Above the Mud Project Study
By Bernard Grauer
The Hendersonville Engineering Department was recently awarded a grant to study the two possible extension plans that would connect the Ecusta Trail to the Oklawaha Greenway. The proposal aimed to “find the best possible way to complete the regional network and meet the intent of the Great Trails State Plan within this area.” At the core of the “Above the Mud” project is the goal to complete a robust and reliable multimodal network connecting communities along several trail, greenway, and sidewalk projects. The objective is not to just build a single path or spine that only serves a few, but rather provide a vital piece of the Great Trails State network that connects many residents and visitors.” The Great Trails State Plan can be viewed here:
The proposed “greenway extension would stretch approximately 1 mile south of 4th Avenue to connect the Oklawaha Greenway to the Ecusta Trail, completing the Great Trails State network within the Hendersonville area.” It will take six to nine months to properly assess the extension and the two possible routes (Hendersonville City map below).
Safety: NCDOT’s Safety Division commissioned a study in 2021 to look at the higher per capita rate of pedestrian accidents in Hendersonville. Part of the study would look at ways to mitigate incidences. According to the grant proposal “Since 2000, 313 pedestrian crashes have been reported in the City of Hendersonville, 15 of which caused fatalities and an additional 26 were recorded as causing “disabling” injuries.”
Quality: Food deserts have emerged as food and grocery stores migrated away from the downtown area, notably Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard across US 64 toward the 7th Avenue area. “The Above the Mud project seeks to turn past barriers into connections. Where a car was required for travel outside the neighborhood,.,the developing multimodal network will break that dependency.”
Flooding is another consideration. Sections of South Grove Street have historically flooded as Mud Creek rose above its banks. The proposed Above the Mud project will run directly though this area; in part, this study will assess the pros and cons of improvements. Note that the Feasibility Study extends into the Oklawaha Greenway under the U.S. 64 bridge which is prone to stagnant water and drainage troubles for multi-use trails. The Above the Mud project can be viewed here.
Map of study area including the Ecusta and Oklawaha Greenway system relative to Hendersonville and Jackson Park:
Delivery: The short but significant connector between the Ecusta Trail and the Oklawaha Greenway will be part of a broader plan to connect segments of Hendersonville. The Hendersonville Greenway Master Plan can be viewed here:
Henderson County Rail-Trail
By Lynn Huffman
Chuck McGrady presided and opened the meeting by introducing guest attendee Brevard Mayor Maureen Copelof.
Kristin Cozza, Trails and Greenways Coordinator for Conserving Carolina (CC), reported that CC is continuing to work with Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET) to raise money to build the trail.
Mark Tooley, president of FOET, announced that the Davidson River trestle has been removed in Transylvania County (TC). In addition, FOET has several subgroups that are currently researching the best practices of other rail-trails throughout the country.
Marcus Jones, Henderson County Director of Engineering, reviewed a scope of work for Ecusta Trail maintenance. The county expects that one entity will maintain the trail and that there will be memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with Hendersonville and Laurel Park.
Chris Todd, Henderson County Business and Community Development Director, introduced a Business Community Outreach Plan to identify property/business owners that will be invited to discuss partnering with the County for shared investment in parking, restrooms and other critical assets. Planning staff are spearheading the group, with the ultimate plan that the group be self-managed.
Jones reported that the 90% plan is currently waiting for NCDOT sign-off. At the same time, the County is in the process of submitting applications for various required permits. Cost estimation is ongoing, and the project is thus far on schedule. The County is also consulting contractors regarding estimates, scheduling, and materials acquisition.
Mayor Copelof addressed the committee, and commented that the ET project has reached a stage that requires regular communication between partner jurisdictions. She reported that the design process in TC is about to begin, funded by a $1 million FLAP grant. Meanwhile, the City of Brevard (COB) is reaching out to address concerns of trailside owners. They are moving forward with identifying potential parking areas and a trailhead location and have expressed interest in unifying COB trail look and design with Henderson County’s.
E-Bike Raffle to Benefit the Ecusta Trail!
(Click on the image to purchase your raffle tickets!)
Brevard Ecusta Trail
By Matt Revis
Federal dollars (Federal Lands Access Program, or FLAP) to pay for engineering design of the ET in Transylvania remain mired in bureaucratic machinations. Transportation Planning and Development (TPD), however, has begun preliminary examination of the trail route and resources. TPD expects to submit a Scope of Work document to NCDOT soon. The LIDAR (light detection and ranging) survey was completed prior to the return of spring leaves. Information from this survey is vital to planning full trail construction.
Chuck McGrady reported that wetland and other required permits for the first section of the Henderson County (HC) trail will hopefully be finished by the end of April. Bidding for construction contracts can start after permit approvals, with completion of the first HC section by January 2024.
Mayor Copelof and Brevard Planning staff attended the most recent meeting of the HC Rail Trail Advisory Committee (RTAC). “Continued collaboration between the two counties will be necessary to keep the trail experience consistent from end to end,” said Copelof. Collaboration will focus on maintenance and operational standards across the trail. She added that Brevard staff will continue attendance at future meetings.
While the Committee waits for responses on two large grant applications, Copelof outlined planning flexibility. Plan A, both grants approved, will assure sufficient funds for trail completion. Plan B, or one large grant approval, commits enough funding for substantial trail development. Finally, Plan C is to build the trail in sections over time as funding is available. John Ditillo suggested that completing the bridges on the Transylvania side would make the trail usable without paving.
In other reports, Mark Tooley (FOET) notified the Committee that feasibility studies are planned to explore connections between the Ecusta Trail and both Oklawaha and Saluda Grade Trails. John Ditillo reviewed the extraordinary efforts of Friends of Ecusta Trail volunteers with ongoing fund-raising activities.
The next meeting of the Advisory Committee is April 26, 2023 at 3:30 PM.
WNC Flyer Bike Ride with Blue Ridge Bicycle Club
By Bernard Grauer
The 19th annual WNC Flyer, presented by Hunter Subaru, will be held in Western North Carolina on June 4th. Start and finish lines will be at Oskar Blues in Brevard, NC. What better way to spend the day than with a bike ride, bluegrass, BBQ, and great brews!
Riders can choose a century, metric, half-century, or half-metric ride that winds through the valleys south of Asheville, NC. Home to gently rolling hills, this ride is appropriate for all skill levels, allowing cyclists to experience beautiful mountain scenery without the long mountain climbs.
This event offers ample rest stops and an after-party, catered by Mayberry’s, with lots of yummy BBQ (or Veggie/Vegan lunch options) and one free beer to top off the ride.
A portion of the net proceeds benefits the Friends of Ecusta Trail organization.
Register online. http://wncflyer.com/
Henderson County R-TAC Meeting
April 12, 2023 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm
Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
April 26, 2023 @ 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Open to the public. Meeting at City Council Chambers.
FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, RJ Miner, Matt Revis, Cindy Ruzak and Dana Vance.