After a ribbon cutting ceremony on September 15th, a new mile of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) is now open at Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site. This new stretch of MST is the first footpath that the Friends of the MST has built using funds from the Complete the Trails Program, an unprecedented investment in trails by the state. The partnership with Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site also allows access to significant historic interpretation on the property.

The new trail extends the MST from the Cole Plantation parking area, crossing Harper House Road, before heading into a thick former pine plantation. Hidden in the rows of trees are the remains of Union earthworks, now accessible to the public for the first time since the historic site opened decades ago. A short loop trail, not officially MST, encircles the earthworks and will have interpretive panels installed in the near future, well worth the short jaunt off the MST. The trail continues through mature pines and dense woods to the Merging of the Armies tour stop. The total mileage of off-road MST at Bentonville is now just under 3.5 miles.

“We’re thrilled to open a new mile of MST at Bentonville and are so appreciative of the transformational investment in the MST and all state trails,” said Brent Laurenz, executive director for the Friends of the MST.  “We look forward to continuing this momentum and growing the MST in Johnston County and throughout the coastal plain.”

Friends of the MST volunteers and Bentonville staff built a significant portion of the trail, over three workdays this summer. The trail will be maintained by a new Johnston County MST Task Force, led by the Friends of Johnston County Parks. (Reach out to Austin Cross to lend a hand.)

In addition to Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, Reid Wilson, secretary of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, was on hand to celebrate the collaboration that made this new trail possible. Wade Sokolosky, a historian with Friends of Bentonville Battlefield, shared a brief history of the battle that occurred on the site, along with appreciation to the MST for creating the path to get people into the site.

“When you’re dealing with histories of violence, like war, and the story of slavery and the story of the Civil War, to me when you can experience that story in the presence of a natural landscape, it’s something that is a kind of balm for the wounds of memory,” said Michelle Lanier, director of NC Division of Historic Sites, in the Raleigh News & Observer.  “To be surrounded by these trees, knowing they were witness to all of this, gives me a sense of comfort and almost courage to be able to face these really challenging and sometimes painful parts of our history.”

Read the whole article here.

You can walk the new trail in either direction by parking at the Bull Pen tour stop ( N35.31474, W78.29998) or the Merging of the Armies tour stop (N35.317609, W78.287246) off Harper House Road.

We are appreciative of the continuing partnership with Bentonville Battlefield. This trail was built in less than nine months because of our common goal to provide walking trails for those either wanting to visit the historic sites or continue on a longer journey.