July 2024

 

Root & Bone/The Crossroads

By Cindy Ruzak

 

 

If you have lived in Western North Carolina for any length of time, it is likely you have heard the name Turchin in some connection or another. And now, another means by which to do that has opened for all of us to enjoy, Root & Bone/The Crossroads.

 

The Root & Bone restaurant, housed in The Crossroads complex located on Brevard Road/Hwy 64 at the crossing of the Ecusta Trail in Horseshoe, opened to the public on June 14. The ambiance, extraordinary quality of food and beverage selections, and engaging staff guarantees this endeavor will quickly become a superlative culinary destination. 

 

At a pre-opening event for the press, family, friends, contractors and employees of other Turchin enterprises, the joy of the dining experience was palpable. From an enthusiastic greeting at the door by Dave and Lauren and general manager Andrew, to attentive serving at the bar by Logan and others on patio dining areas, and interesting conversations with chefs Jeff and Janine, and owners Susan and John, a true desire to engage was manifested. This “all-in” engagement style genuinely creates a wonderful sense of welcoming inclusion. The stories each person relayed about their individual paths to involvement in the restaurant provided a tribute to how success in any endeavor is driven by the relationships to others. 

 

 

Two James Beard Award-nominated chefs, partners Jeffrey McInnis and Janine Booth, offer their special blend of “elevated southern comfort food.” They met owner John Turchin when Janine, who hails from Australia, was opening a restaurant in Miami Beach and came before the local architectural design review board on which he served. John helped them get through the approval process by suggesting an alternate window treatment of a full glass garage door style, thus establishing beginnings of a collaborative relationship. So, when John saw the vacant building in Horseshoe, he immediately contacted Jeff and Janine to see what they thought about opening a restaurant there together. John and Susan’s previous connection to the hospitality industry has included ownership of three nightclub properties in Florida, and they continue to split their time between the coast and the mountains.

Connections to the WNC community, and to the arts in general, abound with so many members of this extended family business. Jeff has family in Marion and his parents have been involved with Appalachian State and the creation of the Turchin Center; so he and wife Janine are looking forward to relocating with their three children to North Carolina from Florida.  Susan Turchin is a visual artist, with a guitar on display at the front entrance to the restaurant being one of her creations. John and Susan’s son Jordan, who operates the family’s enterprise at nearby Horseshoe Farms, acted over seven years in several Off-Broadway New York theater productions. Daughter Ashley, while not involved with The Crossroads, sells artwork. And John’s interests are multi-generational.

 

 

As the website proclaims, The Turchin Center for the visual arts strategic location on King Street in the heart of downtown Boone is within the physical boundaries of Appalachian State University, thus placing it at the “crossroads” between campus and community, creating a multitude of opportunities for meaningful campus and community partnerships. Named for benefactors Robert and Lillan Turchin, the center opened in 2003 under the belief that access and interaction with arts programming is an important part of a great university education, and that sharing these opportunities with residents and visitors is important to the cultural, economic and healthful life of the community. In keeping with that belief, to provide increased accessibility for the App State community, the center is free of charge and open to the public.

 

As an extension of that artistic community connectivity, John is planning to have several works of visual art adorning the outdoor space at the Root & Bone/The Crossroads for all Ecusta Trail riders to enjoy as they pass by.

 

That connectivity was also expressed among the other attendees at the pre-opening event. As an example, from just one table, a toilet salesman, who is also a diehard Chicago Cubs fan (I grew up in Chicago, but connected as a White Sox fan) was sitting with his friend, the contractor who supplied all the pipes for Horseshoe Farms, and who offered information about a worldwide organization of organic farmers.

 

Even the name of the restaurant has its own connections. The Crossroads name stems from famed Blues guitarist Robert Johnson of the 1930s. As legend has it, Johnson sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads in his quest for fame. He died at 27, much like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison – aka  “Rock’s 27 Club” –  but his song “Cross Road Blues” achieved fame finally in 1969 when recorded by the British band Cream. The bar at Root & Bone/The Crossroads features historic Rock photographs from the 1970s and 1980s.

 

 

And then there is the food, where there are plenty of unique offerings with which to make a connection. I personally enjoyed the Beets Tartare, the Sweet Tea Brined Chicken, the Falafel Croquettes, and the Braised Brisket Meatloaf.

 

Jeff started his culinary career as a dishwasher when one day a chef at the restaurant did not show up for work, so he was promoted to the fish cutting station.  Janine first worked at a Sicilian restaurant and attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu in New York. And now this is their fourth Root & Bone restaurant opening, after the first in New York City in 2013. It offers “soul nurturing, conscientiously sourced, farm-fresh ingredients” created by “craftsman’s ethic coupled with artistic culinary thought” in
tribute to the timeless recipes and traditions of rural America, and the warm embrace of its hospitality.

 

Restaurant manager Zeke confirmed that future plans include a speakeasy just a few steps down from the bar area that will house small private events, and a market café. While the café will have many equally interesting items for bicyclists and those driving by to choose from for something on the go, the primary focus of the location appears to be providing a dining experience to enjoy at leisure. 

With all this connectivity, it seems completely appropriate that this enterprise be located directly adjacent to the Ecusta Trail; after all, trails are all about connections between towns and between people interacting with each other.

 

root & bone (rootnbone.com)

www.TheCrossroadsNC.com

Turchin Center for the Visual Arts | Appalachian State University (appstate.edu)

 

Henderson County Rail-Trail

Advisory Committee

 

By Cindy Ruzak

 

Henderson County RTAC meeting June 12, 2024

 

In response to RTAC Chair Chris Burns' call for public comment, Clifford Meek, who is affiliated with the model train group French Broad River “Npire,” recommended that some sort of barrier to cars be included in plans for the trail. He has noticed several times over the past 6 months that cars have been parked on the section near Spring Street, and cautioned that once the trail opens, trail users will likely park on adjacent streets that are already narrow. Henderson County Business and Community Development Director Chris Todd and Hendersonville City Manager John Connet responded that they will get together with law enforcement to address potential issues.

 

RTAC member-at-large Ken Shelton inquired if the rails being removed can be repurposed for trail amenities. Todd responded that they are being saved.

 

Mark Tooley, president of Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET), thanked Janna Bianculli, Henderson County Senior Planner, for the excellent trail partners business meeting. He also reported that FOET is working on a framework for offering amenity naming opportunities that were promised to “Making the Dream Real” donors. In addition, FOET is working on a suggested trail etiquette list. Both of these will be submitted to RTAC at a later date.

 

Brevard’s Mayor Maureen Copelof confirmed expectations that the 30% design for the Transylvania County section of the trail will be completed by the end of June. She also announced that there will be a joint meeting on June 26 of the Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board (ETAB), Brevard City Council, and Brevard Parks and Trails Committee.

 

Todd announced there has been a lot of talk about making the official trailhead for the Ecusta Trail to be located at the Visitors Center; and that it is really a challenge to have it anywhere else but there. The facilities are already in place and being improved, and the advantage is that having the trailhead there provides more access to Main Street. He asked RTAC to officially authorize him to approach the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority about this idea since they own the land on which the Visitors Center is located. The motion was approved.

