Category Archives: RECREATION
BAYBORO – Girls from 8 to 14 now have until Sept. 25 to sign up for Volleyball. Boys and girls from 4 to 13 also have until Sept. 25 to sign up for Soccer. Please see attachments below for registration forms, or stop by the offices of the Pamlico County Recreation Department on the second floor of the Bayboro Courthouse.
By Jeff Aydelette | Staff Writer
VANDEMERE –Mayor Judy Thaanum signed documents Wednesday night that will lock in a $1 million grant from state coffers – money that will come in over a three-year period to acquire a nine-acre tract on Bay River.
The waterfront parcel, inside the town limits, has several buildings, but remains largely undeveloped despite its close proximity to Vandemere’s main street — Pennsylvania Avenue.
The town – pummeled in recent years by a sour real estate market, a shuttered post office, and a devastating Hurricane Irene – has, over the past 12 months, steadfastly pursued a pool of money, which flows from purchases of Coastal Recreational Fishing Licenses.
Tentative plans call for the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission to begin work by August of next year on a multi-ramp boat launching facility, estimated to cost an additional $430,000. That money will come from registration fees paid annually by North Carolina boaters.
Elected officials — and town resident Tom Woodruff who has spearheaded the effort — expressed quiet confidence that Vandemere will ultimately see an economic boost from the boat ramp.
“We’re at third base rounding for home on purchase of the property,” said Woodruff, “but we’re not even at first base yet on developing this parcel in a way that will offer water access and also benefits to the town.”
The vote to proceed with the project, which preceded the mayor’s signing ceremony, was unanimous.
By Penny Zibula | Staff Writer
Editor’s note: This is the second installment of a two-part report.
JOCKEY’S RIDGE STATE PARK – On the afternoon of June 22, we — along with Trevor Thomas’ family, friends, and Park Superintendent Debo Cox — stood atop a dune, which marked the end of the Mountains to Sea Trail.
We were awaiting the arrival of the blind hiker and his guide dog, Tennille, as the pair completed their most recent accomplishment.
Shortly after his arrival to much applause and cheering, Thomas told The County Compass that he felt exhilarated.
“The fact that so many people came out is really touching,” he said. When asked what he missed most while he was on the trail, he said, without hesitation, “Starbuck’s.”
The hiker’s trail began in April amongst the mountains of North Carolina at Clingman’s Dome.
He and Tennille slogged through snow and rain, conquered challenging terrain, and encountered a variety of creatures, including several large snakes. They also encountered Trail Angels — friends and strangers who generously offer help and support to backcountry hikers.
Several Trail Angels came out to the dune to greet Thomas and Tennille. Some had heard of their pending arrivals along the trail, had offered food and permission to camp in their yards. Others were friends, like Laine Walter, who typed trail directions into emails from her home in Charlotte, and sent them to Trevor’s iPhone.
In this way, he had the information he needed. This, plus his uncanny ability to gather clues from his surroundings, enabled him to keep track of his progress without using GPS.
Thomas received Tennille from Guide Dogs for the Blind in 2012, the same training facility that gave me my guide, Otto, the previous year. Although we enjoyed chatting about our individual positive experiences at Guide Dogs for the Blind, the conversation soon turned to the specialized training he and Tennille received in order to prepare them for the continuation of his career as a professional hiker.
Tennille was trained to think in two modes. When wearing a harness, she knows that she is expected to perform street work, which consists of — among other things — stopping at every curb and change in terrain.
When they are on the trail, however, Thomas doesn’t put Tennille in harness, because, “She would be stopping for everything.” This would make progress painfully slow, so when Thomas puts Tennille’s small backpack on, “It tells her that it’s time to hit the trail.” She knows that she needs to make decisions that allow them to move at a rapid pace, without compromising Thomas’s safety.
Debo Cox, the park superintendent, presented Thomas with a citation from North Carolina Gov. Pat McRory.
I briefly interviewed Jef Judin, a documentarian assigned to film all aspects of the hike for Thorlos, a sock manufacturer and one of Thomas’ many sponsors. While performing his duties, Judin also made certain that Thomas had more than dehydrated meals to keep him going. At our first encounter the previous week, Judin was grilling steaks, corn and potatoes for Thomas, who burns a significant number of calories daily.
“I now have a completely different perspective of people who are sight impaired,” said Judin. “Because we don’t know, we tend to feel sorry for somebody who’s lost their sight, and feel like it’s a disability that’s very difficult to overcome. And in meeting Trevor, I’ve changed that completely”.
Over the last three months, the two have become close friends, and Judin is grateful for the insights he has gleaned.
