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The Navassa Heritage Trail

Navassa Heritage Trail-e0c59f0d
Dan Dodge

The Navassa Heritage Trail Is Celebrating and Maintaining Stability for the Gullah/Geechee Culture

Within our communities, there has been a conscious effort to promote the progression of the North Carolina Gullah Geechee Greenway/Blueway Heritage Trail Project. By broadening the documentation of African-American culture within Brunswick County, residents can comprehend the importance of historic preservation, ecotourism, and the value that grassroots projects can offer. Many locations are participating in this effective plan, including the towns of Leland, Belville, Navassa, and Southport. Moving forward, each place is proposing its ideas to celebrate the Gullah/Geechee people creatively.

The history of the Gullah/Geechee culture within the Lower Cape Fear Region is not as recognized as other areas in the Carolinas. However, the upcoming Navassa Heritage Trail is looking to change that notion by highlighting, sustaining, and restoring a multitude of cultural infrastructures that reside in Navassa, North Carolina. Throughout this project, Gullah/Geechee history will be passed on effectively by showcasing economic vibrancy. And, it allows tight-knit communities from Brunswick County to actively participate in the future of this expansive plan of action.

The 10-mile Greenway/Blueway trail will run from Mount Misery Road to Old Mill Road, offering visitors environmental resources, historical features, and recreational activities. This project can become a prominent space for local ecotourism to flourish by commemorating the identity, perseverance, and independence of the Gullah/Geechee residents. People of all generations will experience constructed surfaces such as boardwalks, natural paths, bridges, a converted rail to trail, etc., to explore historical sites. These include seven rice plantations (Cobham, Hall, Mears, Moze, Mulberry, Prospect, and Shawfield), five cemeteries (Hall, Mears, Mt. Calvary, Prospect/Cedar Hill, and Reaves Chapel), two churches (Mt. Calvary and Reaves Chapel), and anywhere from 10 to 15 parks.

In addition, the Town of Navassa is forming the Moze Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Center and multi-use park. The space will allow visitors an extensive view into the affluent customs, practices, and beliefs of the Gullah/Geechee people in Brunswick County. With additional assistance and support from local organizations, foundations, and other participants, such as the North Carolina Coastal Land Trust and the Navassa Trustee Council, the project plans to be completed in FY 2026. It will be located on a 28-acre former superfund site assigned by the Multistate Environmental Response Trust.

Another engaging effort woven into the Navassa Heritage Trail is the developing Cedar Hill African-American Heritage Park, headed by the Cedar Hill/West Bank Heritage Foundation. The Park will involve restored sites, such as Reaves Chapel Church, one of the Cape Fear Region’s most historically significant African-American structures. Along with Cedar Hill Cemetery, a burial ground for the enslaved Africans and their families. It was located near the former Prospect/Cedar Hill Plantation and was last used around the year 1960. Lastly, the park will showcase the reconstructed Phoenix Colored School, a former Rosenwald Type 3 school. The institution was built around 1927/1928 on Cedar Hill Road and educated students from grades 1st through 8th until around 1956/1957. After operations ended, the school was torn down around the year 1965. The town plans to create this historic structure through the diligent collaboration of local and regional partners. When finalized, it will house the Reaves Chapel Church Visitor’s Center, the Rosenwald Schools Museum, and the African-American History Museum.

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