 

Tooley asked the committee to recommend adopting the branding strategy for the Ecusta Trail that was led by FOET and collaboratively refined by the Operations Committee over the past year.

 

Burns suggested tabling formal consideration and voting of that branding strategy until the next meeting so that the RTAC members have time to review the branding strategy and amenities, along with discussing it with other communities to be able to make a uniform decision.

 

Hunter Marks from Watermark Landscape Architect then presented a possible design for trail amenities.

 

 

Marks showed several illustrations from the 30% design phase of how amenities such as rest stations, location markers, and interpretive signs might look with designs respecting the history of the Southern Railway. Wooden location markers would mimic whistle posts and location markers on them made from rustic looking Corten Steel. Design amenities would also include drinking fountains, parking areas, bike and repair racks, buffer areas of landscaping for rest and shade. Things such as trash cans could be agreed upon between the entities.

 

 

In response to a question on design timing from Shelton, Burns emphasized some urgency toward making a decision quickly. Since construction of the first 6 miles should be completed by the end of the year, the consensus was prioritization of some amenities would be beneficial, with some amenities not being ready when the first section of the trail opens.

 

Tooley requested that this amenity design presentation be given to the June 26 joint meeting of the Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board (ETAB), Brevard City Council, and Brevard Parks and Trails Committee.

 

The meeting ended with additional public comment from Steve Line, who moved to Turley Falls specifically to be near the Ecusta Trail, with a suggestion for an opening celebration to include a bike cruise similar to that done in Golden, Colorado, where people decorate their bikes and wear costumes.

 

Next meeting is scheduled for July 10, 2024, at 10:00 am.

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail

Advisory Board

 

By John Lanier

 

For nearly four hours on Wednesday, June 26, Brevard City Council met with members of the Ecusta Trail Advisory Board (ETAB) and Brevard Parks, Trails and Recreation Committee to receive information on the 30 percent design of the trail and to discuss the future governance and responsibilities regarding the trail. The council, by a 3-1 vote, also approved the branding/logo presented by FOET (Friends of Ecusta Trail).

 

Brief History of City Involvement

Towards the beginning of the meeting, Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof gave a brief history of the city of Brevard’s involvement with the Ecusta Trail. The Brevard City Council voted to support the concept of the Ecusta Trail in 2015. Even though the city has just a few hundred yards of the planned trail within its boundaries, in 2021 the city decided to “take the lead” as the primary government agency because the Transylvania County leaders chose not to support the trail. 

 

In 2021 the city also formed the Ecusta Trail Advisory Board. The following year the city signed a 50-year lease with Conserving Carolina for use of the trail.

 

In the past few years, the city has received more than $45 million in federal grants for construction, as well as a $1 million grant for engineering.

 

“We have been incredibly successful in getting that funding,” said Copelof, who added that collaboration with Henderson County was instrumental in getting the grants.

 

Need For Quick Decisions

 

Copelof said the regional aspect of the trail is both a “blessing and a challenge.” Since Henderson County should complete the first 6 miles of the trail by year’s end, the city of Brevard will have to make decisions sooner than anticipated in order to provide unity regarding signage, rules, etc. along the trail.

 

Chris Burns, Henderson County’s representative on ETAB and chair of RTAC, said the nine bridges from downtown Hendersonville to Horseshoe have been removed and the new, prefabricated bridges should be in place in August. He said paving of the trail should begin in late September or early October. The paving should take about three weeks, depending on the weather.

 

Burns said Henderson County is behind schedule on the second phase of the trail. Work on the 30 percent design phase is underway with completion of that section of trail set for the fourth quarter of 2027. 

 

Copelof said if design and construction on both Henderson County’s second phase (Ecusta West) and the Transylvania County section occur simultaneously, then there could be just one contract for both sections, which would save money.

 

Branding and Logo

 

As a result of the need to make decisions quickly, the council received information on branding and logos.

 

FOET president Mark Tooley said an operational committee comprised of members of FOET, Conserving Carolina, Brevard and Henderson County began meeting in January of 2023. In April of that year, the committee asked FOET to contract for branding services.

 

“We had lengthy input sessions up front,” said Tooley regarding branding and logo.

 

Tooley said several color schemes were considered, but the operational committee, in collaboration with a professional design business, came to an agreement on the color palette. The logo would be used along the trail and on promotional merchandise. 

 

Tooley said the branding/logo was presented at the last RTAC meeting, at which no action was taken, but that he would like to see city council vote so that the design can be brought to RTAC at its next meeting for a vote.

 

Hunter Marks, a landscape architect and a member of RTAC, made a presentation on designs for rest stations, location markers, benches, parking areas, etc. His graphics contained Southern Railways colors.

 

Both Copelof and Burns said a decision needed to be made on the colors.

 

Councilman Mac Morrow said the branding/logo is not a “big ticket” item for the city but “an operations item” that should be left up to the people who worked with the design professionals.

 

Copelof said FOET’s branding/logo presentation previously had been shown to members of the Brevard city staff and several council members.

 

“This was done collaboratively,” said Copelof of FOET’s branding/logo.

 

After a brief discussion, the council voted 3-1 to approve the FOET branding/logo with Morrow, Gary Daniel and Aaron Baker voting for the FOET design.

 

30 Percent Design

 

Kristy Stoudt of the engineering design firm TPD said the 30 percent design plans for the Transylvania County section of the trail would be sent to the NCDOT later that week.

 

“There’s a lot of review back and forth,” she said, adding that there are many federal transportation requirements that must be met whenever federal funds are being used. “There are a lot of steps. It’s a complicated process.”

 

Stoudt noted that environmental, social and economic impacts are all considered when designing a trail. Challenges include the trail going through floodways, floodplains and wetlands; roadway crossings; signs and traffic signals; shifting of the trail within the 100-foot right-of-way and erection of barriers and guardrails where the trail may be close to roads. 

 

She added that three bridges in Transylvania County can be used and repurposed instead of being replaced, thus saving about $1million.

 

She concurred with earlier statements that construction on the Transylvania County portion of the trail would begin in 2026 and conclude in 2027.

 

Visions For The Trail

 

Council members and others were asked to give their visions for the trail.

 

“I see this as a transportation infrastructure project first,” said Baker, adding that the city needs to prepare for the economic impact of the trail and to revise many of the city’s strategic plans to consider the trail’s impact.

 

Brevard City Planner Paul Ray said the trail would affect all of the city’s long-range plans – economic development, water and sewer, recreation, etc.


Daniel said the trail would be a destination for both tourists and locals and provide connectivity with neighborhoods, but said the city needs to have more information about the trail’s economic impact. 

 

“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Morrow, who added that all of the benefits of the trail are contained in the city’s grant applications for the federal funds. He also noted that it would provide an opportunity to educate people about the history and environment of the area.

 

Holder said it could be a way to connect and improve communication between diverse communities and there should be activities hosted along the trail to draw in folks who might not normally use the trail.

 

Copelof said it could improve the quality of life for everybody.

 

Tooley said the trail would be “very inclusive” and be used by people of all ages and abilities, including those in wheelchairs or babies in strollers.