“In a lot of ways,” mused Judin, “I feel that Trevor has an advantage over sighted people, because he‘s able to feel things that sighted people don’t even know are there. I have a feeling – a gut instinct – that Trevor is going to play a very large role in shifting consciousness about sight impairment.”
Despite all that he has learned through his work with Thomas, Judin has consistently been ahead of the curve professionally.
“I have always felt that what you hear is as important as what you see,” he emphasized.
He strives to give his films the ability to stand alone as audio without video, and video without audio. He wants his audiences to be able to look solely at the screen or hear only the audio, and, “Get the story,” he said.
While chowing down on a burger and fries – his first meal after coming off the trail – Thomas was already talking about his next hike, the Camino De Santiago in Spain in 2014.
Upon his return to Charlotte, he will be fulfilling obligations to sponsors, and continuing his work as a motivational speaker.
I reluctantly raised the question of whether or not Thomas would want to have his sight restored, if given the chance — a question that I am often asked.
“Definitely not,” he said emphatically.” “I’ve been blind long enough that it’s part of me. It’s part of who I am, like having blond hair or blue eyes. Would it make my life drastically easier? Yes, of course it would. But then I think of the things that I’ve done, and the energy and effort that I’ve had to put in. Would it make my life more rewarding? I don’t think so. If I wasn’t blind, I wouldn’t have this job. I’m the only long-distance hiker in the world that is paid to do what I do. Being blind is actually an asset for what I do. That’s the big positive. It’s given me one interesting job.”
By Penny Zibula | Staff Writer
Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a two-part report.
CROATAN FOREST – Long-distance hiker, Trevor Thomas, and I sat across from each other under the trees at the Oyster Point Campground. With my voice recorder on the picnic table between us, this was a case of the blind interviewing the blind.
Local newspapers and TV stations had taken the opportunity to tell the story of this soft-spoken, insightful athlete and motivational speaker, as he and his black Labrador Retriever guide dog, Tennille, passed through the New Bern area during the final leg of the approximately 1,000 mile Mountains to Sea Trail through North Carolina.
Now it was the County Compass’ turn. And, I could relate.
When 2005 began, Thomas, then 35, was a law school graduate and self-described adrenaline junkie, who raced Porsches, jumped out of airplanes and went backcountry skiing.
“If it was deemed crazy,” he recalled, “I would do it.”
But later that year, he found himself struggling through an eight-month process that would inevitably leave him totally blind.
“My auto immune system woke up one day, and decided that the maculae were a foreign body,” he explained, “I went from thinking that I needed glasses – maybe contact lenses – to I lost my sight.”
As is common with severe losses, Thomas experienced feelings of anger, denial, and the other stages of grieving. For the first few months, he remembered being depressed, not knowing what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
Then came Thomas’ ‘ah-ha’ moment. A friend told him that he was taking him to see a speaker who was blind. Thomas was less than enthused, expecting some kind of “poor, pitiful me” presentation. But he went, because his friend insisted, and was also bigger than he was.
The speaker was Erik Weihenmayer, a blind mountain climber who had scaled numerous peaks, including Mount Everest. After the presentation, Thomas had an opportunity to speak with Weihenmayer, and the acceptance and encouragement he received was a life-changing experience.
“Erik gave me permission to be foolish,” Thomas said. “I decided the next day that I was going to go out and get my life back.”
Since Thomas could no longer participate in running independently – “I kept running into parked cars” – Thomas turned his attention to hiking. During one of his lessons in traveling with a white cane, he persuaded his reluctant instructor to go into a sporting goods store to purchase a pair of trekking poles, which are ski poles for hikers. While he was in the store, Thomas couldn’t help but overhear someone talking about having hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. The man told of encountering bears, and nearly freezing to death.
By the time Thomas left the store, he had decided that he was going to hike the 2,200 mile trail — a decision that changed his life forever.
“I convinced myself,” he recalled, “that if I could simply figure out a way to do that, I’d get my life back.”
Thomas set out approximately 16 months after losing his sight, and the successful completion of that hike was the beginning of a new career and a new life.
Since then, Thomas has climbed challenging peaks and hiked backcountry trails, including the over 2,600 mile Pacific Crest Trail. In 2012, Thomas trained with Tennille at the San Rafael campus of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Although he had applied to several guide dog training centers, GDB was the only one willing to train a dog for him that could safely guide him down backcountry trails, as well as city streets.
Now he and Tennille,– with Jef Judin, who is filming a documentary for sock manufacturer, Tholo, one of Thomas’s sponsors, — are nearing the completion of his latest accomplishment, which will end at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, on the Outer Banks on Saturday, June 22nd.
