F3ST is grateful for the funding support we received from five local governments by January 2020. In addition, F3ST has been included in the 2021 budgets of two more. These contributions are key in enabling our non-profit to operate through the end of the year with a part time executive director, which will in turn ensure our success.
Getting a 100 mile trail completed in 10 years takes some planning. F3ST knows that and State Parks Trails Planner Smith Raynor knows that. With both wanting a schedule of trail roll out, strategic planning meetings started in March and finished in June. F3ST organized the meetings with each local government to discuss the Fonta Flora State Trail corridor in their jurisdiction and identify their top three priority segments.
As the Fonta Flora State Trail runs from Morganton to Asheville, so did our strategic planning sessions, with our final meeting being in Asheville. As a bonus, the meeting was held in the River Arts District beside the Wilma Dykeman Greenway – where the FFST will end.
The 7.5 mile Swannanoa River Greenway will be a part of the FFST. This is broken into 3 sections for planning – Biltmore to Tunnel Road, Tunnel Road to Azalea Park, Azalea Park to City Line. Completing the trail is now about time and money.
The Spring Hike & Learn Series ran April through June. Each event started with a Learn by hearing from trail or conservation experts, moved on to a moderate 3-4 mile Hike, and ended with Lunch and Shopping from a local businesses (see Economic Impact).
Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail also presented the progress of the trail and how the community can help.
Hike & Learn with McDowell Trails Association – along the Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway in Marion – which is designated FFST. Participants started Freddy Bradburn music at the Greenway Amphitheater. For the learn, Beth provided an F3ST update, Steve Pierce recognized MTA Board Members and presented greenway plans. For the hike, folks walked the Greenway and observed Riverbank Stabilization, Round Hill Historical Cemetery, bridge replacement site. Lunch followed at J Hartman’s.
Wonder what gets done once you have an Executive Director? Here is what F3ST has accomplished since Beth Heile was hired with a February 1 start date.
Strategic Planning Sessions with Municipalities and Counties
- We gathered planners, managers, trail groups and the like to sit down to look at maps, discuss the routes and the priorities. Four meetings have been held and the final with Asheville will be on June 10.
- The result will be a map showing the trail status (completed, in the planning, seeking funding and the like) for the public and grant administrators. Due date: May 27
- Each jurisdiction is also providing their top 3 priority sections, so we are ready if funding becomes available whether for planning or construction.
Trails generate substantial economic benefits. In western North Carolina, studies have shown an outdoor enthusiast will spend $50 on a day trip for food, gas and other items.
The F3ST Spring Hike & Learn Series was not just about exploring the Fonta Flora State Trail, it was to also to model a regular person’s hiking outing. A hiker or biker may want to learn about the area (we included that), hit the trail (we did that) and take in the local scene by visiting shops, restaurants and breweries (we did that).
State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson visited Old Fort to see what is happening with the Fonta Flora State Trail.
F3ST President Bob Hunter, picture here between Deputy State Parks Director Brian Strong and State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson, explains where the FFST will cross the Old Fort Park and Trailhead. Other attendees include Tome Kenney, FCNC, Kim Effler, McDowell Chamber and Mavis Gragg, PARTF member.
F3ST kicked off a new FUNraiser and Membership Drive this year. The F3ST 100 Mile Challenge. The idea is move forward 100 Miles in 100 Days for $100. That is just a mile a day!
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, participants will do any activity to that moves them forward – walk, hike, bike, skate, paddle, skip, swim
For a $100 Donation, participants received a t-shirt, bragging rights, membership and decal (if not already a member), mileage log chart and orange marker.
This year, moving forward can take place anywhere. Eventually, the event will all be on the 100 mile Fonta Flora State Trail.
Heather Cotton, Planning Director for the City of Marion, is creating a Fonta Flora State Trail map for F3ST. She is in the process of collecting information from all the local governments for their sections. The interactive map will be available online in a few weeks for everyone to explore with finished sections, sections in the works, trailheads, etc.
F3ST Board Members and Town of Old Fort Aldermen met with Davidson’s Fort stakeholders to determine the route for the FFST trail from the Old Fort Park Trailhead across the fort property and toward town. The fort and the trailhead park will be side by side near Lackey Town Rd and will benefit each other.
F3ST President Bob Hunter, F3ST Treasurer Andrew Kota and F3ST Executive Director Beth Heile have been core members of the Great State Trails Coalition since its inception in February 2020.
The Great State Trails Coalition is a broad-based group of diverse organizations, agencies and supporters advocating for increased state investment in all types of trails statewide – hiking, paddle, mountain bike, equestrian, paved.
Clint Bowman with Black Mountain Recreation was part of the “learn” before our hike along the Oaks Trail, about their programs and the community garden, the Black Mountain Greenways and F3ST. Great lunch at Foothills Local Meats – an F3ST business sponsor.
Strategic Planning Meeting for FFST going through Buncombe County was a great success! Directors, Planners, Council members, Neighbors, Volunteers, Ag, Rec and more …..
F3ST Executive Director Beth Heile, Board Member Steve Pierce and Member Heath Cooper took part in the first ever Trail Class at McDowell Technical Community College. In this basic class, students learned Trail Types and Experience, Sustainable Trail Assessment and Maintenance, and Trail Safety with First Aid/CPR.
30 folks came out for the Old Fort Hike and Learn. It started at the Old Fort Ride House, hikers learned from Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina, hiked property that FCNC received from the Alison Family and then had lunch at F3ST Business Partner Hillman Beer – Old Fort
Thanks to McDowell Chamber of Commerce’s Kim Effler for organizing a 2 day session of speakers and tours of Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness. Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail, McDowell Trails Association, The G5 Trail Collective, People on the Move Old Fort and others made the trip to learn how to make our Quality of Place even better!!!
Strategic planning meeting with Town of Black Mountain, Black Mountain Greenways, NC State Parks Planning, Council members, and others to determine the FFST route in the area. There are several obstacles – but the trail will move forward!
The Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail Hike & Learn series kicked off in Burke County. The goal of the series is for attendees to learn about the Fonta Flora State Trail, hike a section of the trail and support the local economy. Meeting at the Burke County Fonta Flora Park trailhead, twelve hikers learned the history of the trail and sustainable trail building practices from Shane Prisby, Burke County Community Development Operations Manager.
A Public Input Meeting was held on Monday, March 22 at 5:30 at Old Fort Town Hall. McDowell County Planner Blair Melton presented the PARTF Grant Application process and Amenities that will be included at the FFST Trailhead and Park. The meeting was in person and via Zoom. All attendees (including the Mayor and Aldermen) supported the park as presented and recognized what it will bring to the community.