Thanks to a platoon of volunteers, a path to a planned 500-mile network of trails through both Carolinas gained ground on Saturday.
Fifty people gave up their morning to clear brush and build a section of the Carolina Thread Trail in Fort Mill. The chunk they cleared spans two-tenths of a mile along Sugar Creek near Nation Ford High School.
It completes a mile-and-a-half trail started this summer.
"This is the missing link that we needed," said Travis Morehead, a Thread Trail community coordinator.
Their work simultaneously added to the Nation Ford Greenway, connecting two previously separate trails.
"We're leaving it as natural as possible," Greenway Project Director Beth Chuck said.
"If you need some peace and quiet, come out here. Leave the technology. Drop the iPad. Bring the kids. Bring the family."
Started in 2007, the Thread Trail is a 15-county collaboration to develop a regional network of trails, attractions and conservation corridors.
Although completion is years away, Thread Trail organizers have been making progress.
The group has formed partnerships and doled out grants to carve out what will eventually resemble a "green interstate" linking dozens of existing and planned trails.
Participating communities lead the trail-building effort with financial and logistical support from the Thread Trail organization.
Twelve of the 15 counties have adopted a Thread master plan, and 80 miles of trails are open for walking, biking, hiking and recreation.
York County was one of the first to receive a planning grant. About 120 miles of the trail are planned in the county. Chester and Lancaster counties also have adopted plans.
The Nation Ford Greenway, part of which overlaps with the Thread, is a planned 30-mile hike and bike trail along Sugar Creek and the Catawba River.
With Saturday's addition, the trail went from a 4.5-mile round trip path to a 7-mile trek, round trip.
Recreational Equipment Incorporated sponsored the effort and presented trail organizers with a check for $3,700. It followed a $10,000 REI grant from last year.
"We've had really supportive partners," Morehead said.
Volunteer Eleanor Raspis is an avid hiker who heard about the work through an REI newsletter. She was eager to help.
"I can not wait until we've got all of the threads connected," she said.
Want to go?
To visit along the Nation Ford Greenway, which overlaps with the Carolina Thread Trail in Fort Mill:
From Rock Hill, drive north on Interstate 77. Take exit 88, and make a right on Gold Hill Road and continue on Springfield Parkway for about two miles. Make a left on A.O. Jones Boulevard.
The greenway entrance will be on the right. Park in the gravel lot and walk down the path to the trail head. No all-terrain vehicles are allowed. Dogs must be leashed.