The western end of the county will soon boast a land navigation course thanks to a recent collaboration among Lincoln County’s Special Operation Land Search Team, local Boy Scouts troop leaders and county fire departments.
According to Sheriff’s Sergeant Trent Carpenter, a liaison/coordinator between the team and the Sheriff’s Office, and also one of roughly 20 members on the Land Search Team, the project commenced last month at West Lincoln Park and won’t be completed for public use until March.
The Land Search Team is a joint venture between the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, Lincoln County Emergency Management, and South Fork Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The team stores their equipment at South Fork but is comprised of firefighters from various county departments as well as deputies.
Plans for the local navigation course, expected to instruct local scouts on compass and map reading, and of course, land navigation, commenced this past spring, Carpenter said.
The project stemmed from Lincolnton resident and Assistant Scout Master Mark Johnson, who is associated with Troop 74, chartered by Rhyne Heights United Methodist Church.
Johnson has served in the troop leader position for at least a decade, he said.
He sought to create a local orienteering trail for scouts, since the closest one is at Crowders Mountain State Park in Gastonia, he said.
The project is also part of the Scout leader’s Wood Badge training, the highest training course and achievement for leaders like him.
The training and experience Wood Badge work provides is often compared to that of the Eagle Scout process.
“It’s a training program that helps us to do some of the same things the boys go through in working on an Eagle project,” Johnson said, “so it helps us help them.”
The joint effort also benefits the Land Search Rescue Team, officially organized two years ago, to better pinpoint lost individuals, Carpenter said.
The team uses maps and other equipment to search for people who have wandered from a home or other location.
Oftentimes, the individuals have Alzheimer’s disease, a medical condition or some other physical or mental handicap.
While patrol officers are the first to arrive on scene as soon as a person is reported missing, Carpenter said, members with the special operations team respond shortly after.
“We do a more organized, thorough search,” he said. “We get out the maps and search the blue lines, the red lines and the black lines.”
In addition to adult leaders with Troop 74 and the county’s Land Search Team, the local navigation course project has enlisted the aid of Darren Ledford, with Gaston County Emergency Medical Services (GEMS), who helped construct the Crowder’s Mountain course.
In Gaston County, GEMS carries out land search rescue missions, Carpenter said.
The law enforcement official also hinted how the western county course would more than likely be the first of additional land navigation sites across Lincoln County in the near future.
The course consists of hidden markers, each with different coordinates, that scouts or other orienteering groups must use a compass and map to locate.
The Land Search Team has also partnered with Lincoln County Parks and Recreation to offer the public various coordinates and course layouts that individuals can print off the county’s main website this spring, when the course officially opens.
Like in past years, Johnson looks forward to working with his scouts and watching them progress in their outdoor, leadership and other related scouting skills.
“It’s just a terrific feeling to know you’ve helped them do that,” he said.
West Lincoln Park is located at 369 Hull’s Grove Church Road in Vale.