(Continued next week.)
Readers may contact Penny Zibula by e-mail at email@example.com.
By Judith Lynch | Staff Writer
BAYBORO – The ‘New Leash on Life’ program pairs qualified inmates with adoptable shelter dogs, and all parties learn new skills. Inmates learn to work with animals, which prepares them for employment, and the dogs learn basic and advanced skills, which readies them to become well-mannered family pets.
The Pamlico Correctional Institution, part of the North Carolina prison system, has partnered with the Pamlico Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Carteret Humane Society Animal Shelter in Newport to participate in the nationally acclaimed dog training program.
Every eight weeks, the inmate trainers and their class of canine graduates put on a lively demonstration showcasing the skills the dogs (and trainers) have acquired. A graduation ceremony Wednesday afternoon – just the second in the short history of the program – included feats of agility and rally obedience, two aspects new to the Bayboro program.
With the support of prison administrators, Sandra Trest, Program Coordinator, and volunteer trainer Alecia Williams of Dove Landing Kennels in Merritt, the program is expanding.
The number of would-be inmate trainers is also expanding, and they are increasingly aware of just how responsive and intelligent their charges are. To keep it fresh, new challenges are being developed for dogs and trainers alike, and their enthusiasm is contagious.
Inmate, and new head trainer, Bryan Carter spoke sincerely and eloquently about how participating in the New Leash program is changing his life.
“It has taught me responsibility, patience, and caring, all traits required to be in New Leash on Life,” said Carter. “Prison alone doesn’t change a person’s life, but it’s the things you experience here that make you wonder how bright your future could be.”
He also thanked his mentors, Trest and Gary Goldman. He said he has a rare opportunity to do something positive and something he loves, and, “You helped me grow up, and I’m happy with the man I’m becoming.”
This is exactly what the New Leash on Life program is designed to do, and why it is so important that everyone with two legs or four, get a second chance at a better future.
During the afternoon, dogs Blue, Casey, Simon, and Titan – along with trainers Carter, Andrew Dunbar, Eduardo Amanza, and Neil Stewart — wowed the crowd.
The ‘rally’ aspect of training had the canines weaving around and through pylons, then performing the behaviors posted on each, including stop, sit, lie down, wait, heel left and right, etc.
Each dog went directly into the agility routines, climbing up one side of a large wooden A-frame structure and down the other; standing on hind legs and pulling down the high end of a 12’ red and white wooden seesaw, then walking up the incline. Balanced in the middle, the dogs calmly tipped the seesaw again and confidently walked down to the floor.
A few feet from the seesaw, each dog handily jumped over a hurdle and completed their routine. The crowd applauded each dog’s performance, and to even more applause, the trainers smiled, praised and hugged the dogs for their fine efforts.
Later, Anthony Florence, Assistant Superintendent of Programs at the prison, presented the dogs to their adoptive parents.
The first recipient was Michelle Chin of Virginia Beach, Va., who received a very special dog, Titan, from the Carteret shelter. Trained as a mobility service dog for Chin, who served in the Navy, Titan becomes the first dog from the program to assist a Wounded Warrior.
The youngest recipient of a dog was Alexander Coulter, 8, who smiled proudly as he took the leash of his new best friend, Simon, a handsome, young Springer Spaniel. Simon immediately stood up, hugged Alex, and gave him enthusiastic doggie kisses, which delighted the audience.
Blue, an Australian Blue Heeler cattle dog, is a young, well-behaved and agile companion who will join the Adkins family of Jacksonville. Very intelligent, affectionate and eager to please, Blue will make a great addition to that household.
Casey, also from the Carteret shelter, is nicknamed “Old Bones” by his trainer, Eduardo Amanza, but Casey is anything but old. He is loving, gentle and reserved, with deep brown, liquid, knowing eyes, and seems to possess the wisdom of the ages. His new family will be taking him to live in Washington.
The next New Leash dogs have entered the program, and in eight weeks will be available for adoption. If you would like to apply for one of these dogs, see their photos and bios on the PAWS website, PamlicoPaws.com. Click on Adopt a Pet, print out and mail in the application, and you will be contacted. For more information, please call Jackie Schmidt, PAWS president, at (252) 745-3347.
Elected officials in the Town of Vandemere voted unanimously last week to prohibit all swimming in the vicinity of a boat ramp that offers access to Bay River. Mayor Judy Thaanum and town board members all agreed that old pilings and sunken debris from Hurricane Irene threaten the safety of youngsters. Use of the ramp costs boaters $5, who operate on an honor system by depositing cash into a secure lock box at the site.