 

Larry Chapman, who serves as the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners representative on ETAB, said everyone in the county is not in favor of more cyclists or the trail. He said people become frustrated whenever there are 15 cars waiting behind two cyclists.

 

“This creates animosity,” said Chapman.

 

Chapman, however, praised the city for its efforts to communicate with property owners along the trail and said communication is a key moving forward.

 

John Ditillo, a FOET representative on ETAB, said he belongs to a biking club of 120 members who live out in the county, but only 40 of them ride because the other 80 are terrified to ride on the roads. He said the trail would give those 80 people an opportunity to ride safely.

 

“I think it’s going to grow the cycling community,” Ditillo said.

 

Both Chapman and Holder asked how many current bicyclists would be taken off the streets once the trail is open.

 

Ditillo and other bikers on the boards said it would not have much impact on those who ride 30-40 miles a day, but it would reduce bike traffic where the trail is adjacent to current bike routes, such as the old Hendersonville Highway.

 

Baker said the trail is not meant to take all bikers off county roads and that while he does understand the frustration of some drivers being caught behind bicyclists, local leaders need to push back against hate and violence committed against bicyclists. He noted that one cyclist, a pediatrician, was hit with a full can of Coke and put in the hospital.

 

Who Decides What?

 

City Attorney Mack McKellar directed a discussion regarding the roles and responsibilities of the various organizations involved in the Ecusta Trail.

 

Copleof said there must be a structure as to which organizations and governmental bodies will make certain decisions.

 

“City council does not need to be micromanaging this project at all,” said Morrow.

Morrow said the purpose of the advisory boards, RTAC and ETAB, is to resolve operational issues and there is no need for elected bodies to get involved in those issues.

 

Baker said ETAB is not like other city of Brevard committees because it does not have two council members, it has members who live outside the city limits, and it does not take action votes.

 

“We never take votes,” said Baker of ETAB. “That committee needs to make decisions.”

 

McKellar suggested, and council members agreed, tweaking the membership of ETAB and empowering that board to make certain decisions, which would then be placed on the council’s consent agenda. Doing so would mirror the way Brevard handles other city committees and the way Henderson County treats RTAC.

 

There appeared to be a consensus that city staff would handle technical issues and council would decide policy issues based on input from ETAB. Some suggested the council make a decision on the western terminus of the trail based on information from ETAB, but Baker said he may ask council to take action on determining the western terminus before ETAB discusses it.

 

Copelof proposed, and others agreed, on updating the membership and responsibilities of ETAB, as well as working out what decisions would be ceded to FOET.

 

Tooley said RTAC has not approved the roles of FOET and both Henderson County and Brevard need to agree on the role of FOET, particularly if FOET is expected to hire a trail manager.

 

Other Items Of Interest 

  • Daniel asked if the Ecusta Trail would be a city park. McKellar said it would probably be best to consider the trail a park from a technical standpoint, just as the Estatoe Trail is considered a park.
  • Henderson County is looking to have a location marker every half mile and a stencil on the trail every tenth of a mile.

Next meeting is scheduled for July 31, 2024 @ 3:30 pm

 

 

 

The Trail Talk team is looking for additional writers who can attend and report on Henderson County or City of Brevard advisory committee meetings, or special events as needed. If you are interested in helping, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

July ET Events

 

Henderson County R-TAC Meeting

July 10, 2024 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

 

https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/bc-rtac

____________________________

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
July 31, 2024 @ 3:30pm – 5:30pm

 

Open to the public. Meeting at City Council Chambers. 

 

 

FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, John Lanier, RJ Miner, Matt Revis and Cindy Ruzak.

 

 

STAY CONNECTED

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GET INVOLVED

 

 

FOR TRAIL CONSTRUCTION QUESTIONS CONTACT:
Marcus Jones, P.E. Henderson County
Director of Engineering
(828) 694-6526

 

 

June 2024

 

 

Ecusta Trail Writer's Rides

By Cindy Ruzak

 

Last fall my husband, Jay, and I accomplished a 6,000-mile trek from our summer home aboard our 42’ sailboat in Michigan to the Canadian Rockies and Pacific Northwest, finishing at our winter home in Hendersonville.  Our trip took us through 17 states, with the goal of seeing some of America’s National Parks, and a few places on our bucket list, plus visiting friends. Along the way we witnessed some amazing scenery and realized how many places have bike trails of one sort or the other that offer an even more expansive way to experience an area.

Driving versus flying allows a more in-depth appreciation of the beauty and ecosystem diversity of the North American continent. And biking increases that appreciation of details even more. Our bucket list item of Lake Louise (where I stood at the same place my mother and grandfather posed for a framed photo on August 27, 1940), Canada involved more hiking than biking; however, we did do a short bike on the Banff Legacy Trail as it winds through the very busy tourist area of town. The beauty of the Canadian Rockies is almost overwhelming as each time you turn your head it generates another “Wow, look at that” moment. One of the prettiest spots was Emerald Lake just west of Lake Louise and Banff.

 

 
 
 

 

On the way to Lake Louise we, of course, visited Yellowstone National Park, and Custer State Park. A hike around Devils Tower led us to the nearby town of Deadwood to see the graves of Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. There we discovered by chance the Mickelson Trail. The George S. Mickelson Trail traverses over 100 glorious miles of the Black Hills of South Dakota. A former rail line, the trail crosses more than 100 railroad bridges and goes through four tunnels. We have already decided we definitely want to come back to ride more of this one!

 

 

 

Another of the most beautiful areas seen on our travels was Bryce Canyon, Utah. Not only is there a trail within the park, but on the way from Bryce west toward Zion National Park there is a longer paved trail that offers some equally amazing views. The first is a shared use trail and provides the best way to cycle the first 3 miles of the Bryce Canyon scenic drive. It provides 5 vehicle free miles connecting the shuttle station north of the park with the Visitor Center, Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, and Inspiration Point (the first three scenic turnouts). Bicyclists who are more adventurous than I can achieve a longer ride by traveling along the main park road to the southern end of the park.

 

 

But I’d suggest opting for that paved trail along Highway 12, The Red Canyon Trail. It starts, as does the shared use path (and just about everything else in these parts) at the iconic Ruby’s Inn; and offers a 15-mile round trip, fairly level, through red canyons and expansive vistas. For mountain bikes there are lots of other options in the area, for which a link is below.

 

 

One of my favorite rides on the trip was along the Truckee River Trail at Lake Tahoe, and the path up the valley to the lodge at Olympic Valley. It is a trail that I have done often, since I have visited the area frequently due to the fact that my best friend from high school in Hinsdale, Illinois, and matron of honor in my wedding, lives there. Bike trails hold so many memories of beautiful and interesting places, but also memories of a more personal nature. I first rode this trail when my friend’s 2-year-old daughter went with us, and this fall I got to spend time near the trail with that daughter’s own young children.

 

 

After 45 days on the road, it was nice to be back home in North Carolina, and recently take another spring bike ride on the Swamp Rabbit Trail after attending a Garrison Keillor performance at the Peace Center in Greenville. While more urban trails may not have the grand vistas of those out in the rural west, there is much beauty to be found, especially during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall.

