Board Member Summarizes
By John Lanier
On Sunday, July 23, an interview with Friends of Ecusta Trail board member Ken Shelton aired on the Mix 96.5 Morning Show. The following is a summary of Shelton’s comments:
- The Ecusta Trail is a planned 19-mile linear park that will run from downtown Hendersonville to the outskirts of Brevard near the old Ecusta paper mill, which employed 3,500 people at its peak. The paved trail will be 14 feet wide in urban areas and 12 feet wide in rural areas. The trail will cater to all ages and will be ADA-compliant.
“Railbanking” allows for unused rail lines to have an “interim” use in order to keep the rail corridor intact in case there is a need for a return of rail service. Within this concept, the Ecusta Trail is being developed. There are currently 34 rail-trails in North Carolina covering 128 miles.
The Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET) is a group of cycling and walking advocates who began meeting in 2008. In 2010 the group attained nonprofit status and board members have been meeting monthly since then.
In addition to FOET, there are numerous other supporters of the Ecusta Trail. Conserving Carolina and FOET have signed agreements to cover the “local match” required to obtain grants to be used for construction of the trail. Conserving Carolina, FOET, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the French Broad Metropolitan Planning Organization, the U.S. Forest Service, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Henderson County, the city of Brevard and other entities have collaborated in obtaining grants for the trail. Elected officials in Henderson County and the city of Brevard, as well as U.S. Rep. Chuck Edwards and former N.C. Rep. Chuck McGrady, have been instrumental in moving the trail forward.
Jurisdictional agreements are being negotiated between governmental and municipal partners, such as Laurel Park, Hendersonville, Henderson County, etc. in regards to maintenance, emergency response and policing. Public input is welcomed and encouraged at the monthly meetings of Henderson County’s RTAC and the city of Brevard’s ETAB.
Regarding construction, the best case scenario is for work on the first six miles from Hendersonville to Horse Show to begin in October of this year with completion in the late summer of 2024. The city of Brevard is currently in negotiations with an engineering firm, and the goal is to begin construction on the next phases of the trail in the spring of 2024.
- The first six miles of the trail from Hendersonville to Horse Show have been put out for bid, which were to be opened at the end of August.
- Plans call for the Ecusta Trail to connect to the Estatoe Trail into Brevard and Pisgah National Forest, the Oklawaha Greenway in Hendersonville, the Hellbender in Buncombe County and the Saluda Grade Trail, which will link North and South Carolina. This comprehensive trail network will provide connections to health care facilities, schools, nature and communities.
- While grants may well cover the cost of constructing the trail, there is still a need to raise money for amenities – bathrooms, benches, etc. – to enhance the trail experience, which, in turn, should enhance regional health and the local economy.
- FOET is still seeking volunteers for maintenance, trail ambassadors, website development, publicity, grant writing and critically important fundraising for amenities.
Listen to Ken’s entire interview.
Henderson County Rail-Trail
By Matt Revis
After Chuck McGrady called the meeting to order on August 9, Marcus Jones shared information about the bidding process. Unfortunately, only two bids were received, which was one bid short of the legal requirement. Calls made to companies who did not offer bids has helped redesign the bidding process, resulting in some changes to the timelines. Jones stated that the two bids received were from strong companies but were returned unopened as is necessary to maintain integrity of the process.
Jones also shared that bridge delivery will be delayed by at least 250 days from initial estimates. Bridges are constructed whole off site and installed locally. This delay will not have an impact on preparation of the rest of the trail. Ken Shelton (member-at-large) asked for a timeline of construction. Jones said that start of construction is still expected this fall though paving may not occur until warmer spring weather.
Development of the Memorandum of Understanding covering security and maintenance of the ET continues. A final draft of this document is possible within the next 30-60 days, said Chris Todd, Henderson County Business and Community Development Director. Annual maintenance cost per mile is estimated at $5 – $10K annually. Lower per mile costs are possible as the project adds miles. McGrady acknowledged that “Brevard and Henderson staff are fully engaged in this project,” saying that the two governments intend to share maintenance costs with one contractor, maximizing the option to scale costs across the entire ET.
