Henderson County Rail-Trail
The April 13th meeting featured a presentation by Vaughn & Melton, the Asheville civil engineering firm hired to survey, analyze, and propose construction plans for Ecusta Trail. Many disciplines are involved in the analysis of the Trail including Environmental Preservation, Geotechnical and Archeological Investigation, Traffic Planning and Design.
Topographic surveys have been done by plane with drone flights to be done later. Wetland and stream studies are in progress in accordance with NEPA, National Environmental Policy Act, and should be completed and reviewed in May. Streams and Wetlands are overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers. There are four bridges in the Henderson County section of the Trail which must be assessed for retrofitting versus replacement.
Major design options involve determination of Trail width. While 10 ft. is the minimum prescribed width for a greenway, there may be sections of the Trail which would warrant expanded width up to 14 ft. to accommodate heavier use. Trail shoulders are another consideration along with access for maintenance and emergency vehicles. Greenway construction would focus on the existing “ballast” or railbed. However, it may require shifting where a road or wetland is very close to the Trail. Design options will need to be finalized soon with the goal of completing all studies by August. Meanwhile, fundraising and grant applications continue to be pursued by the County, FOET and Trail partners.
Current public use of the Trail necessitates the County posting signs soon saying: Stay on the ballast railbed. Stay off private property. Dogs must be on leash. No unauthorized vehicles.
City Council Requests
At their April 7th meeting, the Hendersonville City Council adopted a resolution to change the Ecusta trailhead from Kanuga Road to the City’s South Main Street property to "serve as a primary trailhead for the Ecusta Trail as a part of the first phase development in order to provide public amenities and access to the trail from downtown and developing areas uth and east of Hendersonville." The resolution also stated: "There is limited access to public parking and restrooms at Kanuga Road, and the City of Hendersonville is working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation to integrate critical bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure into the South Main Street/White Street Improvement Projects."
Ecusta Trail Advisory Board
Mayor Maureen Copelof led the April 27 Ecusta Trail meeting in the Brevard City Council Chambers. She announced that the City Attorney expects to have a lease ready soon with Conserving Carolina for Transylvania County’s 7.8 mile Trail section subject to approval by the City Council. The completed lease agreement along with letters of support from County Commissioners will be the foundation for the City’s application for a RAISE grant to build the Trail.
The City plans to send a delegation to Washington, D. C., in early summer to seek a $15 Million federal RAISE grant with matching local funds. An additional $1 Million grant has been applied for under the separate Federal Lands Access program for the design and engineering phase of the Transylvania County section of the Trail. RAISE is the federal “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” $1.5 Billion discretionary grant program approved by Congress for 2022. The popular program helps communities around the country carry out projects with significant local or regional impact.
Recognizing that staff from Henderson and Transylvania Counties have been collaborating on Trail development and funding plans, Mayor Copelof stressed the importance of “coordinating a seamless Ecusta Trail transition between the counties.” She also stated that the North Carolina Department of Transportation will be the Construction Administrator for Transylvania County, coordinating construction with both counties.
Representing Bartlett Tree Company, John Hardison, Jr., presented an offer by Bartlett to donate a rest stop on the Ecusta Trail in Transylvania County. He also offered Bartlett’s expertise in identifying potential problems with trees along the Trail before construction begins to avoid more costly removals after construction is completed. He explained that trees near the Trail may suffer sufficient root damage during construction to cause them to die soon after construction. Bartlett is currently on retainer with the City of Greenville, S. C., to manage trees along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.
Tourism Board Grant
At the recent Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority (TCTDA) retreat, the Board of Directors passed a motion to provide $1Million to the City of Brevard for development of the Transylvania County portion of the Ecusta Trail provided that the City's “Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity” (RAISE) grant application is approved, and following the required contract review of TCTDA expenditures over $50,000 by the County Commissioners.
Mark Tooley Elected FOET President
Mark Tooley, a Brevard native now retired, will be kept busy as the newly elected President of The Friends of Ecusta Trail. He joined the FOET Board in 2014 to advocate for the Trail in Transylvania County. His service on the Conserving Carolina Board helped facilitate their purchase of the Trail. Tooley continues to work as a volunteer on their Land Protection Committee and French Broad River Stewards Program. He has also served on the Transylvania County
Planning Board, Transylvania Economic Alliance, and
Natural Resource Council. He currently assists the Transylvania County Transportation Advisory Committee. Tooley praised outgoing President Hunter Marks for his dedicated leadership and ". . . the entire FOET Board whose efforts have been unrelenting. Our priority now is to raise the funds needed to design and construct the Trail in both counties as we continue to be the public face of Ecusta Trail."
Hunter Marks became President of FOET in 2014. A Landscape Architect with Watermark Landscape Architecture, Marks and several others started discussing the possibility of a trail about fifteen years ago, leading to the incorporation of FOET in 2010. Marks said: “We have a great Board, and it has been an honor to serve as President. We never doubted we would eventually secure the Trail, but I’m not sure any of us realized how long it would take. I think our strategy could be summed up as “just keep chipping away.” Although he will remain on the Board, Marks said, “My main objective was to secure the trail, which we have done. Now it’s time for a new president.”
