Roanoke Buzz: In times like these

Published 10:04 am Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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By Carol Jones Shields

When we turned the page on 2019 and moved into a new year, who could have imagined the global concerns that have come to dominate our lives in recent weeks—certainly not me.

As we live, work and recreate in Northeastern North Carolina, it can be easy to feel disconnected from the larger world. Actually, that’s one of the reasons some of our visitors report that they come here—to disconnect and get away from the bustle and the noise in their world.

It often seems that what happens here couldn’t possibly be important in the grander scheme the rest of the world follows.

And yet, in times like this—we realize that the decisions that each of us makes every day—is intimately connected to our neighbors, our families and even to those far away from our little corner of the world.

For the past 23 years—this month, Roanoke River Partners (RRP) has been developing relationships throughout our region that ban us together to weather just such “storms” of life.

In fact, RRP was born in response to the economic storm of the mid-nineties. There were some who thought there was new economic promise to be derived from our natural and cultural assets. As it turned out—they were right. Their vision paved the way for the development of our now nationally-recognized Roanoke River Paddle Trail.

A decade later, amidst the economic downturn in 2008, a group of mayors representing small towns throughout our region reached out to lend a new surge of support for the regional development that RRP had been cultivating.

The new investment these small towns brought in provided important support to both sustain and grow this network of partners and our regional paddle trail. Closer working relationships with participating towns proved to be mutually beneficial for RRP and for the small towns throughout our region.

And now, just a little over ten years later, our region is facing a new challenge—one brought on by a virus that has made its way all around the world to reach us. It’s hard to believe that something we can’t even see can pose such an overwhelming threat to life as we know it—but of course it has.

It is my hope that, like during the “storms” that have come before—we will ban together to meet this new challenge.

Once again we will think about creative solutions to our challenges. And as in the past, we will work together for the greater good—not just of our own town or county—but for the larger region that connects us.

Together—we can realize new possibilities. Together—we can encourage and inspire each other. Together—we are so much more formidable.

Naturally, with the current disruption of travel and movement—we will experience lower numbers of paddlers in the coming weeks. But once the dust settles and we get to the other side of this—we will be ready to receive visitors from near and far here along the Roanoke.

We will be ready to showcase the unique sights and sounds that our region has to offer. Our eating venues will be ready to serve tasty local meals. And our communities will be ready to share our stories and our rich history.

In times like these, we have always pulled together—and so, of course, we will again.

Carol Jones Shields is the Executive Director of Roanoke River Partners, Inc. You can contact her at (252) 798-3920 or You can learn more about Roanoke River Partners at