Success in a rails-to-trails project is very possible! Many factors must be in place in order for a trail to finally come to fruition - a rail line must be available, an organized group must spearhead the effort, funding to create and maintain a trail must be procured. Yes, this type of project is huge, yet incredibly worthwhile.
Below are few regional rail trails that are well worth a visit.
This 5-mile gem starts in the forest and ends just outside of downtown Brevard. A portion of the trail runs along the old Carr Lumber Company railway. Start at Davidson River parking lot, immediately before the bridge to Davidson River Campground. The trail starts at the end of the parking lot, around the orange forest service gate. Don’t let the first 300 yards fool you, as soon as you cross over the river bridge connecting the Art Loeb trail, the path becomes nicely packed gravel all the way to Hwy 64. The first 1.4 miles stay in the forest along Davidson River as the trail alternates between hard packed fine gravel and boardwalks crossing wet areas. The trail is in fantastic shape, as I pedaled it after a heavy thunderstorm and there was little to no standing water. At mile 1.7 there is a nicely designed crosswalk to easily traverse Hwy 64. At the Lowes you will pick up the Brevard bike path as you travel beside Ecusta Road for a half-mile or so. On your left you will see the vacant property that was once the Ecusta Paper plant, closed in 2002. One day this may be the start/end of the Ecusta Rail Trail! As you cross over Ecusta Road the bike path takes you through and around the Brevard Sports complex and Transylvania Regional Hospital. When the path comes back alongside Hwy 64 you will have a very slight up-hill climb past Blue Ridge Community College where you will cross back over Hwy 64. Follow the path to its end on Poplar Street where you can easily pick up some bike friendly streets for the remaining ¼ mile into downtown Brevard. Total distance. out and back, is about 10 miles and there is surprisingly little elevation change. The City of Brevard has a plan to connect this trail to Brevard Music Center and the newly created Brackin Mountain trail system. When this is complete, it will allow for a 20 mile loop through Pisgah Forest back around to the Estatoe Trail Head.
13.5 miles of the Swamp Rabbit Trail are open to the public. A Rail-to-Trail Multi-Use Pathway running along the Reedy River, the Swamp Rabbit Trail extends from just north to the city of Travelers Rest, through Furman University and into the heart of the city of Greenville. The mostly 10’ wide paved trail has spurred economic development along this old textile corridor. Working together the Greenville County Recreation District and the City of Greenville have linked their sections of trail with future expansion under construction and planned as outlined in each entities Greenways Master Plan.
Offers scenic wonders from dense forests, open fields, and lush waterways to railroad relics and delightful small towns. Cyclists and equestrians love the length of the Creeper, and many local walkers and joggers take advantage of the pleasant opportunity for a little exercise.
If you enjoy rail-trails that flaunt their railroading past, you're sure to love the Thermal Belt Rail-Trail. This well-maintained route runs eight miles from Spindale north to Gilkey, passing through the equally tiny towns of Rutherfordton and Ruth. Its crushed stone surface barely disguises the old tracks and ties, which peek through all along the trail. Old railroad signs also line the corridor.
Just south of Charlotte, a trip along the Gold Hill Rail-Trail through this historic village will transport you back to a time when North Carolina was the country's only gold-producing state. Signs posted every few hundred feet along the mile-long dirt and gravel path detail the history of mining in the state.
As its name suggests, the Winston-Salem Strollway presents the perfect setting for a leisurely walk. Completed in 1988, the popular rail-trail links Winston-Salem's modern business district with historic Old Salem. The first segment threads though several engaging downtown blocks and crosses beneath I-40. As you approach the underpass, the cityscape gives way to green spaces, fragrant magnolias, and residential neighborhoods.
In 2003, the South Carolina Governor's Council on Physical Fitness recognized the Florence Rail-Trail Committee with a community award for its work on this tree-lined trail, which spans two miles between the Ebenezer Park neighborhood and nearby McLeod Health & Fitness Center. Area walkers, runners, inline skaters, and cyclists flock here for their daily fitness routines, and visitors are welcome to join them.
Although not a rail-trail, this greenway runs along Mud Creek and connects Jackson Park, Patton Park and Berkley Park. The route from Jackson Park to Berkley Park totals about 3.3 miles (one way) with another 0.7 mile (round trip) out and back if you follow the path to Patton Park. All total, you can make a ride, walk or run of about 7.4 miles if you do an out and back to all three parks.
The path is paved asphalt and is 10 feet wide. It winds along mud creek and is fairly flat with the exception of a slight 1/4 mile climb as you enter Berkley Park. The newest section of this trail was completed in 2016 and runs from a round-a-bout and kiosk just off of North Main St. to Berkely Park. This is a 1.6 mile section, one way. The City of Hendersonville has done some very pretty landscaping along this section as well as making the trail meander as opposed to making it a straight line.
Parking can be found at the following places: Berkley Park, Patton Park, Jackson Park, a small parking lot on North Main St. and a small parking area on 7th Avenue.
Success stories abound across our nation and Friends of the Ecusta Trail believes that we, too, could become a phenomenal success. To learn more about rail trails in the USA, visit the Rails-to-trails Conservancy website at http://www.railstotrails.org.