FORT MILL — Celebrating its 20th Earth Day on April 26, the Anne Springs Close Greenway will offer free hiking, kayaking, horseback rides and more during an event that previously has drawn thousands to experience the 2,100-acre natural preserve.
Opening ceremonies will include a horseback demonstration, as well as remarks from author Richard Louv, whose latest book, “The Nature Principle,” builds on his internationally popular past work, “Last Child in the Woods.” A twilight 5K Earthshaker trail run/walk ends the day and will help raise money for children to attend the greenway’s summer camps.
On display will be the greenway’s plans for an outdoor amphitheater, welcome center and 3-mile loop trail. More than twice the size of New York’s Central Park, the greenway drew a record 149,500 visitors last year.
“The Greenway is entering a new chapter of public engagement as more people from across the Charlotte region visit us to get back to nature,” said Buddy Faile, Anne Springs Close Greenway’s operations director. “Earth Day is the perfect time to showcase our features and offer festivities as a way to recognize the critical importance of preserving our planet.”
The preserve features native plants and animals, 40 miles of trails, waterways and swinging bridges, historic buildings, and facilities such as its 1940s Dairy Barn for weddings and other special events.
The signature celebration is themed “Nature Needs You,” and it commemorates the greenway’s opening in 1995, when the land was formally set aside for preservation and public recreation by the family of Anne Springs Close as a tribute to her devotion to the outdoors. The family ran the Springs textile mills for more than 100 years and has owned the land for 200 years.
Earth Day events run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 26, with opening ceremonies at 9:45 a.m. Visitors get in free throughout the greenway’s operating hours, from 7 a.m. to sunset. The 5K trail race is set for 5 p.m. and will finish with music and refreshments. Cost for the race is $25, which includes T-shirts for early registrants.
More than two dozen exhibitors, including the Carolina Raptor Center, will be at the event, and food will also be available.
Activities will include:
• Horse and wagon rides.
• Canoeing, kayaking and cane-pole fishing.
• Border collie demonstrations.
• Guided nature and history hikes.
• Expanded petting zoo.
• Geocache scavenger hunt.
Events are located at the greenway’s Dairy Barn entrance, 288 Dairy Barn Lane, Fort Mill. For information, call 803-547-4575 or go to ascgreenway.org.