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Jeremy Poore, MTCC’s Newest Trekker, Hits the Ground Running for NC Year of the Trail

Marion- McDowell Technical Community College is forging a new path this month with the recent hiring of Jeremy Poore, the college’s first Coordinator of Trail Construction and Sustainability. The announcement by MTCC President Dr. Brian S. Merritt, coincides with the beginning of NC’s Year of the Trail, an effort led by the Great Trails State Coalition and designated by the NC General Assembly in celebration of the statewide network of trails which is leading North Carolina’s $28 billion outdoor recreation economy.

Last year, the college adopted its first ever college mascot–the “Trekker.” Metaphorically speaking, students had sought out McDowell Tech for decades to embark on an educational journey or trek. With the college’s close proximity to the Pisgah National Forest and an increased focus on trail development and ecotourism in McDowell County, the college signed on to become an integral workforce development partner for those building trails or treks through the National Forests of Western North Carolina. In all aspects, “Trekker” was the only fitting choice for the college’s new mascot.

Jeremy Poore

Poore, the new coordinator and the college’s newest ‘Trekker,’ has hit the ground running, planning marketing events in February for upcoming trail construction classes, and coordinating activities and classes for the college’s first ever SORBA Summit in partnership with hosting groups Northwest NC MTB Alliance (a chapter of SORBA) and the G5 Trail Collective. Southern Off-Road Biker’s Association (SORBA) is a major national organization with over 4,000 members in 40 chapters across the south. Camp Grier in Old Fort, a gateway to trails in the Pisgah National Forest, will serve as home base for the 200-300 summit participants, with training classes and breakout sessions hosted on the campus at McDowell Tech.

“While we are planning other short-term trail construction classes that will begin this summer, the SORBA Summit will be the college’s real entry into trail construction on a national level,” said Poore. “Each season we will roll out a new round of classes and list those on the college’s website at www.mcdowelltech.edu .”

“We are excited to have someone with Jeremy’s extensive experience and commitment to outdoor recreation to join our staff, leading our partnerships with the United States Forest Service, the G5 Trail Collective and, now, with national mountaineering organizations like SORBA,” said Merritt, the MTCC President. “Last year, we announced that McDowell Tech would renovate the old Rockett Building in Old Fort, with assistance from the GoldenLEAF Foundation and a federal Commerce Department grant through the Economic Development Association (EDA), to offer a variety of short-term workforce development classes. Our trail construction and sustainability classes will eventually be the centerpiece of classes at this facility.”

Renovation on the Rockett Building is expected to begin later this year.  

Leading the Effort

Poore is a professional trail builder who works for Todd Branham of Long Cane Trails in Brevard on a part-time basis. Long Cane primarily builds private trails for landowners, although they have completed larger projects for organizations like Haywood Community College in Waynesville. Poore will continue to work with Long Cane as he begins his part-time duties with McDowell Tech, teaching, creating curricular offerings, and hiring instructors to teach a variety of classes in the field, from chainsaw certification to trail building and possibly trail bridge building and rockwork.

Jeremy, who holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology from Bates College in Maine and has extensive study abroad experience in Japan, Venezuela and Ecuador, began working in Wilderness Therapy Programs when he moved to Old Fort in 2000. Over 13 years, he spent more than 600 days in the field in wilderness areas throughout Western North Carolina.

“I surveyed lots of trails and campsites in the Pisgah National Forest, and spent considerable time reporting statistics to the National Forest Service, such as utilization rates, or ‘user days,’ spent by campers and hikers participating in Wilderness Therapy Programs,” said Poore. “That kind of fostered my love of the trail and being out in the woods. But I also witnessed a lot of trail degradation and saw firsthand the impact users have on our forests when a lot of people use the same trails and campsites.”

In 2009, Poore met his future wife, Molly Morningglory, the daughter of Maggie and Freeman Jones of Turtle Island Pottery in Old Fort. He and Molly lived in Asheville while he continued to work in Wilderness Therapy Programs. Later, they moved to Boulder, Colorado and then Clemson, SC, when Molly enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts Program at Clemson University.

In both professional and volunteer capacities since 2013, Poore has participated in extensive mitigation efforts to the trail and campsite degradation he had witnessed over the years.

