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.”
Massey said the recreational value of the area was recognized in the pristine nature around Hitchcock Creek.
“That’s why we’re so intent on opening it up,” he said. “Although we’re not done, it has already been well received and we’ve had many positive comments from the public. We still plan to pave the trail. It loops around the old lake bed, and that’s the first phase.”
Massey pointed out that all of the work along the Greenway has been done in-house, by city employees.
“This saves us a great deal of money, but it takes a little longer,” said Massey.
Kenneth Long of Rockingham said he is looking forward to spring.
“I’ve been here all my life and I love to fish,” said Long as he stood beside Hitchcock Creek’s Blue Trail, watching his grandson head towards the water. “I haven’t seen the new walkways yet, but I heard about them.”
The Blue Trail access point for kayakers and canoeists there has become a popular site, according to Massey.
“It seems to be getting tremendous use,” said Massey. “I paddled there last summer and fall and I paddled there last week when the weather was nice and there are always people there. I went with a group of about 12 people.”
Some form of the Hitchcock Creek “Blue Trail” has been on the drawing boards for almost a decade. A key element was the removal of the 100-year-old Steele’s Mill Dam so water — and canoeists — could flow freely downstream. The demolition took place two years ago and involved the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The City of Rockingham hopes the new recreational area will provide more incentive for families to relocate to Richmond County, and for a form of recreational tourism to grow here.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.