curt's blog

Key Votes Coming on Changes to Federal Transportation Funding

Bills being considered in both Houses of Congress include potentially large changes to long standing programs that have been used by States and by local governments to develop and improve bicycling and walking trails and support popular initiatives such as the Safe Routes to School program. You may already be aware that last week the US House of Representatives voted to eliminate funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs. There will be a vote in the Senate in the week of Feb. 13-18, and Maryland Senator Cardin is sponsoring an amendment that could restore much of what's been lost. North Carolina Senator Richard Burr is considered a key vote on this issue. For some specifics please see this Summary of the Cardin Amendment. You can contact Senator Burr via his web site.



Ecusta Studies Are Finished -- Public Presentation Scheduled

The planning and economic studies for the proposed Ecusta Trail between Hendersonville and Brevard have been completed and are being reviewed by city staff. A public presentation of the findings has been scheduled for 6 pm on March 28th in Hendersonville. The presentation will include recommendations for trail surface, width, support facilities, detailed maps, prospective trail heads and implementation strategies. Representatives from Henderson and Transylvania County will be there, as well as the media. This is a great opportunity to come show your support. The specific venue for the meeting will be determined after County officials have a better estimate of the numbers expected to attend. If you would like to attend please contact Summit Results.

February 21 Update: County officials were pleased with the interest shown and have reserved the West Henderson High School Auditorium for the presentation. The High School is at 3600 Haywood Road (Hwy 191).

March 31 Update: About 400 interested supporters attended the presentation. See the article about the event at NCRT Board member Mike Domonkos attended and notes that NCDENR has indicated that this could be the first NC rail-trail state park or NC state rail-trail. (State park status would require enabling legislation as is the case for all new State Parks. Creation as a state rail- trail would be possible under existing legislation.)

An additional series of Community Presentations is planned for several locations during April and May. In an effort to accommodate as many schedules as possible, these are all "drop in" type events. Several stations will be set up to allow closer access to maps. Knowledgeable folks who have information to share, and any formal presentations will be short and repeat many times over the course of each event:

Thursday, April 26- 5:15 - 7:45pm

Henderson County Public Library, Hendersonville Branch

Tuesday, May 1- 4:00 - 6:00pm

Homestead Small Business Center, Horse Shoe

Thursday, May 3- 4:00 - 8:00pm

Rogow Room at the Transylvania County Library, Brevard

Thursday, May 10- 5:00 - 7:30pm

First Congregational Church, Laurel Park

Saturday, May 19- 9:30am - 12:30pm

Etowah Public Library, Etowah





Rail Corridor is the Centerpiece of Large Beltline Project in Atlanta

From a sidelink on a recent health article we came across information on the Atlanta BeltLine, a very large, multi-year project taking shape in Atlanta. The project will use  a former rail corridor and tie this into more than 33 miles of multi-use trails in a linear park that will connect 40 Atlanta parks, including approximately 700 acres of existing park land. The multi-use trails include the core 22-mile loop plus various extensions to increase connectivity to parks and trails surrounding the BeltLine. The corridor will also include a light rail system. Planning and organizational efforts have been underway for over 7 years and involves most City departments, Atlanta's mass transit authority and numerous community organizations and businesses. The core loop will facilitate both recreation and commuting since it will conect to a number of mass-transit stops. Due the large size of the Atlanta metro area, this project has a scope and complexity far beyond anything we'll see in North Carolina anytime soon. The project is useful as an instructive example of the many benefits that connective trails can provide to an area. The BeltLine website has links discussing economic benefits, community engagement, reducing congestion and of course the healthy outdoors exercise that users will be able to experience on the corridor and in the parks it connects to. Several maps of the proposed loop and its many connections are also on the site.

Deep River Rail-Trail Moving With New Grant, Recycled Bridge

The town of Franklinville has been awarded a grant of $36,000 from Asheboro's Randolph Hospital Community Health Foundation. Franklinville expects to use $30,000 of the grant to go towards bridging Sandy Creek: some of the funds will go towards a short bridge where the creek is narrow, near Highway 64, and the rest will be put towards a later bridge at the site where the rail line used to cross Sandy Creek. The money will help to connect Franklinville to the neighboring town of Ramseur, which is collaborating with Franklinville on the Deep River Rail-Trail. The remaining $6,000 will help to fund a boat landing on the Deep River. The Randolph Hospital Community Health Foundation funds health and wellness projects that focus on one or more of four areas: nutrition, physical fitness, obesity or substance abuse.

At their recent meeting, Franklinville Mayor Perry Conner noted that he expects to issue a request for proposals (RFP) by the beginning of March for work on Phase 2 of the Deep River Rail-Trail. This work will be funded by a Recreational Trails Program grant. In addition, Franklinville received notice from NCDOT that the town will transfer (on paper) an old bridge in Bladen County to Franklinville in the spring; the bridge itself will probably not arrive until 2013. This bridge, part of NCDOT's Bridge Reuse program, is of a size that could be used to bridge Sandy Creek at the original rail crossing site.