 

 

Having seen so many bike trails in almost every area and the benefit they provide to communities along their path, upon our return it was great to see the progress being made on the Ecusta Trail. I, along with so many others, look forward to its completion of the first 6-mile segment by the end of this year. 

 

Henderson County Rail-Trail

Advisory Committee 

By Cindy Ruzak

 

Henderson County RTAC meeting May 8, 2024

 

Chair Chris Burns opened the meeting with the traditional solicitation of public comment, to which none was offered.

 

Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET) President Mark Tooley briefly reported that the re-do of the website is moving forward, and that discussions have started between Henderson County, Brevard, and FOET toward creating a MOU (memorandum of understanding) regarding governance of the trail’s operation once it is built.

 

Brevard’s City Councilman Aaron Baker, participating via a Zoom link, reported that they expect the 30% design for the western end of the trail to be completed by June, and that the focus right now is on community outreach, along with the previously mentioned MOU.

 

Chris Todd, Henderson County’s Business and Community Development Director, offered thanks to FOET Board member Lynn Huffman toward structuring the MOU document with consistency, and that a draft for Henderson County’s framework would be done this week. It should then be reviewed by the City of Brevard after it completes its annual budgeting by mid-June.

 

 

Autumn Radcliff, Henderson County Planning Director, and Marcus Jones, Henderson County Engineer, pictorially displayed that a lot has happened on the trail’s construction since the last RTAC meeting. Jones reported that construction of the first six miles is on target for a December finish. He is in the process of receiving the proposal for the east (Hendersonville to Horseshoe) section amenities. The amenities were in the original JMT 30% design, but had to be pulled out due to difficulties in the federal grant process at that point, and thus the need for this separate proposal. Maybe the bid will end up with the same contractor, or a different one, but should go quickly to 60% because part of the work is already done.

 

Marcus praised the work of Brent Detwiler, recent city engineer and for the past year Hendersonville’s Public Service Director, on the design of the downtown bike trail connection. This will require an additional small supplemental contract, likely with JMT, to connect the end of the trail to the one downtown.

 

At this point, Chris Todd mentioned the question he frequently gets from the public is where will the actual trailhead be for the Ecusta Trail. He believes that it will most logically be located at the Visitors Center where parking is readily available nearby; so, this connector is a win for all parties, and works as an economic development tool for downtown.

 

 

The slide presentation presented by Jones and Radcliff supported the statement that “the contractor is on an aggressive schedule” for the first six miles, with NHM personnel doing additional shifts, along with multiple inspectors onsite daily. Several pictures show bridges with new abutments in place waiting for the final pre-assembled top portion, areas  almost ready for paving and grading and drainage being completed.  After the picture taken near Daniel Drive was shown, Burns asked how the Laurel Park roundabouts near there and at White Street would affect the trail traffic pattern at those points. Jones and Todd committed to looking into coordinating those details with DOT by the next meeting, while RTAC Vice-Chair Selena Einwechter verified that these roundabouts cannot be built within the trail right of way.

 

Some pictures showed the care being taken to preserve the character of the surrounding area. For example, on the bridge near Allen Street attempts were made to save the existing railway bridge support wall by putting new abutment a bit further inward, and a fence was left standing within the right of way but is distant enough from the trail to conform to safety standards of construction. In conclusion, Jones exclaimed that “it is really starting to look like a trail.”

 

 

In response to Burns’ query for any additional comments from the public, an audience member questioned whether this board is involved in plans for a Saluda Trail yielded the answer that Conserving Carolina is currently involved in that process. Todd emphasized the importance of collaboration between all of these connecting towns and trails regarding rules and etiquette in order to promote continuity for trail users, and to make sure these are in place before the Ecusta Trail is open.

 

Next meeting is scheduled for June 12, 2024, at 3:30 PM.

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail

Advisory Board

By John Lanier

 

Members of the Brevard ETAB (Ecusta Trail Advisory Board) discussed bridges, connecting the Ecusta Trail to the Estatoe Trail, and other issues at their meeting on Wednesday, May 29.

Chris Burns, Henderson County’s representative on the ETAB, reported that all of the pilings for the bridges on the first six miles (Ecusta East) have been driven and four of the six bridge abutments are in place. As a result, the bridges should be installed in August and the first six miles is on schedule to be open in December.

Burns also reported that part of the federal funds can be used for amenities, some of which are now under design, and that design permitting for the next 6 miles in Henderson County (Ecusta West) has begun. That phase will include the bridge over the French Broad River between Horseshoe and Etowah.

“Things are moving very nicely at this point,” said Burns.

Lonnie Watkins of NCDOT reported that three of the bridges along the trail could possibly be modified or repurposed instead of being replaced. The advantages of modifying the three bridges are: the bridge spans would be shorter, older aesthetics would remain, and the cost would be $500,000 less than having new bridges.

“They are in pretty solid condition,” said Watkins of the three bridges.

Paul Ray of the Brevard Planning Department said the city had hoped it could repurpose the current bridge over the Davidson River, but has since learned from engineers that it needs to be replaced.
Ray said bridge engineers informed him that repurposing three of the bridges would save about $1 million.

Ray said other advantages to keeping the older bridges is that they would need to be inspected less, repairs would be less expensive since redundant support structures have been built into the older bridges, and the bridges would be grandfathered in floodplain regulations.

He agreed with Larry Chapman, who represents the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners on the ETAB, that all costs, including amenities, would need to be considered in deciding whether or not to replace or modify the three bridges.

Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof said she would like to see the pros and cons of replacing or repurposing the bridges, as well as the cost differences, presented at the next ETAB meeting.

Watkins also said they have begun making a short list of amenities and where they may potentially be located on the trail.

As she did regarding the bridges, Copelof also requested that NCDOT present the list of amenities included in the trail design, as well as the first 30 percent of the design for the Transylvania County section of the trail, at the next meeting. She added that the city needs the final 30 percent design completed before the city begins its public engagement sessions this summer.

“None of us have seen the design,” said Copelof.

Regarding the western end of the trail, Watkins said there are four possible options for connecting the Ecusta Trail to the existing Estatoe Trail, and the city needs to select an option in the coming week. Two of the options would require the attainment of right-of-way. Watkins said the federal grant money could not be used to acquire right-of-way, but possibly could be used to have the two trails connect.

The proposed Ecusta Trail ends about 400-500 feet from the existing Estatoe Trail.

Aaron Baker, who also sits on the Brevard City Council as well as the ETAB, presented a draft resolution that would have the western terminus of the Ecusta Trail be on Main Street in downtown Brevard. He said the draft is “more of a vision document.”

If the terminus of the trail is on Main Street, the city would have to make some changes to its Estatoe Trail – such as its width – in order to look like the Ecusta Trail.

Brevard City Manager Wilson Hooper informed the ETAB that he had met with city staff and a former city manager who serves as a mentor to discuss providing services and governance of the Ecusta Trail. He said the city council and other organizations need to meet and determine who is going to be making future decisions, especially since numerous decisions are “coming down the pike pretty fast.”

Hooper said the city needs to consult with Henderson County regarding the level of services the municipalities will provide regarding the trail, and added that governance of the trail might be different once construction of the trail is completed.

