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12/18/2009
Charlotte, NC – The Tarheel Trailblazers mountain biking club has built a special wooden bridge on a bike trail in Sherman Branch Recreation Area to protect the roots of the "NC Champion" Sourwood Tree--largest tree of its kind in North Carolina.

Sherman Branch is a heavily-wooded 209 acre property in eastern Mecklenburg County, near Mint Hill. The property is at 3824 Camp Stewart Road, with the entrance around the corner on Rocky River Church Road. The land is owned by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department and is the site of a future park or nature preserve. In the meantime, it contains an 11.2 mile mountain biking trail that Tarheel Trailblazers built in cooperation with Park and Recreation 2-3 years ago.

After the trail was built, members of the Park and Recreation Horticulture Team noticed the unusually large Sourwood tree beside the trail. They measured it and submitted the measurements to the NC Forest Service, part of the North Carolina Division of Environment and Natural Resources. The deciduous tree had a circumference of 87 inches, a height of 64 feet and a crown spread of 65 feet. It was determined to be the largest known tree of its kind in the state! The NC Forest Service entered the tree into the NC Register of Big Trees and formally declared it an "NC Champion Tree."

The mountain bike trail runs right beside the tree. Wishing to safeguard the exceptional tree against possible danger from bikers, the Trailblazers and the horticulture team agreed on a plan to build a wooden bridge over the roots. The bridge allows bikers to pass by without harming the roots. Volunteers from the Trailblazers built the bridge.

The bridge was completed in late November, 2009. Over the years, volunteers from the Trailblazers have built about 45 miles of bike trails in half a dozen properties of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department. Each trail represents a partnership between the two organizations. For more information: http://www.tarheeltrailblazers.com/.