Besides his most recent experience in trail construction and previous fieldwork in wilderness therapy programs, Poore was Volunteer Coordinator for the Greater Clemson Mountain Biker’s Club when he and Morningglory lived in Clemson, SC for three years (member for 3 years, Coordinator for one). In that capacity, he coordinated all volunteer work that occurred throughout 80 miles of multi-use trails in three forests that dot the Clemson region. “That work included everything from removal of damaged trees and correcting trail drainage issues, to trail re-routes in unsustainable areas, and mitigation of areas with encroaching growth,” he said. Poore’s main task was coordinating volunteers and completing substantial trail work himself.

During that time, Poore also apprenticed to a Master Bicycle Mechanic, fostered by his own love of mountain biking and outdoor recreation. He and Molly have leveraged that experience in the formation of a new business called Mountain Top Shuttles, a bike shuttle and tour company that aims to make trails surrounding the Pisgah National Forest more accessible for a greater number of riders. “Trails here are very steep and some require climbing more than 5,000 vertical feet,” said Poore. “We will begin offering shuttle service in April with guided tours to follow later.”

Poore and Morningglory’s decision to return to Old Fort after Molly finished graduate school was not just a homecoming for her. Poore follows news about trails and there had been a lot of buzz about trail construction in the national forests around Old Fort when he and Molly lived in Clemson. When the first six miles of new trail opened last year, it ‘became real’ to him, and that influenced the couple’s decision to come back to Old Fort. He sensed a renewed commitment to outdoor recreation and forest planning in Western North Carolina.

On his return, he quickly became involved with the G5 Trail Collective, one of McDowell Tech’s primary partners in the Trail Construction and Sustainability Program.

Subsequently, Molly took a job teaching at ABTech in Asheville, where she is an instructor in Visual Arts and a Ceramic and Fiber artist. She is an accomplished, second-generation potter.

The McDowell Tech “Trail School”

“The main purpose of the McDowell Tech Trail School is to help people learn as much as possible about trail construction, how to properly maintain trails over time, and learning the proper tools and equipment to use for a particular job,” said Poore. The college has already had early classes in trail construction, and will continue to build on those offerings under Poore’s leadership.

Upcoming courses are planned in Basic Sustainable Trail Construction, United States Forest Service Chainsaw Certification, possibly trail bridge building and trail rockwork. Up to now, most courses have been short, four-day courses, but that can change based on current training needs and length of time required to master a subject.

The primary audience for these courses includes not only local students interested in learning the trail construction craft, but also professional trail builders seeking various certifications, United States Forest Service employees and a great number of volunteer trail organizations in Western North Carolina, eighteen of whom are already known to Poore.

Old Fort and Western North Carolina are the beneficiaries of a rare move by the National Forest Service to build new trails in the Pisgah National Forest. Nationwide, there is such a large backlog of maintenance needs on old trails that there haven’t been funds or manpower committed to new trail construction in many years. The buildout of new trails in the Pisgah National Forest near Old Fort is quite an exception to this longstanding national trend.

“We need to train the next generation of a new workforce who can both build new trails and maintain older ones. Some of those will be paid workers, while others will be affiliated with volunteer organizations in the Ecotourism Industry,” said Poore. “Right now, I am aware of 3 firms in Western North Carolina who have current openings in trail construction. We will train a lot of their new employees.”

As a college student, Poore did field research in the Amazon Rain Forest in Ecuador, concentrating on Ecotourism, so he is well aware of the significant impact of trail construction on local and regional economies, and he hopes to lead workforce training efforts that will lead to sustained growth in Ecotourism in this area. “There is a huge economic impact in bringing people to access natural settings and outdoor recreation,” he said.

“Old Fort is surrounded on three sides by national forests. Our new center in Old Fort will be the perfect hub for trail construction and sustainability.”

The Woods Are Calling

In addition to his extensive work in outdoor recreation, for a few years, the 46 year-old Poore worked as a Vice-President of Marketing and Vice-President of Business Development for a couple of software companies. “I have a love and fascination with technology,” he said. “But during that time, the woods were always calling. This is what I love.”

“We are fortunate to have found someone with not only Jeremy’s extensive experience in outdoor recreation and trail construction, but his natural love for the outdoors, focus on sustainability and his educational background in ecotourism,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt. “2023 is the Year of the Trail, and the momentum is here for us to build on our already successful startup of the McDowell Tech Trail School in close partnership with the G-5 Trail Collective, U.S. Forest Service and others. The Board of Trustees and I look forward to building a nationally-recognized Trail Construction and Sustainability Program under his leadership.”

For more information on upcoming classes in this program, visit https://mcdowelltech.edu/academic-degree-programs/cewd/trail-construction-and-sustainability/ .