Hooper said they also discussed multi-jurisdictional agreements, including ones that worked and ones that did not. He added that government entities have MOUs with each other but sign contracts with private entities.

As a result of the need for multi-organizational cooperation in regard to governance, it was suggested and agreed upon that the Brevard City Council, ETAB and City of Brevard Parks, Trails and Recreation Committee meet together. A tentative joint meeting of the three groups will be held Wednesday, June 26, at 1:30 p.m. in the Brevard City Council chambers. That meeting will replace the regularly scheduled ETAB meeting.

 

Next meeting is scheduled for June 26, 2024 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

 

Progress Update

Ecusta Trail East Construction

By Matt Revis

 

After what seemed like a month of rainy days, Henderson County Engineer Marcus Jones shares a positive message for the Ecusta Trail Community. “Wet weather is typical with a grading contract and our contractor, NHM Construction, is handling it appropriately. Construction is on schedule and should be complete by December 2024.” Jones added that the contractor has addressed minor issues with unsuitable soil composition by replacing it with compactable material. These challenges have not delayed progress and Jones said “[We’ve had] no lucky breaks so far but no deal breakers either.” 

 

June ET Events

 

Henderson County R-TAC Meeting

June 12, 2024 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

 

https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/bc-rtac

____________________________

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
June 26, 2024 @ 1:30pm – 5:00pm

 

Open to the public. Mary C. Jenkins Community & Cultural Center. Double-check with city for cancellations, or rescheduling.

 

FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, John Lanier, RJ Miner, Matt Revis and Cindy Ruzak.

 

 

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook
Instagram

 

GET INVOLVED

 

 

FOR TRAIL CONSTRUCTION QUESTIONS CONTACT:
Marcus Jones, P.E. Henderson County
Director of Engineering
(828) 694-6526

 

 

 

May 2024

 

 

 

Connections

 

By Bernard Grauer

 

Meaningful connections are starting to take place between families, friends, and neighbors along the Ecusta Trail. Greetings and salutations spark conversations between pedestrians as they enjoy recent work on the trail. The recent mild winter allowed many individuals to use the trail safely. Many users came from the small neighborhoods dotting the trail.

 

Take the example of Tim and Debbie, who recently moved here from Arizona. The two moved to Western North Carolina for work and live 2 miles from the trail. They came to the trail to safely ride their bikes. They jokingly mention that “it’s time to get in shape again.” These enthusiastic trail users are excited about riding to a local coffee shop or the upcoming market in Laurel Park.

 

 

Other social and recreational connections involve an organized group of runners. The Hendersonville Run Club meets at Trailside Brewing (on the Ecusta Trail) on Thursdays at 6 p.m.. The group also meets on Tuesdays at Guidon Brewing and uses the Oklawaha Greenway. Walkers and runners can safely meet and enjoy the outdoors with a walk, or a 3-mile or 5-mile run. Meaningful conversations and impromptu shenanigans typically happen after the run. Some socialites join the group for fellowship after the run.

 

 

After the October groundbreaking, many individuals have safely enjoyed sections of the trail that were not under construction. Mild winters have always been a joy for outdoor enthusiasts; however, the spring thaw has given way to drier days for construction to begin. You may have seen photos of the recent grading and drainage work. Concrete forms and culverts are slowly replacing the old rustic wooden beams that held the brunt of the load of rail cars. Temporary warning signs are posted to keep appropriate boundaries between heavy equipment and onlookers. Please remain respectful during this time and heed warning signs. The first phase of the Ecusta Trial is underway and should be finished by year’s end.

 

 

Henderson County Rail-Trail

Advisory Committee

 

By Cindy Ruzak

 

Chair Chris Burns called the meeting to order and welcomed new RTAC member Patrick Kennedy.

 

During the opening public comment, Austin and Andrea Bankert, owners of Cognative Brew House in Horseshoe, asked if there are any plans for pedestrian traffic at the intersection of Highway 64 and South Rugby Road. Specifically, they wondered about crosswalks and sidewalks to accommodate bikers from the Ecusta Trail, as well as pedestrians to their business and other businesses in the area, and if the speed limit could be lowered.

 

Henderson County Planning Director, Autumn Radcliff said they are looking into a couple of new grant options with the NCDOT. At some point it will become beneficial for business owners to write letters in support of the grants. Henderson County engineer Marcus Jones added that he also is waiting on a proposal for a 30% design, so things will be ready to move forward once funds are obtained. As far as speed reduction, the recommendation was to petition the DOT directly.

 

Mark Tooley, president of the Friends of the Ecusta Trail, reported that the review of the website for the organization is underway and will be completed this summer.

 

Jones reported that Phase 1 construction is on schedule for December completion, with the drainage being the current focus as it was last month. The contractor, NHM, is installing cross-drainage pipes, abutments for bridges and re-grading ditches. In some cases where the position of the trail makes it impossible to grade, they are installing buried pipe for drainage. Also, the contractor has run into “bad soil” where density of the soil negates drainage, so it is being removed and replaced.

 

Jones also mentioned that it now looks likely the two remaining sections of the trail may be contracted at the same time, providing cost savings, with a tentative timeline of 3-4 years to completion.

Amenities are being included in the Ecusta Trail West section plan, while they had been pulled out of the Ecusta Trail East section plan due to grant requirement wording. However, funding is now available to cover East section amenities, and he is working on advancing from the 30% to 100% design for those to catch up in time for construction.

 

Brevard’s council was participating online, and Mayor Maureen Copelof reported that the Brevard trail portion’s 30% design should be completed. Having received a $1 million funding commitment, they can move directly to the 90% design. She jested that perhaps Henderson can get caught up. 

 

Brent Detwiler of the Hendersonville Director Public Services Department gave a detailed explanation of the final plan for the bike traffic to transit from the Kanuga trailhead into downtown Hendersonville. There will be two 5-foot-wide bike paths, one for each direction along the south end straight road portion of Main Street that are located generally between parked car areas and the sidewalk in the downtown area to Allen Street. Dedicated crosswalk signals will aid pedestrians and bikers to navigate the area, and a bike corral of some sort is planned for the area in front of the Visitors Center. Paving work will begin around Memorial Day, followed by striping. Some placement of the more permanent bollards might be delayed until after the Apple Festival due to logistical concerns for the event. Striping bids are still being solicited, and if there continues to be some difficulty in that regard, then some of the striping may need to be done with the city’s own crews.

 

Chris Burns asked if there would be any signage to get people down 4th Street to the Oklawaha Trail. Radcliff said she is working with the business partners group to map a safe route to do so. Detwiler added that the “Above the Mud” project is working on a public survey that has gone out to Friends of the Ecusta and others for input on that connection, along with connecting to 7th Ave.

 

Ken Shelton summarized the positive presentation made by Swamp Rabbit Trail partners to the Ecusta Trail Partners meeting, especially about the multiple ways they collaborate to solve problems such as parking. He suggested that at each of the RTAC meetings there be a discussion of updates with partners and naming opportunities.

 

Radcliff agreed that whenever there was something new with the partners that it would be mentioned, but perhaps not at every meeting. Jones said it is better to wait until amenity contracts have been let to see what will be in place first before specific naming opportunities are offered.

