Haw River Trail Authorized to Become Haw River State Trail

The Haw River Trail has long been an attempt to provide conservation through recreation, a means to connect people to the Haw River Corridor by dedicating areas where they can hike, picnic, fish, or paddle. Like many conservation efforts, the HRT land trail has been developed in sections, relying on the “generosity and cooperation of landowners, local governments, and citizens to help complete the planned trail.”

Over the years, the various counties have done a wonderful job cooperating to bring new sections of trail to public use, but since they lacked the power and funding of official legislation, the HRT has often been overlooked because of its regional status.

Luckily, that status has changed, as the Haw River Trail has been authorized by the NC General Assembly and Governor Roy Cooper to be officially designated the Haw River State Trail.

How the Legislation Came to Be

In spring of 2023, two bills were introduced in the NC General Assembly to authorize the Haw River Trail as a State Trail. Senator Amy Galey of Alamance County, supported by Senator Natalie Murdock of Chatham County, sponsored Senate Bill 100, while Representatives Stephen Ross and Dennis Riddell of Alamance County were the primary sponsors of a companion bill, House Bill 124.


This means that the HRT, which has always depended on generosity and cooperation, will now have the attention and funding given to NC State Parks.

On May 31, 2023, the North Carolina General Assembly approved the bill to designate the Haw River State Trail and sent it to Governor Cooper to sign.

On June 10, 2023, Governor Cooper signed Senate Bill 100 into law.

So as of this writing, the new trail designation is official: The Haw River Trail is now the Haw River State Trail!

What the Bill Means for the Future of the Haw River Trail

People pay attention to “state trail” designations, as they pay attention to state parks. NCTrails explains that state trails “offer opportunities for regional connectivity and public access to some of North Carolina’s most significant and scenic landscapes.”

Including the Haw River Trail in this list of “significant and scenic landscapes” will raise its status in the public eye and justify increased marketing efforts.

For many counties in central North Carolina, the Haw River has been a natural resource they have been trying to develop through recreation and tourism. State trail status for the HRT gives fuel to these efforts and validates the trail as a tourist draw.

Sections 3 and 4 of Senate Bill 100 clarify the power of this designation. If the Haw River State Trail is fully approved, then the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources “shall support, promote, encourage, and facilitate the establishment of trail segments” and “the State may receive donations of appropriate land and may purchase other needed lands for the Haw River State Trail.”

So, Is the HRT a State Park Now?

Not exactly. State parks fundamentally differ from state trails.

As NCTrails states: “While a state park is operated and managed by the Division of Parks and Recreation, a state trail is composed of multiple, connected sections and, as a whole, epitomizes partnerships.”

In other words, community cooperation is still important.

The HRT has always depended on partnerships, but the state trail designation will likely enhance the number of organizations willing to participate in HRT creation and maintenance.

A Final Thought

As before, the purpose of the Haw River Trail is conservation through recreation, but we believe that the recognition now being given to the NC Piedmont is an important step in validating the efforts to protect our local waterways and woodlands.

We’ve long known of the beauty of the Haw River Corridor, and we hope that this designation will solidify this area’s ecological importance and help to connect a broader populace to all it has to offer.