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McDowell Tech Trail School Receives Grant From MADE X MTNS To Build Capacity in WNC’s Outdoor Economy

McDowell Technical Community College will continue building capacity and growing workforce development opportunities in trail construction and sustainability with a recent grant from MADE X MTNS, a partnership working to expand the outdoor industry and economy across North Carolina’s Appalachian Region and catalyze rural development. The McDowell Tech Trail School, founded in partnership with the G5 Trail Collective and the US Forest Service, received $8,400 from the group’s Outdoor Equity Fund. 

two trail workers working on the 12 inch stump of a freshly cut tree
two trail workers marking trees and cutting branches in the woods

Funds from this grant will support hiring of instructors to offer 7 new courses over the next year with an expected reach of 70-84 total students. Marketing outreach for the new classes will focus on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), as well as economically disadvantaged students and others seeking employment in trail construction and sustainability. Scholarship opportunities will be available for qualified individuals.

“The demand for skilled workers in the trail construction industry is growing by leaps and bounds,” said Ryan Garrison, Interim President at McDowell Tech. “These funds from MADE X MTNS, also known as Made By Mountains, will allow us to continue expanding career training opportunities for professional trail builders, as well as those wanting to fill vacancies at the US Forest Service, the National Park Service, State Parks and a variety of local municipalities.”

“Our goal,” said Jeremy Poore, Coordinator of the McDowell Tech Trail School, “is to attract a more diverse student body by providing top-tier education at an affordable price. The Outdoor Equity Grant will help us meet that goal by supplementing our instructional costs. Since the Trail School began last year, we have already trained over 100 volunteers, volunteer coordinators, professional trail builders, Forest Service employees and National Park Rangers, and we are excited to be able to build on that momentum.” 

logo of the OEF

The Outdoor Equity Fund and MADE X MTNS

According to a press release from the organization, MADE X MTNS established the $125,000 Outdoor Equity Fund “to empower community-led initiatives that address identified barriers to outdoor recreation access and opportunity and help close those gaps in Western North Carolina.” In this cycle, MADE X MTNS awarded twenty micro-grants to a variety of non-profits, small businesses, community groups and sole proprietors located throughout Western North Carolina, each focusing in some way on advancing equity and inclusion in outdoor recreation access and opportunity. These efforts are in line with the group’s stated goal of building vibrant outdoor communities, growing outdoor businesses, and amplifying outdoor culture.

“We are inspired by the work of each grantee and the opportunity that this funding presents,” said MADE X MTNS Partnership Director, Amy Allison. “Together, we can create a more inclusive and vibrant outdoor industry, unlocking the vast potential of diverse voices and experiences to drive entrepreneurship and economic growth, foster community wellness, and lead the way towards a more inclusive and sustainable future.”

MADE X MTNS serves 25 counties in Western North Carolina and the Qualla Boundary. Forty-four applicants from this region applied for a grand total of $333,304.74 during this inaugural funding cycle, said the organization’s press release. The mini-grants were made possible through a larger grant to MADE X MTNS from the Dogwood Health Trust as part of a three-year “Accelerating Outdoors Grant.”

“The energy and enthusiasm for shaking up the outdoor industry and making it a more inclusive space from these applicants is inspiring,” said Outdoor Equity Fund Working Group Facilitator, Iliana Hernandez. “These proposals aren’t just about changing the outdoor economy field; they’re about deeply remembering our connection to the outdoors and redefining who gets to play and thrive in the great outdoors. We’re very excited about the potential impact of these projects and the outdoors becoming a place where everyone feels welcome and communities can flourish.”

McDowell Trail School

The first class supported by the grant to the McDowell Trail School will begin in October. “Hand-Built Trails,” which will run October 23rd, 24th and 25th. This will be an intermediate course taught by Lisa Jennings of the US Forest Service, Jon Lane of the G5 Trail Collective and Mr. Poore. Instructors will provide a condensed overview of trail types and user experiences, along with trail terms and trail construction basics, followed by hands-on fieldwork building trails in the Pisgah National Forest near Old Fort, NC.

Participants in the class will work on rerouting Newberry Creek, which has been flagged for redesignation as a multi-use trail, which includes mountain biking. Students will participate in all aspects of the project, including final flagging of the reroute, clearing and brushing the trail corridor, hand-benching, trail cutting and trail finishing.

In addition, students will have the opportunity to critique existing work on the Stagecoach Trail which is under construction near the Old Fort Picnic Area and will hone their own skills working on a section of that trail.

The second class in the series, Trail Crew Leader Training, will begin in January with instructor Walt Bready of Georgia, a long-time trail builder and instructor. This class will provide training for individuals who hope to lead volunteer trail maintenance crews throughout the region.

“We appreciate MADE X MTNS and Dogwood Health Trust for making this funding available to the McDowell Trail School,” said Garrison, the MTCC Interim President. “Building capacity in the outdoor recreation economy is part of our larger goal of providing workforce development in our community. We are equally grateful that it also allows us to support marginalized communities in our area and ensure equitable access and opportunity to in-demand jobs in our area and throughout the region. We look forward to continuing our ongoing partnership with both of these groups to bring positive change to our citizens and our communities.”

For more information on trail construction and sustainability classes at McDowell Tech, visit https://mcdowelltech.edu/academic-degree-programs/cewd/trail-construction-and-sustainability/ or contact Jeremy Poore at [email protected] .

For more information on Made by Mountains, visit madexmtns.com .

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