 

The end of meeting public comment period yielded a question from Tooley on whether or not a policy would be issued regarding pedal assisted e-bikes. The consensus from multiple persons was to maintain a reliance on etiquette education versus policy until there is an apparent reason to do differently.

 

Selena Einwechter, RTAC vice chair, asked if the park rules (under which Ecusta will fall) are published regarding such concerns. Several persons indicated that some guidelines are being worked on, with Tooley adding that Friends of the Ecusta Trail is also planning some published guidelines. 

 

To learn more about the South Main Street Bike and Pedestrian Improvements please click here.

 

To see detail pictures of the South Main Street Bike and Pedestrian Improvements please click here.

 

Next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for May 8, 2024, at 10:00 AM.

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail

Advisory Board

 

By Matt Revis

 

After verification of a quorum, Aaron Baker (Brevard City Council) convened this month’s meeting as Co-Chair in the absence of Mayor Copelof. Selena Einwechter was welcomed and will be attending meetings as a representative from the Henderson County Rail Trail Advisory Committee (RTAC).

 

Wilson Hooper (City Manager) proposed the need for a meeting of closely interested ET partners. Proposed attendees would include representatives from the Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET), Brevard Parks and Recreation, and the Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board (ETAB). The purpose of these discussions is to describe outcomes regarding eventual governance of the Ecusta Trail when the Brevard (ETAB) is disbanded, which according to its charter is at the end of trail construction. Hooper emphasized the importance of defining these governance roles long before the ET is completed in Transylvania. In addition, he added the necessity to begin considering the impact of a busy ET on the everyday work of City staff.

 

Mark Tooley (FOET) added that the FOET must also develop new visions to guide the non-profit when the ET becomes a reality. The current FOET goals are tied to planning, fund-raising, and coordination of local efforts to create the Trail. However, the need for ongoing ET support and oversight continues after construction, creating a vital role for a re-envisioned FOET. Tooley requested a response from the City of Brevard to a letter asking for help with this task.

 

Paul Ray (Brevard Planning) reported that public engagement will begin again with a new June ET newsletter to be sent to property owners adjacent to the Trail. Also, following Brevard Planning presentations to public officials, a potential meeting with the adjacent property owners is tentatively planned for July.

 

Clark Lovelace (Tourism Development Authority) reported that the TDA has approved revision of the agreement between the TDA and City of Brevard for distribution of a $1M grant over 4 years for ET construction. Mr. Hooper expressed his intention to ask for $250K soon to help cover upcoming engineering costs. Mr. Tooley inserted that the FOET will also contribute significantly to engineering costs. Councilman Baker highlighted the unseen discussions that have resulted in the availability of these contributions.

 

Selena Einwechter shared the enthusiasm generated by construction starting in Henderson County. She remains confident that the first 5-mile section of Henderson County’s trail, termed Ecusta East, will be completed by the end of 2024. In addition, she revealed that the City of Hendersonville intends to build a path from downtown to the ET. Many committee members followed with comments supporting the idea of using the Trail to bring people into downtown Brevard and Hendersonville. Similar positive consumer traffic is expected in Laurel Park, Horse Shoe, Etowah, and Penrose.

 

In further discussion, planned NCDOT road construction will intersect with the ET in a couple of locations. Lonnie Watkins agreed that the NCDOT is open to designing new road construction in ways that promote trail access and safety. Hooper suggested that Transportation Planning and Development (TPD), the chosen engineering firm for Transylvania ET design, be tasked with developing such recommendations for the DOT. The Committee approved this.

 

Next meeting is scheduled for May 29, 2024, at 3:30 PM.

 

Help Make Hendersonville Safe

for Walking and Biking

 

 

May ET Events

 

Henderson County R-TAC Meeting

May 8, 2024 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

 

https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/bc-rtac

____________________________

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
May 29, 2024 @ 3:30pm – 5:30pm

 

Open to the public. Meeting at City Council Chambers. 

FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, John Lanier, RJ Miner, Matt Revis and Cindy Ruzak.

 

 

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook
Instagram

 

GET INVOLVED

 

 

FOR TRAIL CONSTRUCTION QUESTIONS CONTACT:
Marcus Jones, P.E. Henderson County
Director of Engineering
(828) 694-6526

 

 

April 2024

 

Ecusta Trail Stories

Stops Along the Way

By Cindy Ruzak

 

 

Trailside Brewery Update. As the first anniversary of the opening of Trailside Brewery at Lennox Station approaches, the venue (located adjacent to the Ecusta Trail on N. Whitted St.) is already expanding on its runaway success. Partner David Schnitzer expressed satisfaction that the enterprise is fulfilling its vision of a community-oriented entity by creating spaces and activities that enhance the many reasons Hendersonville is a terrific place to raise a family, retire, enjoy outdoor activities, and for others to visit.

 

That underlying vision is expressed in many various ways. When asked what gives him the most joy in operating this recent entrepreneurial adventure (after starting up multiple businesses at various locations), his answer was that he loves to see people sharing the space to commune with each other, especially families. That community commitment is also apparent by the list of local clubs for which he provides the space to hold gatherings, such as Conserving Carolina (Green Drink talks – second Thursday of each month), and Rotary (Bingo – third Tuesday), with weekly options of Appalachian Jam on Wednesday hosted by Carol Rifkin, and Hendersonville Running Club on Thursdays.

 

 

Trailside Brewery Event Space - "The Grove"

To increase the ability to service the community while continuing to serve brewery patrons without interruption, the partners have expanded into the adjacent section of Lennox Station to create “The Grove”, a 3500 square-foot event space and cocktail lounge. The Grove will offer a curated cocktail bar, and an event space to host private celebrations such as weddings and ticketed events, as well as a music venue. Since Conserving Carolina has been so instrumental in the development of the Ecusta Trail, it seemed appropriate to this writer of this article that the first event held in the new trailside “Grove” was a Conserving Carolina member Meet and Greet function on March 7th.

 

Maintaining that commitment to the public, Appalachian Coffee will also be located temporarily in The Grove (open 7 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends). While David and Appalachian Coffee partner Marty Mazzawi are determined to find a new permanent home for the coffee shop, until they do, it will be operating in this space. Not only is the drink menu blossoming this spring, but this summer will see ice cream added for trail enthusiasts. Once the Ecusta Market and Café is in operation at Lennox Station, hours of coffee shop operation will alter so as not to compete with the neighboring business. Yet again, another expression of community connection commitment by the partners at Trailside.

 

As there is virtually something going on every night, with lots of musical variety from which to choose, the enhancement to community activities is obvious. In addition to the above-mentioned activities, every Monday is Celtic Jam, Tuesday is a round robin open mic that is hosted by Letter to Abigail, Friday and Saturday feature live bands, and on the first and third Friday each month some jazz. Within this very busy lifestyle, David makes sure to prioritize time with his family that includes three teenage boys and wife, Colleen, with whom he also operates Created for Adventure, offering faith-based outdoor adventure trips for youths aged 13-18.

