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 the 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 202, 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

Board of Directors

Burke Burke County Johnnie Carswell Chair Burke County Board of Commissioners
Burke City of Morganton Butch McSwain Council Member City of Morganton
Burke Town of Glen Alpine Bob Benfield Mayor Town of Glen Alpine
Burke Trails Tim Johnson Senior Planner, Destination by Design
Burke Economic Ed Phillips CEO Burke County Tourism Development Authority
McDowell McDowell County David Walker Chair McDowell County Board of Commissioners
McDowell City of Marion Billy Martin Council Member City of Marion
McDowell Town of Old Fort Melvin Lytle Alderman Town of Old Fort
McDowell Trails Steve Pierce President McDowell Trails Association
McDowell Economic Steve Bush Former Executive Director, McDowell Chamber of Commerce
Buncombe Buncombe County Carol Peterson Board Member Parks, Greenways, and Rec Advisory Board
Buncombe City of Asheville Gwen Wisler Councilwoman City of Asheville
Buncombe Town of Black Mountain Pam King Council Member Town of Black Mountain
Buncombe Trails Jennifer Billstrom Velo Girl Rides LLC & Kitsbow Cycling Apparel
Buncombe Economic Development Eric Oelschlaeger President Epsilon, Inc.
General Friends of Lake James Judge Robert Hunter Emeritus Board Member Friends of Lake James
General Foothills Conservancy of NC Andrew Kota Executive Director Foothills Conservancy of NC
General YMCA of Western North Carolina Tim Blenco COO, YMCA of Western North Carolina
General Healthcare Foundation Meg White Senior Program Officer WNC Bridge Foundation
General North Carolina State Parks Smith Raynor State Trails Planner North Carolina State Parks


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

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

Beth Heile
Executive Director

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