North Carolina State Parks

Elk Knob State Park creates ‘art trail’ on its summit

Along with the beech trees, mountain wildflowers and ferns on the TRACK Trail at Elk Knob State Park, visitors will soon discover carefully placed artwork by Appalachian State University students and local artists. The mile-long art-and-nature experience will be inaugurated during First Day Hikes on Jan. 1.

The artwork was created on sections of stumps of hazardous trees that had to be removed for the new trail. After treatment by the artists using various mediums, the sections are being put back into place, providing visual surprises for hikers.

Ranger Kelly Safley said the idea originated while brainstorming with the Interpretive and Education Council of the state parks system, which includes rangers, exhibit experts and education specialists. The thought of somehow incorporating artwork into a trail reoccurred for Safley as she was trimming the trail of hazardous trees. The TRACK Trail – also known as the Beech Tree Trail – is a perfect candidate as one of 28 in the parks system specially adapted to spark kids’ exploration.

Safley cut the wooden sections from waist-high stumps and gave them to the Student Art League at the university. “Some local area artists wanted to create pieces also, so the concept has grown into a community art project,” she said. “We intend to continue working with ASU and the community to have a stockpile of art and rotate out the pieces, so it is an ever-changing gallery.”

The park also asked visitors at its annual Headwaters Festival to make pottery pieces by imprinting local flora onto the clay. Those were then stained and fired and will also be used on the trail.