The mission of F3ST is to bring together communities and volunteers to build, maintain, and promote the Fonta Flora State Trail connecting Buncombe, McDowell, and Burke counties for the enjoyment and education of people.

Fonta Flora Flash e-newsletter

How F3ST started: It became evident at the end of 2019 that a more coordinated effort between the 9 jurisdictions was needed to manage all the moving parts involved with completing a trail project of this scale. As a major advocate for the trail, the Friends of Lake James State Park (FLJSP) stepped up to the plate by initiating the formation of a Friends of Fonta Flora State Trail. With his prolific work in the NC Legislature on State Parks and State Trails, it was a natural fit to ask FLJSP Vice President and Emeritus Member Judge Robert C. Hunter to take a leadership role in the new organization – to which he graciously agreed to spearhead this important undertaking.

On December 18, 2019, the FLJSP hosted a reception at Fonta Flora Brewery at Whippoorwill Farm to celebrate and to announce the official formation of the Friends of Fonta Flora State Trail, Inc. (F3ST). The event was a great success with close to 100 people in attendance, including state and local officials, businesses, conservation groups and enthusiastic public supporters of the trail.

Since that event, F3ST hit the ground running. McDowell County generously “loaned” staff member Blair Melton to help get the new organization off the ground. With the help of Shane Prisby from Burke County, Heather Cotton with the City of Marion, McDowell County Economic Development Director Charles Abernathy and Josh Harrold, Town Manager for the town of Black Mountain, the team developed bylaws and put together the foundational strategy for an effective 501c3 organization.

In the spring of 2021, F3ST had its 501c3 status and a fully formed Board of Directors with equal representation of the 9 jurisdictions. The Board of Directors is composed of five representatives from each of the three counties (3 local government representative, a trails representative, and an economic development representative) plus designated seats for the Friends of Lake James State Park, Inc. the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, Inc. the YMCA of Western North Carolina, NC State Parks and a member from the WNC Bridge Foundation.

F3ST is grateful for the funding support from McDowell County, City of Marion, Town of Black Mountain,  Town of Old Fort, Town of Glen Alpine, Burke County, City of Morganton

Board of Directors

Burke County

  • Burke County Commissioner Johnnie Carswell
  • Morganton Councilman Butch McSwain
  • Glen Alpine Mayor Bob Benfield
  • Trails – Tim Johnson
  • Economic – Ed Phillips, TDA

McDowell County

  • McDowell County Commissioner Chair David Walker
  • Marion Councilman Billy Martin
  • Old Fort Alderman Melvin Lytle
  • Trails – Steve Pierce, MTA
  • Economic – Steve Bush

Buncombe County

  • County Parks, Greenways, and Rec Advisory Board Carol Peterson
  • Asheville Councilwoman Gwen Wisler
  • Black Mountain Council Member Pam King
  • Trails – Jen Billstrom
  • Economic – Eric Oelschlaeger


  • Friends of Lake James State Park – Beth Heile
  • Foothills Conservancy of NC – Andrew Kota
  • WNC YMCA – Tim Blenco
  • Healthcare – Meg White
  • State Parks – Smith Raynor
  • Immediate Past President – Judge Bob Hunter

The F3ST Board is supported by an Advisory Council. Members are employees and volunteers from the various stakeholder groups and local governments working to get the trail on the ground.

Advisory Council

Town of Black Mountain Josh Harrold Town Manager
Connect Buncombe Linda Giltz President
City of Asheville Lucy Crown Greenway Planner
Buncombe County Recreation Services Director
City of Morganton Phillip Lookadoo Director of Development and Design
Burke County Community Development Shane Prisby Operations Manager
Foothills Conservancy Tom Kenny Land Protection Director
Marion Chamber of Commerce Kim Effler Executive Director
Overmountain Victory Trail Association Bryant Lindsey Member
McDowell Economic Development Association Inc Charles Abernathy Executive Director
City of Marion Heather Cotton, AICP Planning and Development Director
Camp Grier Jason McDougald Executive Director
People on the Move Old Fort Lavita Logan Old Fort People on the Move
McDowell Technical Community College Stacy Buff Dean
McDowell County Tourism Authority Carol Price Executive Director
Friends of Lake James State Park Jim Williams Friends of Lake James State Park
Friends of Lake James State Park Jeff Stark Friends of Lake James State Park
USFS Lisa Jennings Grandfather Restoration Project Coordinator
Lake James State Park Nora Coffey Park Superintendent

Amanda Elledge Finn
Executive Director

Friends of Fonta Flora State Trail, Inc. is a 501(c)3 organization.