 

Let's Build a More

Connected Trail System

By Lynn Huffman

 

Wow! There are two important surveys currently seeking your input. One is the City of Hendersonville’s solution options for connecting the Ecusta Trail to the Oklawaha Trail. The second one is a regional planning survey that encompasses all modes of transportation, including bike/pedestrian future projects.

 

We have 4,000 subscribers who receive this email, and this is an opportunity to fully participate and have an impact on the continued improvements to connectivity, accessibility and mileage of bike/pedestrian options in beautiful western North Carolina! Please take a few minutes to learn more about both surveys and then complete them.

 

Survey #1: City of Hendersonville Above the Mud Survey

In 2023, the City of Hendersonville received a Feasibility Study Grant from NCDOT’s Integrated Mobility Division to investigate options to link the Ecusta Trail near downtown Hendersonville with the Oklawaha Greenway in Jackson Park and the 7th Avenue Historic District.

 

Since receiving the grant, they have identified two alternatives that meet the goals of the project. When you first open the survey, please carefully read about Alternatives A and B and review the included maps.

 

Some extra information for consideration:

  • Both alternatives will provide access to parking in Jackson Park.
  • Portions of Alternative B (from S. King to Jackson Park) are proposed as part of a City-managed (Mike Huffman, Stormwater Division Manager) floodplain restoration project that is being led by the City. Integration with these projects should help with the flooding issue.  In Jackson Park, Alternative B would include grading and/or boardwalk sections as necessary to get the trail “above the mud” for as many flood events as possible.
  • This feasibility study does not address the section of the Oklawaha Greenway that often floods in Jackson Park. Henderson County has applied for grant funding to rebuild this section of the greenway.
  • The City is currently working on bicycle and pedestrian improvements on S. Main St. from King to Allen. Look for a future article about this!

Alternative A

  • Provides more direct access to 4th Avenue and the 7th Avenue district.
  • Less affected by flooding.

Alternative B

 

May be more aesthetically pleasing because it traverses more undeveloped land.

Could still be affected by major flooding events.

Must go through Jackson Park to get to 4th Avenue/the 7th Avenue district.

Survey #2: Regional Transportation Priorities

 

This survey, developed by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the Land of Sky Rural Planning Organization (RPO) and NCDOT, includes highway, transit, bike/pedestrian, and rail projects in our region being considered in North Carolina's prioritization process. The purpose of the survey is to gain an understanding of public sentiment around each project and will be used to inform official regional priorities later this year.

 

The survey has been developed to be as easy and accessible as possible. If there is only one project or area you are interested in- that's fine! You may answer the surveys on any projects in as many counties as you would like.

 

As a bike/pedestrian and Ecusta Trail supporter, the below maps should be viewed in conjunction with the maps on the survey. 


Please note that the “funded” and “Unfunded”  projects pertain to projects funded through the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). In other words, there may be other projects using other means of funding that aren’t included on the maps. These are just the projects that are dealt with at  MPO/RPO through the STIP.

 

Henderson County Rail-Trail

Advisory Committee

Henderson County canceled their Rail Trail Advisory Committee (RTAC) meeting in March.

 

Next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for April 10, 2024, at 10:00 AM.

Brevard Ecusta Trail

Advisory Board

Our City of Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board (ETAB) reporter was unexpectedly unable to attend the March meeting.

 

Next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for April 24, 2024, at 3:30 PM.

April ET Events

 

Henderson County R-TAC Meeting

April 10, 2024 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

 

https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/bc-rtac

____________________________

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
April 24, 2024 @ 3:30pm – 5:30pm

 

Open to the public. Meeting at City Council Chambers. 

FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, John Lanier, RJ Miner, Matt Revis and Cindy Ruzak.

STAY CONNECTED

Facebook
Instagram

 

GET INVOLVED

 

FOR TRAIL CONSTRUCTION QUESTIONS CONTACT:
Marcus Jones, P.E. Henderson County
Director of Engineering
(828) 694-6526

 

 

March 2024

 

Ecusta Trail Stories

Stops Along the Way

 

By Cindy Ruzak

 

 

One of the businesses that is looking forward to the opening of the Ecusta Trail multi-use path is Elijah Mountain Gem Mine. This local treasure, offering a way for people of all ages to find their own jeweled treasure, hopes that trail riders will take the short diversion to its location on Brevard road to take a biking break to enjoy Elijah’s wide range of amenities. These include picnic tables, goat petting, and peacocks in the “Jurassic Pond” open space, and a brew pub in addition to the gem mining and retail store.

 

At Elijah’s, potential prospectors can choose from a number of different sized buckets of premium “dirt” shipped in from all over the world, including Madagascar, Bolivia, Brazil, and the USA containing a variety of unfinished gemstones. Jack-of-all-trades defacto manager Joe Strassel and the rest of the staff pride themselves on a high level of customer satisfaction by giving personalized service so that every visit is like the first. To assure happy customers, the quantity of gems found each time is always high by intention.

 

 

Elijah also offers polishing of rocks found, as well as selling finished gems, specimens and fossils, and a new jewelry section is in development. Gold panning is another activity, which includes a lesson on sifting since the process is a bit more involved than the sluice gem mining. Other educational opportunities abound, as I learned a new term of “en cabochon” for a non-faceted polished gem, and how crystals form different shapes. Fun fact - the structure of a crystal is governed by atomic forces, with every mineral containing an inner order arrangement of ions and atoms that then connect in set patterns.

 

Whenever Elijah’s is open, so is the Base Camp Brewery, an outpost of local Guidon Brewery. On weekends during the peak summer months they will often have a food truck available, and in the past have done fish frys on Fridays, and periodic live music. Currently on their Facebook page they offer a live podcast every Thursday evening at 6pm about what is new at the store and other gems.

 

Henderson County Rail-Trail

Advisory Committee

 

By Cindy Ruzak

 

February 14, 2024 Meeting: Vice President Chris Burns welcomed all, which included a full complement of committee members with three attending by Zoom (as was Brevard’s Mayor, Maureen Copelof, and their Planning Commission). One correction to the previous meeting’s minutes was suggested by Ken Shelton to list the name of the sculpture donation idea group as Advocates for the Arts.

 

Chris Todd, Business and Community Development Director stated that the Henderson County Board of Commissioners had approved the appointment of Chris Burns to the title of RTAC President. Chris Burns moved on to ask for nominations to fill the now vacant VP position. Committee member David Adams suggested member-at-large Selena Einwechter, who was unanimously approved.

Ken Shelton reminded that this leaves a vacancy on the committee for an at-large member of the community, which would need to be approved by the Board of Commissioners. Some discussion of possibilities ensued, including approaching members of the business community, perhaps one of those involved in the developing Trail Partners program; with the final result that anyone with a prospective member should contact Chris Burns with their name.

 

Conserving Carolina’s Trails and Greenways Coordinator, Kristin Cozza, mentioned the organization is continuing to work with the county on property line issues, but had nothing substantial to report. She recommended that the organization be taken off the agenda standing list of reports, preferring instead to present when something needs to be reported, although the organization will continue to be at the RTAC meetings.

 

 

Mark Tooley reported that Friends of the Ecusta Trail held an operational meeting to define the organization’s role in future trail management. They are also following up on proceeding with an economic impact study, using some existing funds for the project; and waiting for specifics on federal highway funding for trail amenities.

