Giving Thanks for Giving Tuesday
By Lynn Huffman
Our GivingTuesday campaign began on November 22, 2022, with daily social media posts and occasional emails, and culminated on GivingTuesday, November 29, 2022. We are thrilled to have received $10,346.51 in online donations from YOU, our loyal Ecusta Trail supporters (and our final 2022 newsletter Trailblazers), to end what has been an amazing 2022 for our region!
We expect to receive a few more donations by check in the coming days. In order to include those gifts, we will have the raffle drawings for the t-shirts and hats on Tuesday, December 6.
Thank you GivingTuesday donors! You are Making the Dream Come True!
Henderson County Rail-Trail
By Cindy Ruzak
Chairman Chuck McGrady called the meeting to order and asked for an update from Conserving Carolina’s Executive Director Kieran Roe, who said there has been extensive and significant collaboration among multiple entities in connection with the new Federal funding request.
Mark Tooley, President of the Friends of the Ecusta Trail, stated that major donor fundraising is ongoing and that Davidson River Road bridge removal is coming along. Chris Todd commented that the State’s NCR $500,000 grant is being re-designed in scope and focus, so that the money will not be lost. Funds must be expended by June 30, 2023.
Henderson County Senior Planner Janna Bianculli and Planning Director Autumn Radcliff led a presentation on the updated Story Map for the Ecusta Trail. The 30% design update can be accessed on the homepage of the Henderson County website. It was mentioned that it was important to integrate trail road crossings with NCDOT projects (such as a roundabout near the trailhead) so improvements aren’t built twice. Autumn Radcliff noted that a letter went out to trail adjacent homeowners to gather input on the story map.
Chuck McGrady suggested that nonprofits connected to the trail use the Story Map to help answer questions to enhance community understanding. Committee member Ken Shelton said “the link is user friendly and has a great deal of information.” He then asked about naming opportunities for landscape elements such as benches or tree plantings as that relates to potential fundraising efforts. One suggestion was to create a list of what can be named, however Chris Todd, Business & Community Development Director, stated that these types of details are not part of the scope of the project and that the Board of Commissioners decides such naming. Chuck McGrady concurred that the focus is on the big things and Henderson County Engineer Marcus Jones recommended waiting until the 90% project phase to discuss such possibilities.
Chairman McGrady asked that alternate trail surfaces such as hard gravel be researched. Marcus Jones said that generally asphalt was considered the best option primarily because less costly surfaces would require costly ongoing maintenance. It was mentioned that a paved surface was an ADA requirement as well as a grant requirement.
Highlights of the NSFLTP (Nationally Significant Federal Lands & Tribal Projects) grant request were shared with the Committee. NCDOT took the lead initiating the request. Autumn Radcliff said “we should know in the spring, however, there is a very good chance for success.” Some of the application’s strengths included having received other trail grants, strong support from local governments, and 25 letters of support from community organizations. Another plus (as well as a requirement) is that the Ecusta Trail will connect the Pisgah National Forest to the Blue Ridge National Parkway. If granted, the funds may be enough to cover all of the Transylvania County’s geographical portion of construction plus some of Henderson County’s.
Chris Todd commented that both counties needed each other’s support to be in a position to get this grant and, thus far, it has been a great collaborative effort. Chairman McGrady enthusiastically concurred.
For additional information about subjects contained in this article please check out the following links:
Henderson County 30% Design Update for the Ecusta Trail
The Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects Program (NSFLTP) of The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) (Pub. L. 114-94, section 1123), provides funding for the construction, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of nationally-significant projects within, adjacent to, or accessing Federal and tribal lands. This program provides an opportunity to address significant challenges across the nation for transportation facilities that serve federal and tribal lands.
Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Projects (NSFLTP) Program | FHWA (dot.gov)
Brevard Ecusta Trail
By Matt Revis
Exciting Progress, But Slow Fund Allocation Highlights Meeting
To begin the meeting, Steve Williams of NC Department of Transportation shared that the fund allocation process for the FLAP grant (Federal Lands Access Program) awarded to Brevard will take three months. These dollars are intended to fund engineering design of the Transylvania portion of the Ecusta Trail. A contract for the engineering firm cannot be signed until the allocation is complete. This presents a significant delay toward construction of the ET in Transylvania. Discussion ensued regarding options to continue progress without this grant money in hand but was inconclusive.
In other news, Chuck McGrady reported that the 90% complete engineering plan for the first phase of Henderson County Trail construction (Laurel Park to Etowah) is due in early December. Delivery of this plan triggers the bidding process for actual construction, with a potential to award a contract Spring 2023 and building to begin June 2023.
