ROANOKE BUZZ: The gift of a trail

Published 11:34 am Wednesday, May 6, 2020

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Even in these uncertain times, we have been reminded what a gift our Roanoke River Paddle Trail is. We continue to get calls from folks wanting to get outside—while still complying with current recommendations for social distancing.

As we already knew—our trail offers a great opportunity to “social distance”—even when we are not dealing with a global crisis as we are now. For the past 23 years our river trail has been a place to enjoy some solitude surrounded by nature.

Of course, like other small businesses and organizations navigating these uncharted waters—Roanoke River Partners (RRP) is not certain what the future of our organization or our Roanoke River Paddle Trail looks like on the other side.

After two years of high water, we have already taken a hit. It is only because of supportive partners and a long list of volunteers that we have managed to operate even with declining revenues.

In the face of COVID-19, we know that many of those we rely on for support will be affected. It goes without saying—the same will be true for Roanoke River Partners and our paddle trail.

As I imagine the changes to come, I wonder what our region would look like without our river trail.

Without RRP and the trail we manage—one full-time and one part-time job would go away. That’s not such a big loss but along with these two jobs an estimated $600,000 dollars of annual economic impact distributed over our five-county region would also go away.

This economic value for our region is why we do what we do.

For the past 20 years, RRP has engaged the counties that border the Roanoke River to support this rural development initiative. We rely on the counties, towns and businesses that benefit from the economic enterprise we cultivate to reinvest— to sustain our operations to draw visitors and revenues to our region.

In addition to an annual investment from policy makers, local businesses and other members—we also rely heavily on a troupe of devoted volunteers who generously give their time and energy to this work. Volunteers assist with our website, repair our platforms, create promotional products like videos and photographs, and serve as advocates for our trail and our organization.

We simply could not sustain this regional work without these contributions.

If you want to help sustain this regional trail— there has never been a better time to get involved. We need donations to get through this financial downturn. We also need volunteers to help with the work ahead.

In the coming weeks and months, we know that some of our supporters will be affected more than others. We want you to know that we are in this together. RRP was created to bring favor to our region—to be a part of the solution in challenging times. We plan to meet this challenge in the same way.

I will end this column by expressing gratitude for all the support RRP has received over the past 20 years. We are truly grateful for those who have shared this vision and have invested time, enthusiasm and money in building our trail and this organization.

We are grateful for the gift of a trail—a trail that connects our communities, our hearts and our minds, and that brings economic benefits to our region in the good times and even now— in a more challenging time.

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