Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail announced at the Pender County Commissioners meeting on Monday, May 7 that Surf City and Pender County will host its Gathering of Friends, March 22-24, 2019.

The Gathering is the annual membership meeting and weekend of excursions for the Friends group that supports the 1175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The weekend will bring hundreds of visitors from across North Carolina to the area.

The conference will kick off with a Friends’ reception on Friday, March 22 at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, followed by dinner at the Surf City Community Center. A member meeting will occur on Saturday, also at the Surf City Community Center. Throughout the weekend, guided hikes and excursions will showcase the natural beauty and special places along the route of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Pender and Onslow counties.

Pender County was selected from a group of nine communities from across the state who submitted bids to host the event. The Town of Elkin hosted the event in 2017 and 2018 and found it to be a great opportunity to showcase their region’s natural beauty and hiking trails.

“Staff and board members from Pender County and Surf City have so many fun, creative ideas for activities that we know our members will enjoy,” said Kate Dixon, Friends of the MST’s executive director. “This will be the first time we’ve held the conference in Eastern North Carolina, and we’re excited to have our members learn more about this special part of the trail route.”

“The Coastal Crescent through Pender County spotlights diversity in scenery, from battlefields, blueberries, and beaches,” said Tammy Proctor, Pender County Tourism Director. “We are pleased to showcase the beauty of Surf City, Historic Burgaw, and the natural resources of our county.”

Friends of the MST is a non-profit whose volunteers support building and maintaining the statewide trail. The MST crosses North Carolina from Clingmans Dome in the Smokies to Jockey’s Ridge on the Outer Banks. More than half of the trail is in federal, state and local natural areas with the remainder along roads in rural areas.

In Pender County, the route traverses many special places including Moores Creek Battlefield, Burgaw, the Northeast Cape Fear River, Holly Shelter Game Land and the boardwalks and beach in Surf City.