The Brevard Planning Department is in the process of determining whether to submit another RAISE grant application again this year, said Planning Director Paul Ray. Committee members supported the effort, suggesting that all attempts to expand funding options are worthwhile. Paul has received no response regarding the NSFLTPP (Nationally Significant Federal Lands and Tribal Project Program) grant application recently submitted.
The pre-bid meeting for a contract to remove the rail trestle over Davidson River was held, according to Mark Tooley of Conserving Carolina. Nine construction firms were invited; five firms attended. The decision to award this contract is expected by the end of February with removal to begin immediately.
John Ditillo shared that the Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET) fundraising efforts have nearly reached the 2023 goal of $6.5 million. On another funding note, Larry Chapman has learned from local State legislators that Transylvania will be classified as a Tier 2 County. The North Carolina Department of Commerce ranks the state’s 100 counties every two years based on economic well-being and assigns a tier level. The 40 most distressed counties are designated as Tier 1, the next 40 as Tier 2 and the 20 least distressed as Tier 3. This tier system translates into preferences for funding options to encourage economic activity in less prosperous areas of the state. Transylvania had been classified as Tier 3, along with Buncombe and Henderson.
Next meeting of this advisory group is to be held December 28, again at 3:30 PM in the Brevard City Council meeting room.
North Carolina Designated #18
'Bike Friendliest' State in the Nation
By Tom Keating
In a development that Tarheel bicyclists probably already recognize, North Carolina has been recently designated the 18th most 'Bike Friendly' state in the Union by The League of American Bicyclists. Over the past decade or so, North Carolina's state and local leaders, in partnership with bicycle and trail advocates, have worked hard to develop a growing network of safe and accessible bike pathways. Among the other thirteen southeastern states, North Carolina proudly ranks number three in its commitment to planning, infrastructure, funding and policy development for our State's trails and bikeways. For the previous ten years of the League's 'Bike Friendly' report cards, the Tarheel State has been ranked in the top 20-25 of States. Its 2022 #18 ranking represents a hard earned breakthrough for our local and state legislative leaders and the strong partnership that exists between them and the many bicycling constituencies who call North Carolina home.
The League of American Bicyclists
The League of American Bicyclists has a storied history originating as the League of American Wheelmen of 1880. Because of the difficulties in riding a bicycle in that era due to poor roads, mud and rutted surfaces and the disdain of wagoneers and saddle riders of all types, over 100,000 cyclists advocated for the construction of safe, paved roads which formed the basis for our Nation's future highway system. It is ironic that this early advocacy of bicyclists created the impetus for the modern highways that drivers enjoy today.
The mission of the League is to create a 'Bicycle Friendly' America for everyone by listening, learning and sharing best practices and encouraging engagement with diverse community groups. The League, based in Washington, D.C., focuses on advocacy, education, legislative affairs, policy, bike safety and community outreach. The League supports the sponsorship of National Bike Month in each May, a National Ride a Bike Day scheduled for May 1, 2023, and National Ride a Bike to Work Week which is scheduled for May 15-21, 2023. This event will showcase the use of bicycles as a cheap, reliable transportation and encourage the expansion of safe, urban bike paths on our streets and trails.
Work Still To Be Done
While the League applauds the efforts of most of the States in the U.S., their rankings also serve as a call to action to continue to invest in safe streets and connecting bike trails and networks to increase the health, sustainability and strength of communities as well as create an alternative option for safe and inexpensive transportation. In its 2022 “Report Card for North Carolina,” several areas are highlighted for future advocacy:
- The State should adopt a law with a minimum passing distance of 3 feet to address bicyclists safety.
- North Carolina has a bicycling to work rate of less than half of the national average and efforts should be made to provide convenient street and trail networks to allow more people to safely bike to work.
- The State should further develop driver and bicyclist education programs in order to increase safety awareness and reduce its bicycle fatality rate.
Additional details regarding the League's “Bike Friendly' report are available here.
2023 North Carolina Year of the Trail
This recent breakthrough in North Carolina's national ranking comes at a defining moment for bicycle enthusiasts across our State. Under the leadership of both the North Carolina House and Senate, HB 554 was passed designating 2023 as “North Carolina Year of the Trail” and highlights North Carolina as one of only three states in the Nation to formally recognize the importance of trails to the continued health, recreation and commerce of our communities.
Additional information regarding special programs and events for the North Carolina Year of the Trail is available here.
Henderson County R-TAC Meeting - Cancelled
Meeting cancelled. Happy Holidays!
Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
December 30, 2022 @ 3:30pm – 5:30pm
Open to the public. Meeting at City Council Chambers.
A Holiday Parade of Santas
on Bicycles...O My!
By Thomas Keating
FOET NEWSLETTER CONTRIBUTORS: Bernard Grauer, Lynn Huffman, Tom Keating, Matt Matteson, RJ Miner, Matt Revis and Cindy Ruzak.