Perhaps the best evidence of this commitment is the Little River Trail Runs, an event created by the TrailHeads – a 501(c)3 organization; see www.trailheads.org -- in 2006. The Little River Trail Runs take place each January at Little River Regional Park, located at the border of Durham and Orange Counties, in Rougemont, North Carolina. Runners who sign up for the races choose between 10 mile and 7 kilometer distances, both of which are run on the single-track trails of Little River Regional Park. Proceeds from the race benefit the park generally, and trail-building and maintenance specifically.
At last night’s volunteer appreciation and donation event, hosted by Balanced Movement Studios and Proaxis Physical Therapy, the TrailHeads presented Mike DiFabio and Michelle Pesavento, the park manager and park conservation technician at Little River Regional Park, with a contribution of $10,000. This donation, representing proceeds from the January 2014 race, was the largest to date. Over the race’s nine years, the TrailHeads have now given a total of $51,000 to Little River Regional Park. These donations fund a variety of activities and purchases, including trail building and maintenance, nature programs for children and adults, a gator utility vehicle and zero-turn mower, iPads for use in park programs, and driveway and bathroom improvements.
David “booda” Elam, race co-director since 2011 views the Little River Trail Runs as a model for how public and private groups can work together to maintain public spaces. “If resources are to be maintained for public access and use, someone has to pay for them. 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. Organizations like ours 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.”
Proceeds from Little River Trail Runs also generate donations to Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC; http://torc-nc.org/); these monies are in support of TORC’s trail-building activities across the Triangle and, specifically, at Little River Regional Park. This year, the TrailHeads donated $1000 in Little River proceeds to TORC; since 2006, the event has directed more than $3000 to TORC. Moreover, to offset the carbon generated by travel to the event, the TrailHeads have funded the purchase of 435,000 pounds of carbon dioxide offsets, via $3100 in contributions to NC Green Power. These offsets are the equivalent of planting 59,610 trees, or not driving 553,024 miles.
The Little River Trail Runs also illustrate how one person’s idea for an event, and other individuals’ willingness to dedicate effort toward the event, can make a difference in the community. In 2005, John “Skwryl” Strange, a TrailHead who had discovered the beauty of Little River Regional Park, proposed the creation of a running event there. Other members of the TrailHeads jumped on board, and the first event took place in early 2006, with 300 runners. Over the years, as interest in trail running has increased and as participants have demonstrated a continued willingness to carpool to the Park, the event has expanded. In 2014, a record 650 people registered for one of the races. For some, it was their first trail race; others were seven-, eight- and nine-time participants.
Each year’s event is made possible by volunteer efforts – ranging from designing posters for the event and distributing shirts and bib numbers; to marking the race course and directing participants in the parking area; to handing out water at aid stations and timing the runners; and to feeding the crowd at the finish and collecting empty cups for the Park’s compost pile.
“Our events, and the financial benefits they generate, wouldn’t be possible without volunteer effort,” says Layna “Willow” Mosley, co-race director since 2011. “Our volunteers make race directing easy: year after year, we count on TrailHeads to work behind the scenes and on race day, and they do so without fail, and with smiles. We strongly encourage new members of our club to volunteer at our races, and we remind them that we host races not to make a profit, but to generate benefits that we can share with the local outdoor and running community.” Mosley estimates that each race includes 500 hours of volunteer effort.
The Little River Trail Runs also wouldn’t be possible without the support of title sponsors; they provide prizes, food, coffee and other materials. Sponsors include Balanced Movement Studios/Proaxis Physical Therapy; the Open Eye Café/Carrboro Coffee Roasters; Fleet Feet Sports Carrboro and Durham; and Montrail. “Each of our sponsors understands the value of this event to local runners as well as to the Park, and they are always asking what else they can do to make it a success,” says Mosley. A new element this year was a training program, created by Fleet Feet Sports and Montrail, to introduce people to trail running. The program had approximately 50 participants, most of whom ran Little River as their “goal race.”
The TrailHeads also host another event, the Philosopher’s Way Trail Runs, at Carolina North Forest. The seventh edition of this event takes place on May 3, 2014. Like previous iterations, its proceeds will be directed to Carolina North Forest, the group’s “home base” for running.
While the TrailHeads are associated most closely with Little River and Philosopher’s Way, you’ll also find them involved at other events. For instance, earlier this month, the group was heavily involved with the Uwharrie Mountain Runs in Troy, NC. Some members conducted trail maintenance and course set up in advance of the races, while others assisted runners at various aid stations. Even closer to home, you’ll find the TrailHeads contributing both funds (approximately $4,000 since 2010) and time to maintenance of the parking lot at Unity Church of Peace (on Seawell School Road in Chapel Hill); this lot provides an access point to the trails of Carolina North Forest.
About the TrailHeads: TrailHeads is a group of trail running and outdoor enthusiasts, based in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, NC. The organization’s purposes are to promote the joy of trail running; support the efforts of members to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle; listen, learn and internalize the lessons taught by the natural environment and wilder spaces; and organize and encourage efforts to enhance, extend, and maintain nature’s reach into the lives of the greater community. For more information about the TrailHeads or the Little River Trail Runs, contact Layna Mosley (email@example.com;919-623-5097).