Mark Tooley (Friends of Ecusta Trail – FOET) stated that branding and signage work continues. He stated examples of branding will be ready by the next Advisory meeting. FOET is expected to be the “voice of the community” and may offer volunteers to monitor the trail for needed maintenance and general observation of trail use. Selena Einwechter (member-at-large) suggested that research regarding the actual rules and laws governing public trail use is needed to ensure rule enforcement is backed by official documents. Doug Moon interjected that incident response must be clearly delineated in the MOU.
Though the path is clear for the Ecusta Trail, the timeline remains a bit hazy. The next meeting of this group is set for October 11 at 10:00 A.M.
Brevard Ecusta Trail
By Matt Revis
Brevard City Manager Wilson Hooper informed the group that all players involved in the funding process for the Transylvania side of the Ecusta Trail (ET) met face-to-face August 16 to begin the complex administration of grant funds for trail construction. Stating that the meeting was “positive and encouraging,” Hooper noted that this included the official transfer of RAISE grant administration to the NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The city of Brevard will retain administration of the NSFLTP grant and have substantial influence over RAISE grant utilization. Details remain unknown regarding what grant funds may be spent on. These details will be determined by NCDOT in cooperation with USDOT and the city of Brevard.
Brevard Planner Paul Ray added that this information will be included in a presentation of ET progress at the next Brevard City Council meeting on September 18. In addition, Ray will share ET news at the next planning meeting of the Hellbender Regional Trail. This group of local governments and interested constituents, supported by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization, is coordinating communication and planning for trails and greenways throughout the French Broad basin. As one meeting participant stated, the Hellbender network could include a bike ride connecting Brevard to Greenville, S.C. To access the full plan for The Hellbender Trail, try this link: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/2516fc1870db47cb8e3c7aa36dbed751
Since the two federal grants fund primarily, if not only, trail construction, discussion continued regarding funding for access and amenities necessary to make the ET usable. Lonnie Watkins said this remains an open question, and costs are most likely covered by other sources. Clark Lovelace noted that the Tourism Development Authority would participate in the Hellbender Regional Greenway Forum on August 31. The forum discussed the effects of regional greenways on the environment and community, and over 125 people registered to attend.
Chuck McGrady brought news from Henderson County that the bidding process was reopened after only two bids were received initially. McGrady reported that five bids were received on the second try, and that the commissioners might award the contract as soon as the end of September. Lonnie Watkins noted that all five bids were under the engineering estimate for per mile trail costs.
Closing the meeting, Mayor Copelof noted that “We’re just moving forward everywhere.”
The next meeting of this group occurs September 27, 2023.
FOET at the Rhythm and Brews
Concert Series - Last Show
Where did the summer go? This is the last Rhythm & Brews Concert Series show of the summer, presented by Horizon Heating & Air. These shows have brought together live music, local craft beverages, and the community! These FREE shows take place on the third Thursday of every month from May-September, closing part of South Main Street to make room for all the fun. Local food trucks will line the street cooking delicious eats from kettle corn to pizza to barbecue. Each show begins with an opener at 5:30 p.m. followed by the headlining performance from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Doors open at 5:15 p.m.
Adults can sip Henderson County beverages from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Bold Rock Hard Cider, Guidon Brewing Co., Oklawaha Brewing Co., Dry Falls Brewery, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards, and Flat Rock Cider Company.
All net proceeds from adult beverage sales will benefit the Friends of Downtown Hendersonville 501c3 nonprofit serving the Downtown Program, whose mission is to identify, preserve and enhance the key factors that contribute to the authentic small town urban character of historic downtown Hendersonville.
September ET Events
Henderson County R-TAC Meeting - CANCELLED!
September 13, 2023 @ 10:00am – 12:00pm
Rhythm & Brews Concert Series
September 21, 2023 @ 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Brevard Ecusta Trail Advisory Board Meeting
September 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.