Can I Change Zoning/Or Land Use if I have property adjacent to the corridor?

If you have property that is adjacent to the trail corridor, you will need to contact the planning department in the County or Municipality in which the land lies.   They can walk you through any zoning or land use restrictions for your particular property as well as explain procedures to follow if you wish to request a change for land use.

What is the relationship between Friends of the Ecusta Trail and Conserving Carolina?

Although the Friends of the Ecusta Trail (FOET) have been planning and promoting the project for 10+ years, it has limited resources and is volunteer based. FOET will continue to support the project in every way but will initially focus on fundraising and public outreach.
Conserving Carolina (CC) will partner with FOET on the project because of the project's complexity and their extensive local experience.
Working in partnership, CC and FOET can bring separate strengths and capacities together to achieve greater success than either entity could accomplish by itself.

What is Railbanking?

Railbanking, as defined by the National Trails System Act, 16 USC 1247 (d), is a voluntary agreement between a railroad company and a trail agency to use an out-of-service rail corridor as a trail until a railroad might need the corridor again for rail service. Since the Act was adopted by Congress in 1983 it has preserved more than 6,200 miles of rail corridors in 40 states that would otherwise have been abandoned. 

Because a railbanked corridor is not considered abandoned, the complete corridor can be sold, leased or donated to a Trail Manager.  

For more information on railbanking click on https://www.railstotrails.org/build-trails/trail-building-toolbox/acquisition/railbanking/



When the trail is built, what happens to the steel rails and cross ties?

Rail steel is very marketable for reuse elsewhere. As an example, Greenville County (South Carolina) was able to sell the steel and ties for an amount equivalent to what they paid the railroad for the corridor that became the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  It is very likely that the railroad will remove the rail and cross ties soon after the purchase.

What protection does the new trail owner have against legal challenges?
What if someone is injured on my adjacent land while trying to access the trail?

Any trail user that wanders onto posted private property is considered a trespasser under the law. There is no private property owner liability unless a landowner has created a hazardous condition, public nuisance or life-threatening situation to lure users out of the trail corridor.

Why not use the rail line for commuter traffic or a sight-seeing train?

There simply isn't enough commuting between Brevard and Hendersonville to make a commuter train a viable economic option.  Likewise, excursion trains are usually private enterprises, and thus far no entities have come forward with proposals to convert the line for that use.

If a railroad wants to reactivate the line, do they have to pay for it?

Yes. Under federal law this can be done but they must negotiate and pay a fair market value price to the rail-trail operators for their improvements.

Will my taxes go up if I live along the trail?

The tax rates for properties located along the trail will not change as a result of a rail-trail being built. The Planning Study does estimate that property values for land within 1/4 mile of the proposed trail will increase as there will be demand for people to live in close proximity to the trail. However, since assessed value and market value are two different numbers, the only way that assessed property values will go up is if nearby properties start selling for higher amounts, thereby indicating an increase in market value.  

Who supports the Ecusta Trail?

Municipalities, Henderson County, businesses, non-profit organizations and more than 2,000 citizens in WNC have given formal statements of support. Click here to see a list of some of the groups or to add your support.  Click here to complete a statement of support for you or your business.

Once a rail trail is created and the land is federally rail-banked, are there any instances where the trails have been converted back for train operation?

Yes, there have been nine such “reactivations” since the mid 1980's.  Lines were either reactivated to rail use only or converted to rail use plus an adjacent multi-use trail, referred to as “rail with trail”.https://www.railstotrails.org/build-trails/trail-building-toolbox/basics/rail-with-trail/

Do rail trails attract crime and vandalism?

Studies show that trail development may actually decrease the risk of crime in comparison to an abandoned and undeveloped rail corridor. Typically, lawful trail users serve as "eyes and ears" for the community, discouraging unlawful activity. Deputies assigned to the Greenville County SC Sheriff's Department that patrol the Swamp Rabbit Trail report that 99% of crimes associated with the trail result from folks leaving valuables in their cars.

