Warm January sunshine filters through the trees onto the cleared walking trail alongside Hitchcock Creek in Rockingham, which you can access if you head down Steele Street to the old Pee Dee number 1 mill.
The City of Rockingham has been working on the Hitchcock Creek Greenway Project for several years, according to Rockingham Planning Director John Massey.
“It’s coming along nicely,” said Massey. “We’ve built a bridge across where the old dam was located back in 1945 or 1946. There was a 90-acre lake where the walking trails are now.”
Hitchcock Creek: Birth of a Blue Trail by Jeffrey Cheatham – “I’ve paddled the creek and it’s wonderful. It’s everything you want in an urban river.”
American Rivers has helped to transform Hitchcock Creek in Rockingham, North Carolina into a destination for fishing, boating, and other family-friendly recreation. Until 2009, the Steeles Mill dam degraded Hitchcock Creek, blocking migrating fish and preventing the community from safely enjoying the river through recreation.
American Rivers and our partners removed the dam, and created a 14 mile Blue Trail. As part of this effort, the City of Rockingham protected 100 acres of bottomland forest along the Blue Trail, purchased two river access areas, and acquired a boat launch.
Starting in Rockingham, the Hitchcock Creek Blue Trail offers paddlers an opportunity to explore the area’s diverse floodplain forests, historic mills remnants, and rare plants and animals.
Rockingham sees their Blue Trail as an economic driver for the region and recognizes that a healthy Hitchcock Creek is vital its long-term success.
For the past decade, officials from Richmond County and the City of Rockingham have considered the transformation of Hitchcock Creek into a 10-mile long, “Blue Trail” paddleway for canoes and kayaking. Beginning in the summer of 2012, the project may finally become a reality with a focus on creating an eco-tourism option for those visiting Richmond County.
The proposed 10-mile long canoe trail would extend from the Roberdel Dam to the Pee Dee River. The project took a large step forward last year when the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers demolished the 100-year old Steele’s Mill Dam, which allowed the water to flow freely downstream. Half of the proposed “Blue Trail” would flow right through the City of Rockingham.
At the current time, officials are now studying the development of the areas where canoeists and kayakers can launch their boats as well as the finish line at the Diggs Tract on the Pee Dee River—where visitors would have access to a primitive campsite upon completion of the journey. Some very strong proponents for this project have signed on, including Matt Rice, the Associate Director of Southeast Conservation of the American Rivers organization. “This project is innovative,” says Rice. “In essence, they want to create a park that is focused around Hitchcock Creek. I’ve paddled the creek and it’s wonderful. It’s intact, and everything you want in an urban river. There is potential for this to become a paddling destination for people throughout North Carolina and even the southeastern United States,” he added.
2012 should be a big year in the planning and implementation of the final stages necessary to make the Hitchcock Creek “Blue Trail” Paddleway a reality. Local officials remain committed to bringing an eco-tourism option to Richmond County with a strong focus on conservation and appreciation of the great outdoors.
City of Rockingham
514 Rockingham Road
Rockingham, N.C. 28379
Phone: (910) 997-5546
Fax: (910) 997-6617