Purchase of Ecusta Trail corridor will allow construction to begin next year
Work will start in Henderson County, where grant funds are available to start building. The city of Brevard has applied for a grant to pay for construction in Transylvania.
By Dan DeWitt
Conserving Carolina has finalized the purchase of the 19.4-mile Ecusta Trail corridor, setting the stage for construction on the multi-use path to begin early next year.
“It’s fantastic,” said Chris Burns, a founding board member of the Friends of Ecusta Trail, which held a press conference to share the news late Monday in downtown Hendersonville.
“Conserving Carolina, or its subsidiary LLC, now owns the whole corridor,” he said. “That’s key, because no longer how long it takes to build this out in Transylvania County, the corridor is intact.”
The contract for the $7.8 million sale, signed last year with Blue Ridge Southern Railroad, closed last week, Burns said. The corridor is a former rail bed that has rarely been used since the closure of the old Ecusta Mill paper plant in 2002.
Henderson County, which earlier provided a bridge loan that helped facilitate the purchase and agreed to supervise the construction of the trail in the county, will begin seeking proposals from design and engineering firms “almost immediately — in the next week or two,” Burns said.
That work will “take the trail from the conceptual stage to the actual design and engineering stage,” Burns said.
Henderson has also secured $5.1 million in grant money to pay for the building of the first six miles of the trail, Burns said.
“Henderson County has been very, very progressive in leading this movement,” he said. “They’ve been very visionary in what this will mean from a health perspective, from an economic impact perspective and from an industry-and-business recruitment perspective.”
At a meeting in June, the Brevard City Council voted to take on a similar role for the trail’s construction in Transylvania.
It has not secured funds needed to build the trail, but at the same meeting the council gave the city the go-ahead to apply for a $21-million federal grant that would include $12.8 million to cover most of the construction costs.
A local contingent, including former state representative and current member of the state Board of Transportation, Chuck McGrady, recently “went to Washington to advocate for those funds,” Burns said. The city expects to hear in November whether it will receive that money, which would also help pay to extend the city’s current Estatoe Trail.
The Estatoe will help link the Ecusta Trail to downtown Brevard from Hendersonville.
Friends of Ecusta is also scheduled to give a presentation before the Transylvania County Commission at its Aug. 23 meeting.
Such great news. Thank you for informing all of us