina archaeologist Heather Lapham (with rescue equine Peppy on an equestrian trace in Old Fort) is serving together a liaison to ensure native American voices room heard in the project. (Photo through Bren Dendy)

Gates-Foster said archaeologists are feather to i found it a “palimpsest the the landscape across generations,” civicpride-kusatsu.netovering artefacts that phone call the story the the forest and the city such as old roadways, cemeteries, traces of native American settlements and also more. This things produce an “intertwined and braided past.”

“By locating and also curating objects all yet lost among the understories that the forest — old pathways, agrarian homesteads, overgrown pastures, remnants of logging or milling to work — ours project intends to reconnect the diverse areas of western phibìc Carolina to their ground and to each other,” Gates-Foster said.

Interpretive train station in the kind of rock monuments will certainly be points of enjoy and history along the follow network and also are being planned through input native the archaeology team. A few of these will certainly be unveiled in the first six miles of the trace project, with an ext to come together funds are increased for the project.


The new trail network will be available to world of all abilities. (Photo through Hansi Johnson)

Heather Lapham, an archaeologist with Carolina’s study Laboratories that Archaeology, has additionally joined the team. She’ll it is in serving together a liaison through the Eastern tape of Cherokee Indians and also the Catawba country to certain that indigenous American voices, perspectives and also stories space heard and also represented in the interpretive stations. She has actually done extensive work in adjacent Morganton at the Berry site, an archaeological dig the civicpride-kusatsu.netovered the place of the 16th century Spanish ft San Juan and the native American town of Joara.

“What understand me is making certain that every voices space heard, not just the dominant perspective, i m sorry throughout background has to be white and male,” Lapham said. “That’s very much a unique part of this project, being open up to brand-new possibilities for what the future might look like.”

Gates-Foster added: “Archaeology is not exclusively about the past; it’s what us make the the past.”

Jumpstarting the project

Exciting things are beginning to take place for the Old ft Trails Project.

The group was newly awarded the 2021 local Foresters award from the U.S. Forest service for its work-related on the Old fort project as a “shining instance of partnership and collaboration to combine communities and connect people to the outdoors.”


Participants gather approximately a campfire at the “Outdoors because that All” summit. (Photo by Hansi Johnson)

The partners plan to work-related with McDowell Tech neighborhood College to construct a follow construction and also sustainability program. An $800,000 provide from the gold LEAF foundation will money the renovation of a structure in Old fort to develop the McDowell technology Workforce Education center which will support ecotourism. Trail advance and sustainability courses will begin at the facility in mid-2022.

At a press conference on Nov. 16, the partners will certainly annocivicpride-kusatsu.nete an update on the Old fort Trails Project and also share upcoming neighborhood meetings where input will certainly be encouraged.

After the very first six mile of trails are built, the hope is to construct six come 10 miles a year over the next five years.

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There’s a speak (highlighted prominently in a ar of the Camp Grier website) the says: “You deserve to pave the world, or you deserve to put on shoes.”

For McDougald, the mantra applies not just in the camp context, but in talking about cross-sector community engagement, too.

“I think the outdoors is a good teacher. That teaches friend to it is in adaptable and flexible and resilient. That teaches you leadership. We do things as a team — and also instead of trying to find ways come make things easy, we room looking at ways to make things better.”

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