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Learning from Knoxville

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!!!

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Black Mountain Trail Planning

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!

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Hike & Learn Launch

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.

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Old Fort Trailhead and Park Planning

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.

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MTA Funds Dog Park at Trailhead

The McDowell Trails Association (MTA) has given $25,000 to the Town of Old Fort to fund a dog park at the Fonta Flora State Trailhead and Old Fort Park. This donation will be included as part of a grant to build the park on land donated to and now owned by the state and leased to the Town of Old Fort.  The route of the FFST will enter the town from the east, and the Trailhead Park will become not only a gateway to the town, but also a place for residents and visitors to enjoy a picnic shelter, dog park, the Fonta Flora State Trail, an open green space, and other planned amenities.

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Old Fort Trail Sign – Old Hwy 70

Thanks to the generosity of the Allison land contribution and the work performed by Foothills Conservancy, the newest portion of the Fonta Flora State Trail will open soon.

It spans approximately three miles from the camp road leading to Camp Grier to Wolf Creek near the entrance to the Old Fort Picnic Area.

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Business Partnership Launched

How to Become a Business Partner ~ Partner List

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Burke McDowell Trail Planning

Getting a 100 mile trail completed in 10 years takes some planning. State and local government agencies and volunteers from Burke and McDowell Counties gathered at Lake James State Park to set a strategic plan.

The group created an FFST Trail Timeline Spreadsheet for all to use. From that combined information, each jurisdiction will be able to see how the trail is progressing to make sure we meet our goal. Also, once all information is gathered, a promotional map will be created for the public to understand where trail is located at this time and where trail will be built.

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Old Fort Aldermen Support Trail

The Town of Old Fort Aldermen are very supportive of trails through town. At their March Meeting, they voted to allow the town to apply for a PARTF grant to help fund a FFST Trailhead and Park, to fund a park plan from Destination by Design Planning , host a public input meeting for feedback on the PARTF grant and park plan on March 22, and fund some more The G5 Trail Collective trails. This group understands what trails can do for the health of their citizens and their wallets and taking steps to become a Trail Town.

Blair Melton, McDowell County Planning, presented information regarding the PARTF grant and public input meeting. She also introduced Beth Heile, F3ST Executive Director, who thanked the board for supporting F3ST.  Tim Johnson, Destination by Design, was on hand to answer questions about the park plan.

 

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Scott Carpenter – Man Behind FFST

In 2015, Scott Carpenter, Burke County Deputy County Manager and Community Development Director found an old notebook in his office about a loop trail around Lake James. The rest is history.

 

 

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Designating State Trail

Talking about the grade of a section of trail – Brittany (FCNC), Kat (NC Parks), Jen (F3ST), Beth (F3ST) and Smith (NC Parks)

NC State Trails Planner Smith Raynor was in Old Fort to start the process of designating a new section of FFST. There is a little more paperwork to do before it is official. Thanks to Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina for acquiring the property and building the trail.

What is a State Trail?

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McDowell Strategic Planning

F3ST is working on a Strategic Planning for the entire trail to make sure we are on track to complete the trail in 10 years!

The end result will be one map and spreadsheet showing trail on the ground, trail planned (with year start) and trail under construction. This map will be a tremendous benefit to us all in promoting, fundraising and securing grants for the trail.

Pictured: Bob Hunter, President F3ST and Steve Pierce, President McDowell Trails Association and F3ST Board Member.

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To Downtown Morganton

At the December 2019 City of Morganton Council meeting, a construction contract was awarded for a one-mile paved path from the existing Catawba River Greenway (designated FFST) at Catawba Meadows Park to downtown along Green Street. It is scheduled to be completed in January 2022.

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Glen Alpine Ready for FFST

Town of Glen Alpine Mayor Bob Benfield and Clerk Melissa Lalonde are excited about the Fonta Flora State Trail (FFST) coming to the small town. Once home to the largest wooden structure in North Carolina, The Glen Alpine Springs Hotel, Glen Alpine is now a bedroom community. Benfield and Lalonde believe the trail will breathe new life into the town. Whether the FFST will be on the north or south side of the Catawba River near Glen Alpine has not been determined. Either way, Representative Blackwell suggested a loop trail from the main FFST to Linville Street in downtown Glen Alpine. This street houses a bicycle shop, a drug store and has store fronts fitted for a restaurant and an ice cream shop. Mayor Benfield said the town is looking at grant opportunities for trail construction and will work to include a loop instead of an out and back. Rep Blackwell and local trail advocate Beth Heile have now met with all Burke County municipalities to discuss trails as an economic development opportunity. In 2015, Rep Blackwell was the primary sponsor of the bill that created the Fonta Flora State Trail. Last year, Mayor Benfield became a board member of the newly formed Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail.

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Supporting Municipalities

F3ST is grateful for the funding support we have received so far from local governments. The early leaders are

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Foothills Conservancy – Old Fort

Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina has been organizing volunteer workdays to get this 3-mile section ready. They acquired property in Old Fort and transferred it to North Carolina State Parks and Recreation. Soon to be part of the Fonta Flora State Trail, you can hike or bike this section in Old Fort starting in March. Partnerships make things happen!

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Old Fort Trailhead Plan

The planning process has started on the Old Fort Trailhead and Park that will be located just north of I-40 on property purchased by the state with Connect NC Bond money. Old Fort Alderman Andrew Carlton, McDowell County Planner Blair Melton, F3ST President Bob Hunter and F3ST Executive Director Beth Heile met with Eric Woolridge of Destinations by Design to discuss amenities needed and next steps.

$300,000 has be raised to use for a grant match. $100,00 from each: Old Fort, McDowell County, a private donor

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Heile named Executive Director

Beth Heile has been named Executive Director of Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail, Inc. Judge Bob Hunter, President of F3ST, said “Having an Executive Director will provide the constant driving force behind our mission, ensuring a strong “friends” group to provide relentless advocacy, leadership, fundraising, and outreach.” The group has asked for funding from municipalities and counties until we receive full funding from the State of NC.

Heile is known a local trail advocate having started Friends of the Valdese Rec to help the Town of Valdese acquire 300 acres for Valdese Lakeside Park and working on the Catawba River Trail which will follow south of the river from Morganton to Long View.

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McDowell Trail

F3ST Board Members Beth Heile, Jennifer Billstrom and Steve Pierce toured the McDowell sections of the Fonta Flora State Trail – the Joseph McDowell Historical Catawba Greenway and Greenlee Park. Heather Cotton, City of Marion Planning and Development Director, walked with them to discuss the progress of the trail and plans for the future.

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Board Meetings Online

Just getting off the ground, the F3ST Board had one meeting in person meeting in March 2020.  Since that time, meetings have been online.

F3ST 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 Beth Heile Founder Friends of Valdese Rec
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 Woody Ayers Council Member City of Marion
McDowell Town of Old Fort Jerome Effler 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 Vice Mayor and Councilwoman City of Asheville
Buncombe Town of Black Mountain Pam King Alderman Town of Black Mountain
Buncombe Trails Jennifer Billstrom Velo Girl Rides LLC & Kitsbow Cycling Apparel
Buncombe Economic 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 Heathcare Foundation Meg White Senior Program Officer WNC Bridge Foundation
General North Carolina State Parks Smith Raynor State Trails Planner North Carolina State Parks