David Billstrom with Kitsbow Cycling Apparel contacted F3ST about a safer route for bicyclists leaving the Old Fort Ride House and travelling to the USFS Trails on Curtis Creek. With Highway 70 being both busy and narrow, Billstrom thought a better route from the future Fonta Flora State Trail Trailhead and Park (off Lackeytown Rd) should be explored.
The McDowell Trails Association held their annual membership meeting on July 20 at the Joseph McDowell Catawba Greenway Amphitheater. F3ST Executive Director Beth Heile was invited as the guest speaker. In addition to updating MTA on the progress of the Fonta Flora State Trail, Beth thanked MTA for paving the way for F3ST, so to speak.
Long before the Fonta Flora State Trail came to be, local governments were already making plans for trails, greenways and sidewalks. The following is a list of NCDOT adopted plans for McDowell County that include bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
The McDowell Trails Committee meets every 2 months to talk about the many greenway/trails initiatives underway and to continue planning future projects. Managers, Councilmen, Parks and Rec, Planning, Trails Groups are all represented.
Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina is helping move the Fonta Flora State Trail forward by purchasing needed property and holding trail easements. A land trust can move much more quickly that state or local government. FCNC also has a representative on our F3ST Executive Committee and on our F3ST Advisory Council.
We have launched our e-newsletter that will go out every two weeks.
The Fonta Flora Flash will have four stories – one of which will be a new trail segment update.
If you are an F3ST member and we have your email address, the newsletter has been sent. You may need to check your spam or promotions folder to see it.
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F3ST President Bob Hunter and F3ST Executive Director Beth Heile have been core members of the Great State Trails Coalition since its inception in February 2020.
The group pushed the NC Year of the Trail 2023 bill that was sponsored by Representative Blackwell – and unanimously passed. They also provided initial wording for a funding bill sponsored by Representatives Arp and Blackwell.
F3ST is grateful for the funding support we received from seven local governments – five by January 2020 and two for July 2021. 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.
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.
- Each jurisdiction is also providing their top 3 priority sections, so we are ready if funding becomes available whether for planning or construction.
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.
State Parks Director Dwayne Patterson visited Old Fort to see what is happening with the Fonta Flora State Trail. He visited the future trailhead off Lackey Town Road and the Copper Ridge Trail – west of Camp Grier.
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).
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.
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 …..