 

In response to two recent articles about the trail (see links below, and *note), Chris Todd summarized the county’s efforts to be responsive to property owners’ issues by acknowledging their hardships while reiterating vegetation removals have all been within the trail right of way. He emphasized that trees have only been removed for three primary reasons – the need for drainage, for line of sight at car/pedestrian intersection points for safety, and for construction where a re-alignment of the trail is necessary.

 

During additional discussion of support, Ken mentioned that tree control on Swamp Rabbit Trail is important because roots can disturb trail surfaces, and Chris Burns felt all involved have done well by being responsive to concerns. Marcus Jones, Henderson County Engineer, along with others reminded everyone that the number of homeowners with remaining issues is very small given the hundreds of homes along the first section of the trail. Marcus also mentioned that he met in person with the Goodwins, who were mentioned in recent newspaper articles, in May of 2023 to discuss tree removal.  Also expressed at various points in the discussion was that while all has been handled well, there is always room for improvement, so even more communication up front will be done in the future.

 

 

Henderson County Planner III, Lee Stevens, gave an update on the Trail Partners Program. The first group meeting this past October drew 35 people from invitations to businesses directly adjacent to the trail, and current plans are to expand the outreach up to ½ mile from the trail with the goal toward reaching more than 250 people for the next meeting of this group. At a planned March 11th gathering, a guest panel from the Travelers Rest business group will speak about their experience with the Swamp Rabbit Trail. It is hoped that people from these business group meetings will produce participants in the Trail Partners Program. The main goal of the group is to give the business community along the trail a forum to collaborate on shared issues, generate partnerships, and streamline communication with the county and FOET.

 

Lee reviewed the variety of ways that individual businesses can become involved in trail support. Structurally, “Trail Partners” are those businesses with direct access to the trail who volunteer amenities such as parking, free water, bathrooms, in exchange for free marketing. Available to anyone is “Trail Sponsor” for entities not adjacent to the trail who may wish to pay for an amenity, or sponsor a business that is adjacent in order to provide an amenity. “Trail Supporters” are those non-adjacents who want to volunteer time or resources to support the trail. And “Trail Lease Program” for those adjacent entities that might want to lease an amenity entirely to the county to manage for trail users.

 

Chris Todd added that all businesses are being invited, whether or not they want to support the trail, so that they can make sure the committee is hearing all points of view and issues. Mark Tooley supported that FOET can certainly help with a trail map showing the businesses.

 

 

Marcus Jones provided trail construction updates. At the end of three months, clearing has been finished, and he again reiterated that the only vegetation removed was where it was necessary for construction, and where traffic safety demanded. Erosion control measures are installed, and now contractors are replacing, and upgrading to current standards, all cross drainage pipes (about 25% completed) as well as removing trestles. In response to Ken Shelton’s question about an area where pictures taken after last month’s record rain showed a washed out culvert, Marcus said it had been addressed and reminded that many of the elements of the previous drainage structure were more than 100 years old, so their redesign for the trail will result in even better performance to designed storm event guidelines. Up next will be reviewing the design from JMT for the third segment of the trail.

 

*Note – In an after meeting question and comment session with Chris Todd, he mentioned that the title of the Times News article “Trail of Destruction” in the printed edition, was not the same as the one in the original e-version of the article (link below)

 

Recent article links:

 

Ecusta Trail property owners demand payment in federal lawsuits, help from Henderson County

 

Henderson County News: Homeowner mourns loss of buffer for trail - Hendersonville Lightning

 

For more information on the Trail Partner program, including a link to a video presentation, click here.

Brevard Ecusta Trail

Advisory Board

 

By Matt Revis

 

February 28, 2024 Meeting: Mayor Copelof began the meeting welcoming guests including Billy Parrish from Heart of Brevard, who will regularly attend in the future.

 

Paul Ray (Brevard Planning) noted positive initial feedback on requests to the two federal grants about covering the cost of trail amenities. Lonnie Watkins (NC DOT representative) added that this is “an unofficial communication,” but he expects official approval to arrive soon. The RAISE grant funds are flexible and able to pay for mile markers, signage, emergency call boxes, trail lighting, trailhead sites and bathrooms adjacent to the Ecusta Trail (ET) right of way. Committee members expressed relief that grant funds will pay for basic trail necessities, allowing locally raised money to purchase extra conveniences.

 

Ray added that the Brevard Planning department will present at the next Brevard City Council meeting scheduled for March 18. The focus will be on ET updates, especially the status of the Pisgah Health Foundation donation of property and funding for a trailhead and accessible park on land along Lamb’s Creek near Transylvania Hospital. Copelof and Ray will attend a meeting with Pisgah Health Foundation Board members prior to the next City Council meeting. This 11-acre parcel and park represents a significant enhancement to the Ecusta Trail experience.

 

Larry Chapman (Transylvania County) has received several emails regarding articles on trail construction in Henderson County. After Chapman noted one article entitled “Trail of Destruction,” Copelof emphasized the need to communicate frequently and transparently regarding each phase of trail building in Transylvania. With that, the Committee received a draft of the next Ecusta Trail Newsletter prepared for property owners along the ET. The committee reviewed the text and approved distribution. Each newsletter is sent by mail directly to adjacent property owners and posted to the City website each quarter.

 

Clark Lovelace, Tourism Development Authority (TDA), reviewed the status of the $1M TDA grant for construction of the ET. The TDA Board previously determined that the current agreement between TDA and the City of Brevard needed revision. Lovelace presented the TDA’s recently approved version of the grant agreement, which the Committee immediately approved. Lovelace finished by stating that an official communication will be sent very soon to the City of Brevard for appropriate approval and signatures.

 

Mark Tooley, Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET), updated the status of a partnership growing between FOET, Henderson County, and businesses located near the ET.  The purpose of these meetings is to engage communication between these parties with varying visions and needs related to the trail. This group is currently defining what the “partnership” means and how to create benefits for local businesses and ET users. Lovelace noted that the TDA prefers that the trail partnership “should have a direct impact on [trail] user experience.”

 

In other news, Brenda Harrington (Blue Ridge Bicycle Club) and Billy Parrish reminded the Committee that $10K grants are available from earlier commitments made by BRBC and Blue Zones. Aaron Blake (Brevard City Council) handed out a sketch of new road construction at Oskar Blues that has already started. When finished, the road accessing Oskar Blues will extend farther west creating a cul-de-sac closer to the Estatoe Trail and near the Cherry St. cul-de-sac.

 

Next meeting of the Committee is scheduled for March 27, 2024, at 3:30 PM.

March ET Events

 

Henderson County R-TAC Meeting

March 13, 2024 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm

 

https://www.hendersoncountync.gov/bc-rtac

____________________________

 

Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
March 27, 2023 @ 3:30pm – 5:30pm

 

Open to the public. Meeting at City Council Chambers. 

FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, John Lanier, RJ Miner, Matt Revis and Cindy Ruzak.

 

FOR TRAIL CONSTRUCTION QUESTIONS CONTACT:

Marcus Jones, P.E. Henderson County
Director of Engineering
(828) 694-6526