This historic property at Harmony Hall Plantation Village was the Revolutionary War-era home of Colonel James Richardson on the Cape Fear River. It is owned and operated by a local non-profit and serves as an educational, recreational, and event space for the community. Unfortunately, they have been struggling to afford maintenance on the structures and grounds, especially after recent hurricanes. To the MST, Harmony Hall has been a welcome refuge for thru-hikers by allowing them to camp on their grounds and enjoy the history and solitude. This is particularly important because thru-hikers arriving at Harmony hall have spent days walking largely on roads as we have yet to build substantial trail mileage in this area of the state.
Fortunately we got a chance to thank them for hosting our hikers and on a beautiful and sunny Fall day we had 8 volunteers join MST Coastal Crescent Project Manager Ben Jones to help improve the hiking trail at Harmony Hall Plantation Village (Segment 13). We were only part of a much larger community workday hosted by “Keep Bladen Beautiful” and the Elizabethtown-White Lake Area Chamber of Commerce on Saturday Nov. 7th. Other groups of volunteers were cleaning, repairing, painting, and improving the grounds around historic buildings on-site. It was a day of service and community bonding in stark contrast with the divisive political moment in which it happened.
Our group of trail workers built a new section for and cleaned debris off the trail that connects walkers from the historic homesite to a bluff overlooking the Cape Fear River. We worked side by side with locals installing a new culvert and stream crossing as well as chopped our way through vines and undergrowth to connect the old trail to it. Everywhere we went we were greeted with appreciation and questions about the MST. To top it all off we were rewarded with homemade chicken, rice, and pimento cheese sandwiches.
Terri Dennison, the recently hired Bladen County Director of Communications and Marketing, spearheaded this event as well as a grant application for renovating the site’s nationally registered historic colonial house. She has spoken many times about the importance of building the relationship between Bladen County and Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail. She told me, “I think the Mountains to Sea Trail is the biggest opportunity to bring new people and new opportunities to Bladen County that has come around in a long time…”
We couldn’t agree more and would add that the MST needs buy in and support from the local community to reach its full potential. By working together, like we did this past Saturday, the local community and the broader MST community can build something special in Bladen County. We are really looking forward to deepening our relationship with the people and places of Bladen County and think this event at Harmony Hall was a big step in that direction.