Falls Lake South Shore Trail
(AKA: Mountains to Sea Trail)
When Falls Lake was proposed it included areas for State and local government parks, and a “project level” trail for hikers along its south shoreline. These concepts were included in the official master plan and were authorized by Congress.
In 1985 the Triangle Greenways Council (TGC) and the Triangle Land Conservancy jointly applied to Wake County’s Grant-in-Aid Program for funds to undertake several projects related to public recreation and open space needs throughout the county. One element of that application was the construction of that part of the trail in Wake County, with the value of involved volunteer hours used as an in-kind match for projects in the total grant package. The following year work began on the south shore trail, from the Falls Lake dam, westward to highway NC 50.
Agreements were entered with the Corps of Engineers and NC Division of Parks and Recreation to initiate the collaborative initiative. The TGC scouted and proposed the trail location, recruited volunteers, provided supervisors for and training of construction crews, coordinated activities, and filed necessary reports. Every Saturday from October through May of each year, volunteers cleared vegetation, shaped the trail tread, built bridges, and painted blazes.
When all was done, approximately 26 miles of new public hiking trail was on the ground and open. During the six years of construction activity, segments were dedicated as part of the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) as they were completed. It was the first part of the MST to be opened in Wake County.
In 1996 Hurricane Fran ripped through the region, and the trail was closed indefinitely. The TGC volunteered to survey the damage and report back to the Division of Parks and Recreation. After multiple trips to complete two surveys, it was established that approximately 1300 fallen or damaged trees needed to be removed from the trail corridor. The State then used a FEMA disaster relief grant to contract for cleanup.
About 2005 the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail took over maintenance of this section of the MST. They are also continuing construction of the trail west of highway NC 50 toward Durham and the Eno River.