NoDa's HMM Nature Trail

Short and sweet:

HMM parents and neighbors are organizing to turn the overgrowth and debris at the corner of Charles and N McDowell into a nature trail that winds through native foliage and a pollinator garden.

What we need:
- 1200 linear feet of trail edging (~$600),
- 16.7 cubic yards of pea gravel (~$1500 delivered), and
- retaining wall treated wood (~$400) along 100 feet of path to access the trail.

Our vendor is donating labor as soon as we come up with the funds for materials.

The full story:

You may have noticed the odd empty lot(s) along Charles Avenue at the corner of N McDowell St.  Is it a dog park?  Is it someone waiting for their lot to appreciate?  Answer: The grounds of Highland Mill Montessori Elementary School ("HMM"). 

When the school was repurposed as a new magnet public school in 2002, there were several poorly maintained mill houses on the edge of the school property.  The county purchased the lots, added them to the school grounds, and razed the dilapidated homes.  It was temporarily used as an employee parking lot.  In the years since, turnover in school leadership led to uncertainty regarding use, and even ownership, of the land.  Random “no trespassing signs” littered the land.  Rows of bushes and trees outlined the footprints of houses long removed. 

Subsequently, neighbors on Charles and the school's parent community volunteered to beautify the land.  They mowed overgrown grass, removed old signage, put in birdhouses, cut down dead trees, and removed poison ivy.  The volunteer landscaping confused some folks who called the police, believing the clearing of overgrowth was an attack on the environment.  It’s important to know that the school relies on this volunteer work, as Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System ("CMS") does not budget for school landscaping beyond mowing of grass around the main buildings.

More recently, removal of a few dead trees provided space for an elementary-sized soccer field.  At the same time, collaboration with TreesCharlotte resulted in planting of 50 new trees on the school property.

2018 marks the next phase.  School leaders and parents have dreamed for years of using the remaining land for a nature trail.  After losing a grant competition in 2017, HMM parents are teaming up with the NoDa community and a generous CMS-approved vendor to complete the trail.

It is an ambitious project:
- remove fence debris on the interior of the property,
- remove invasive plants, including English Ivy, ligustrum, Chinese Privet,
- plant milkweed and other pollinators at the corner of Charles and McDowell to register with the Butterfly Highway Initiative,
- plant native foliage along trail (trees: Loblolly Pines, Oaks, Flowering Dogwoods, and Redbud and shrubbery: wild hydrangea, black-eyed susans, coneflowers, butterfly weed)
- install a 500 ft long by 3 ft wide nature trail with pea gravel,
- install retaining walls along 100 ft approach where trail cuts through the hill,
- install Lowe’s full-board edging along the sides of the trail,
- repair the existing fencing on Charles,
- remove weeds growing though and destroying the existing fence.
  • Jason Roland 
    • $100 
    • 55 mos
  • Piper Ito 
    • $50 
    • 56 mos
  • Matthew Mahoney 
    • $35 
    • 56 mos
  • Sarah Lichtenberg 
    • $40 
    • 56 mos
  • Nicole Bradford Argento 
    • $200 
    • 56 mos
See all


Tatjana Eres 
Charlotte, NC

Your easy, powerful, and trusted home for help

  • Easy

    Donate quickly and easily.

  • Powerful

    Send help right to the people and causes you care about.

  • Trusted

    Your donation is protected by the  GoFundMe Giving Guarantee.