The Friends of Panthertown has received a $7,500 grant from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area to develop a trail guide and interpretive signs for Panthertown Valley.
Panthertown, a bowl-shaped recreation area outside Cashiers marked by granite domes and waterfalls, has garnered accolades as a unique landscape unparalleled in Western North Carolina.
Each year, numerous visitors get lost trying to navigate the network of trails and old logging roads that traverse the 6,300 acres, reports Nina Elliott, the Friends of Panthertown Coordinator.
“We’ve received repeated requests to map and mark trails in Panthertown Valley,” Elliott said. “Mapping and marking trails will direct visitors to favorite destinations without getting lost, and if someone should get injured, EMS will be able to locate and evacuate victims quickly.”
A few purists lament the taming of trails in Panthertown, preferring the lack of signage that gives the tract the feel of backcountry and requires a know-how with a topo and compass. But the hodgepodge of trails and the lack of maps and signage prevent people who would like to hike in the area from doing so.
“Trails do more than just guide people along a path. With the help of devoted groups of people like the Friends of Panthertown, trails protect and preserve the world’s most beautiful and irreplaceable areas,” says Elliott. “Above all, projects like this educate people on the importance of the land, the wildlife, and the natural resources that are so vital to our ecosystem, protecting sensitive ecological areas for future generations.”
The Friends of Panthertown, sponsored by the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance, are currently working with the U.S. Forest Service to create a map of the of the trail system, develop a sign plan, and install bulletin boards and interpretive signs at trailheads.