RCC faucets Becton to guide out of doors recreation applications


Gerri Hunt Special for RockinghamNow

WENTWORTH – Rockingham County’s beautiful and diverse natural resources – from gentle Piedmont trails and enticing creek valleys to the Appalachian foothills and all the creeks and rivers that flow through them – are a perfect place to pursue interested careers related to train outdoor recreation.

That’s one of the reasons Rockingham Community College partnered with a leader in 2017 to launch the Duke Energy TRAILS program – an acronym for Trail Recreation and Adventure Institute for Leadership and Service.

As the first community college recreational program of its kind in the area, its success in the fall of 2021 led to the development of the RCC’s Environment, Planning and Development (EPD) curriculum program.

And now RCC has hired a new program director for EPD and TRAILS.

“I grew up in the woods of rural Florida and have lived in Colorado and Washington, DC,” said Martha Becton, who took up her full-time position as director on September 6th.

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Becton has a diverse background and experience that lends itself to RCC’s two programs. She is skilled in mathematics, engineering, nuclear power, intellectual property, and small business, as well as trail system design, management, and administration.

“Aside from spending a lot of time on bikes and horses growing up, I’ve been imitated mountain biking, snowboarding, cross country skiing, hiking, backpacking, trail running, paddling, and being outdoors in one form or another my whole life.” said she said.

Becton came into trail stewardship through the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC), one of 31 Appalachian Trail Maintainer Clubs that work with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and public lands managers to maintain the Appalachian Trail. PATC maintains over 1000 miles of hiking trails throughout Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, 240 of which are part of the Appalachian Trail.

“Through my work at PATC, I work with federal, state, and local land managers, as well as volunteers. Many of our East Coast public recreational trail systems are approaching their 100th anniversary and face unforeseen challenges as they were established,” said Becton. “These challenges range from severe erosion due to their onshore orientation, increasingly severe weather events, increased visitor traffic, and maintenance needs that exceed available maintenance and management resources.”

The development, design, construction and management of trail systems have come a long way over the last few decades.

“Sustainable trail principles are key to improving the visitor experience, improving access, transforming our existing trail systems into sustainable recreational resources, and developing new or enhanced trail systems that not only serve the needs of today, but also the country through which they pass. protect better in the future.” Becton said.

“I have a deep interest in safety and helping those involved in trail development, management and administration understand and learn the skills needed to be effective at what they do” , she said.

“I’ve worked with other trail builders, land managers, stewardship groups, and volunteers teaching sustainable trail design and layout, trail maintenance techniques, chainsaw safety, backcountry rigging, trail crew leadership, and more.”

Becton is excited about the opportunity to lead the TRAILS and EPD programs at Rockingham Community College.

“I am honored and excited to be part of the establishment of the EPD program and to grow it to serve the needs of Rockingham County and the surrounding region,” she said. “Through my work with land managers such as the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, local parks, partnership groups, and directly with staff and volunteers, I see firsthand the skills required for trail development and management, as well as the adverse impacts if these skills are lacking.”

The EPD program was designed to meet the distinct need for a skilled workforce across the entire trail development, management and governance ecosystem—from environmental planning, outdoor economics and development to trail and outdoor recreation infrastructure.

“Whether someone aspires to a career where they work outdoors almost every day, or they want to serve the public and the environment by working in an office environment, find the growth of the local economy exciting, or improve the motivation of every visitor , there are rewarding careers in a wide range of opportunities throughout the trail ecosystem,” said Becton.

“We are in exciting times, both in the outdoor recreation economy and in the development, management and management of trail systems. The pandemic has brought the importance of outdoor recreation into focus. Public interest has increased, investment has increased and focus on sustainability has increased,” she said.

“North Carolina and Southern Appalachia is a hotbed for trail and outdoor recreation activities, like the upcoming 2023 Year of the Trail campaign, which celebrates North Carolina’s thousands of miles of trails, greenways and blueways – some of them right here located in Rockingham County. ”

Gerri Hunt is Director of Public Relations at RCC.