There is no evidence that developed rail-trails cause an increase in crime. In fact, studies show that the exact opposite is the case. Trail development may actually decrease the risk of crime in comparison to an abandoned and undeveloped rail corridor. Several studies show that most people prefer living along a rail trail rather than an abandoned corridor. Typically, lawful trail users serve as "eyes and ears" for the community, discouraging unlawful activity.

Brevard and Hendersonville have successful greenways with a distinct absence of crime.

Where would the Ecusta Trail begin and end?

If the Ecusta Trail follows the existing rail corridor, one terminus would be near the Oskar Blues plant, in Brevard, where the trail would connect with the Brevard Bike Path. The Henderson County terminus is currently projected to be on South Main Street in Downtown Hendersonville.

As both terminus are in such close proximity to other existing greenways, (Brevard Bike path, Estatoe Trail, Ochlawaha Greenway) the rail-trail would extend well beyond the 19-mile railroad corridor.

What is the economic benefit of the Ecusta Trail?

A 2012 corridor improvement study documented that initial construction would infuse $42 million into the community plus an annual benefit of $9.4 million in tourism revenue, health care cost savings and increased values of property along the trail. 

For other Economic Benefit information, see the Economic Impact page.

Who would operate and provide security for the trail?

There are several possible management options including regional management, a local trails consortium, a trail authority, or jurisdictions of local governments such as cities and counties.

For instance, the Swamp Rabbit model has Greenville Parks and Recreation Department to be in charge of operating the trail and the municipalities contract with the Greenville Sheriff’s Department to provide security.

What are the likely funding sources for trail construction?

Funding for trail construction will likely come from a multitude of public and private funds. 

As examples of public funding, since 2015, the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) has earmarked 1/4 of 1% of the hotel occupancy tax for trail construction in Henderson County.  Similarly, Transylvania County’s TDA donated $100,000 toward corridor acquisition. 

NCDOT has awarded approximately $7 Million for construction of the first three phases of the Ecusta Trail starting in downtown Hendersonville and going to the French Broad River near Horse Shoe.

Federal funds often cover at least 80% of design, engineering and construction costs with the remaining funds coming from other sources such as grants, and contributions from private citizens, foundations and businesses.

What is the cost to build the trail?

Beyond the cost to acquire the rail corridor, construction costs depend on the width of the pathway and amenities. The 2012 Ecusta Trail Study suggested a 10-foot pathway with two-foot shoulders. The trail project would include bridge and culvert improvements for users' safety. 

Eight “trailheads” were proposed in the study. Signage, screening, parking and restrooms could also be included. Current design and construction estimates range from $18 million to $25 million depending upon the condition of the many trestles along the rail line.

Are there good examples of successful efforts…

Nationally more than 23,000 miles of rail-trails have been built. Nearby, the Swamp Rabbit in Travelers Rest, SC, the Virginia Creeper Trail in Abingdon, VA, and the American Tobacco Trail in the Raleigh-Durham area are good examples.   (Successful Trails page)

Are there organizations in place that can assist with Railbanking, when needed?

Although Friends of the Ecusta Trail has been planning and promoting the project for over a decade, it has limited resources and no staff, so we have partnered with Conserving Carolina to move the project forward.

Likewise, Henderson County, City of Hendersonville, Town of Laurel Park, City of Brevard, Henderson County Travel Development Authority, Transylvania Travel Development Authority and Henderson County Chamber of Commerce have been active in supporting the trail and planning efforts.

Another organization, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has served as the national voice for the rail-trail movement since 1986 (www.railstotrails.org). The RTC has railbanked over 6,200 miles of rail corridors in forty states.

What was the purpose of conducting the Planning and Economic Impact study?

To determine if the proposed 19 mile rail-trail project from Hendersonville to Brevard was feasible; to estimate the overall economic benefit to the community; to evaluate the existing rail corridor; to identify partnerships needed to facilitate corridor conversion; and to establish next steps to convert the corridor into a shared-use trail.

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