Future Extension of Dunn-Erwin Trail

Over the past few months our Exec. Director has been busy with groups in Harnett County interested in creating a 1.5 mile connector trail between the Erwin end of the Dunn-Erwin Rail-Trail and the Cape Fear River Park Trail (a 1 mile trail). This would create 7.5 miles of contiguous trail and connect Dunn and Erwin to the Cape Fear River. The ~16 acre Cape Fear River Park was bought by Harnett County with funds from the Parks & Recreation Trust Fund and is used regularly by walkers, fisherman and canoeists. Bringing the two trails together will increase the usage of both trails and connect the rail-trail to much needed amenities such as a bathroom, picnic tables and a parking lot. On January 24th NCRT facilitated a public meeting in Erwin to gather public input on the proposal and present drawings of the proposed layout. The proposal was well received by the 38 attending, all of whom were trail users. Currently NCRT is working with Erwin in the preparation of applications for a Recreational Trails Program grant (for construction) and an Adopt-A-Trail grant for signage. Funding for this connector trail depends on the results of these pending applications and other sources so at this time there are no firm dates for the project. We'll be reporting on this again here and on our Facebook page as news develops.

Volunteers Have Successful Workday on Deep River Rail-Trail

On November 4th, Perry Connor, several volunteers from the Faith Chritian School and Tom Duckwall of Greensboro worked for several hours on various improvement and maintence tasks including: digging a drainage ditch on the upper side of short access trail, removing grass from edges of trail & around the rock, tidying up mulch around information kiosk, sign & bench, raking leaves out of side ditches on the access trail, installing an “Ancient Fish Weir” sign beside the steps, & “Unimproved Trail” sign at Sandy Creek end of trail, and cutting up and removing downed pine logs lying in drainage ditch, & other downed tree just past Harvey’s access road. They were also able to clean up around the fish weir steps & down at river bank and to rake leaves from a large part of trail and some of the side ditches. This is still a fairly short trail but Perry is interested in finding volunteers for future workdays. If you would like to volunteer for Deep River trail efforts, you can reach Mr. Connor at 336-549-4908 or by Email.

Fall 2011 Newsletter

Our latest newsletter has a nice description of the Little Tennessee Greenway in Macon County, updates on several ongoing rail-trail projects, some good news on some efforts just getting going such as the Peavine trail in Marion and notices of some upcoming events.

Re-bid for ATT Bridge and Trail to Start in November

Durham staff have announced that the second bidding documents will be released to potential bidders on November 15th. Bid opening by the City has been set for December 15th. Assuming at least one proposal comes in within the increased funds now available, this could allow an Award to be made in the February-March period. Periodic updates on this process can be found at the City's web site. December 8th Schedule Change: A wage dispute between the NCDOT and the U.S. Department of Labor has delayed the bid opening for this project. The dispute involves estimates the Labor Department uses to set wage rates for projects that use federal money, such as the long-awaited pedestrian/cyclist bridge near Southpoint Mall. City Manager Tom Bonfield notified City Council members Thursday that the dispute won't be settled until after Jan. 1. Therefore, the bid opening scheduled for Dec. 15 has been pushed off until Jan. 25. To read more please see article in the News &

Good News in late December: N.C. Department of Transportation officials have given Durham the all-clear to take new bids on Jan. 25 from contractors interested in building the bridge over I-40 and construction of ~4miles of trail (Phase E of the ATT). DOT had tried to delay the use of new Federal wage guidelines on new projects until later in 2012 but has now decided to let Durham proceed with this procurement. For more on this story please see the recent Herald-Sun article.


Friends of Ecusta Providing Key Funding to Complete Impact Study

Ecusta Trail President Mike Oliphant presented a check to Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk to complete the funding for the Economic Impact Study for the Ecusta Trail project. In a tight budget year, enough funds were not going to be available through the City to pay for both the impact study and a planning study. The Friends of the Ecusta Trail raised enough funds through donations to allow the City to complete both studies. Gifts ranged from $10 to $5000, including one individual's challenge grant. City Manager Beau Ferguson remarked on how this is the first time in his career in municipal government where he has seen such willingness of citizens to partner with local government to help fund such an initiative. Funds for the study came primarily from residents of Henderson and Transylvania counties, however, some gifts were received from as far away as California and Illinois. Both the planning study and economic impact study are underway and should be completed in early 2012.

Friends of the Ecusta Trail is organized as a nonprofit organization to bring together people to build the Ecusta Trail, an 18 mile rail-to-trail project connecting Hendersonville and Brevard, and to promote the development of a network of multi-use trails in Henderson and Transylvania Counties to connect these communities for recreation, active transportation and economic development. For more information on the Ecusta Trail project, please visit the EcustaTrail site and an April '11 News article.



Small Church Group Reflects on Ales Race

We came across this blog posting describing one local runner's reflections about participating in our initial Ales for Rail-Trails Race. The runner is a member of the Tobacco Trail Church, a small group of outdoor enthusiasts focusing on the people and land near the American Tobacco Trail in Durham, North Carolina and the surrounding areas. They often gather at the Fayetteville Road trailhead of the American Tobacco Trail at 5:30pm on Sundays for their outings on the ATT. Several from the Church participated in our race and noted that they see helping groups such as NCRT raise money as part of their vision.