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$150,000 in Unexpected Grants To Go To Middle Fork Greenway, Other River Access

By Jesse Wood

This week, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners authorized Planning Director Joe Furman to work out the details of $150,000 in unexpected appropriations from the state that are earmarked for the Middle Fork Greenway project and a river access.

Furman said the $100,000 is for the Middle Fork Greenway and $50,000 is expected to be for an access project along the Watauga River at Guy Ford Road. The $50,000 grant was initially earmarked for New River access by Sen. Deanna Ballard, according to a memo in the commissioner’s packet. However, Sen. Ballard is being requested to change that to the Guy Ford Road access on the Watauga River.

Furman said that the General Assembly conveyed these funds to the county as grants from the Office of State Budget and Management.

Furman said that there are currently little details yet as to what the money will go towards for the Middle Fork Greenway project.

“We are figuring out the best and most expedient section to spend it on. It may be that we have to have it spent by June 30, 2017, and if that is truly the case, that will help us decide where to spend it,” Furman said in an email following the meeting with the commissioners.

As for the river access on the Watauga River, if that is approved it will be for parking and boat access like what is located at the intersection of U.S. 321 and Watauga River Road.

Guy Ford Road is a put-in to the classic Watauga Gorge kayak run that flows into Tennessee. The five-mile paddle drops 100 feet per mile and flows through the rugged, remote wilderness. 

Earlier this year, Blue Ridge Conservancy announced that it had secured a 2.3-acre parcel for river access at Guy Ford Road. Read about that here. 

Once complete, the Middle Fork Greenway will be a 6.5 mile trail that connects Boone and Blowing Rock. So far only about one mile of the trail is navigable, but it seems like every few months or so, a new announcement regarding the project comes about. See the latest here.