Chuck McGrady jokes that the word "former" now precedes most of his introductions. It's an impressive list of former roles and accomplishments as North Carolina State Representative for the 117th district (2011-2020), Henderson County Commissioner (2004-2010) and Planning Board member, Flat Rock Village Councilman, and Asheville Airport Authority Board member. He is past President of
Conserving Carolina, Friends of DuPont Forest,and Muddy
Sneakers. He was national president of the Sierra Club, and he has served on numerous other nonprofit Boards.
After successful careers in law, business, and government, McGrady planned to retire in 2020, but he says with a laugh, "My plan failed." Known for his expertise dealing with budgets and other issues in the N. C. House of Representatives, he said "yes” last year when Rep. Tim Moore, the Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives, asked him to serve on the N. C. Department of Transportation Board. A fervent environmentalist, McGrady's decision was motivated by awareness of NCDOT's enormous environmental impact. Because its broad scope of transportation planning includes providing safe paths for pedestrians and bikers, NCDOT understood the great value of Ecusta Trail and approved a grant for the bulk of its funding.
Cleanup by the River at Horse Shoe
From Battle Creek Road to the French Broad River, volunteers cleared debris on Saturday, April 23. The river will accompany the Trail in several sections as it wends its way between Horse Shoe and Brevard. Read about “Long Man—The River''at the end of this newsletter. As in previous cleanup events, the crews are enthusiastic and eager to make progress on the Trail they envision using.
MAST GENERAL STORE "ROUNDS UP" FOR ECUSTA TRAIL. For the month of May, Hendersonville’s Mast General Store at 527 N. Main Street will ask customers to “Round up for the Cause”--Ecusta Trail. All round-up proceeds from store purchases will be donated to Ecusta Trail. Visit their website at www.mastgeneralstore.com
CARDS FOR A CAUSE AT HISTORIC JOHNSON FARM CRAFT SALE – SATURDAY, MAY 7, FROM 10:00-4:00. If you are shopping for a special Mother’s Day gift or card, please visit the Mother’s Day Craft Market at Historic Johnson Farm. Cards For Hendersonville Causes will be selling unique hand-crafted greeting cards and gift items with all proceeds donated to seven Hendersonville area nonprofits including Ecusta Trail. You can also shop online for cards at www.cardsforacausenc.com.
AMAZON SMILE PROGRAM - Amazon will donate 0.5% of eligible purchases to your designated charity or nonprofit at no cost to you. Amazon Smile offers the same products at the same prices as the Amazon you know. You can designate ecustatrail.org to receive your donation. Sign up using your existing Amazon account.
“Rounding up” for donations to nonprofit organizations is becoming increasingly popular among retailers. When you have an opportunity to do so, please consider Ecusta Trail for your “round-up donations.”
For rails-to-trails information across the country with an interactive map to discover new adventures, visit www.railstotrails.org to subscribe.
May is National Bike Month. The number of people biking to work has increased over the last twenty years. For interesting information on biking, check out www.bikeleague.org.
Summer planning is afoot with everyone eager to embrace the outdoors. Henderson and Transylvania Counties offer a wealth of things to see and do. Be sure to visit these dynamic websites for help planning your activities: www.Hendersonvillenc.org and www.explorebrevard.com
Read about the new Lennox Station at 441 S. Whitted Street adjoining the Trail just one-half mile from Main Street. The planned multiplex will include an array of dining, shopping, and gathering spaces with generous parking. Follow the building progress at www.lennoxstation.com.
For custom brewed coffee or tea near the Trail in Horse Shoe, visit the new Hidden Trails Coffee House in Horse Shoe Gap Village at 3630 Brevard Road www.HiddenTrailsCoffeeHouse.com. The recently opened quaint village includes five local artisans offering antiques and crafts plus glass-blowing demonstrations www.woodhavenglass.com
Near Banner Farm Road in Horse Shoe, slake your thirst at The BARn, a beer garden at Packa’s Place with tasty food by Jared Dotson of Ecusta Station at Packa’s Place www.packasplace.com
“Long Man, the Cherokees called the river. Long Man whose head rested on the mountains, whose feet lay along the valleys, who was fed by the Chattering Children of all his tributary streams.” For more than 10,000 years the Cherokees lived beside the Long Man River before the first Europeans arrived to change its name. Wilma Dykeman tells the history of the river and the mountains that feed it in her landmark 1955 book—The French Broad. She describes the mountains as a giant sponge soaking up rivulets that cascade down from the Devil’s Courthouse with four tributaries merging at Rosman to create the main stem of the French Broad. The river follows a sinuous northerly course joining the Davidson and the Little Rivers before entering Henderson County. More rivers merge as it proceeds on its 219-mile journey north to the Tennessee River at Knoxville on its way to the Mississippi.
FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Tom Keating, Matt Revis, Cindy Ruzak. Graphic Designer--RJ Miner; Editor--Lorraine Nash