Writing Post-Davidson

At Davidson, I wrote a lot. Almost every student does. Juggling research papers, journal reflections, essays, and daily homework is undeniably integral to the Liberal Arts experience. In my Davidson Impact Fellowship with the Catawba Lands Conservancy (CLC) and the Carolina Thread Trail, I have begun to harness the skills I developed at Davidson and apply them to the chaotic process that is grant writing.

Unsurprisingly, writing grants is a little different from writing that essay I wrote on the metaphorical significance of Lorca’s Yerma and my research paper on the adverse health effects of exposure to the pesticide, 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane. There are no grades with grants, and no opportunity to turn in a revised draft. I know grant writing is more of a pass/fail system, but I still cannot help to expect my grant application returned—diligently marked with feedback, raising one more question to investigate and requiring just a few more hours of work.

Grant writing, in its more frustrating moments, is the mundane process of searching for tax emption status forms and modifying the same paragraph for the thousandth time to satisfy the comically short word count restriction. At its best though, it is the opportunity to tell the story of how your organization (and its proposed projects) are going to make the world a better place. For that reason, I love grant writing. It is like an exercise in proving to your readers and to yourself that your organization is outstanding and worthy of investment.

Thus far, I have helped the Catawba Lands Conservancy and Carolina Thread Trail with grants on projects ranging from invasive species control to constructing a 10-mile paddle trail segment along the Rocky River. Regardless of the topic, each grant is an opportunity to be thankful for the work that the organization has already done and excited for the possibility of future projects. And even if you can’t receive an A on your grant application, receiving a check for your organization is, of course, a pretty close second.

Writing Post-Davidson

Photo: Carolina Thread Trail’s Rocky River Blueway, a paddle trail for canoes and kayaks, opened its first segment in Cabarrus County earlier this year. More boat launches are planned for 2015. Once completed, the Rocky River Blueway will stretch nearly 60 miles and wind through four counties.

Leaving my Mark on the Organization by Leaving their Mark in the Community

The Carolina Thread Trail is a planned regional network of greenways, trails and blueways that will ultimately connect 15 counties, 2 states and 2.3 million people. With the tagline of “Weaving Communities Together” the Thread Trail works to link people, places, cities, towns and attractions together. The Thread Trail preserves our natural areas and is a place for exploration of nature, culture, science and history. This is a landmark project that provides public and community benefits for everyone, in every community. It is creating a community and conservation legacy that will give so much, to so many, for so long.

In my first few months as a Davidson Impact Fellow for the Carolina Thread Trail, I haveLeaving my Mark on the Organization by Leaving their Mark in the Community spent most of my time learning and listening. Although the Carolina Thread Trail is an organization based so close to the college with trail segments in the town of Davidson, I was not fully aware of the organization and its mission until I heard about it through the Davidson Impact Fellows program. Within my first days at the organization, it became apparent that I was not alone in my lack of familiarity with the Thread Trail. The Thread Trail is a relatively young organization, with its beginnings in 2007. For the first years of its existence, Thread Trail staff and advocates worked with communities to establish and adopt a planned route in each county. Now, seven years down the road, the thread has over 220 miles of completed trail segments spread out throughout its footprint and two “blueway” paddling routes along the South Fork and Rocky River. Despite these resources, the fear of the lack of familiarity with the organization in the community was a central theme in my conversations with my co-workers.

My one-year fellowship with the Thread Trail will focus on measuring the current level of community awareness and work on smallprojects designed to increase that level of awareness. One of my first projects involves signage and trails. Signs are expensive, but necessary to inform trail users they are on a segment of the Carolina Thread Trail. My task was to try to research alternative ways of marking trails in a more cost-effective manner.  The result of the work so far is a pavement stencil with the Thread Trail name and logo. This stencil could be used to mark many of our paved section of trails incommunities where other signage opportunities are limited. After testing paints, my co-worker and I were able to put the first stencil on the ground at one of the Thread’s signature trails, the Seven Oaks Trail in Gaston County. Although it is only some paint on the pavement, stenciling the Thread Trail’s logo has been a tangible way my work has contributed to the goals of the organization—and made a very literal mark on some of the local communities as well.

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