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Blowing Rock Town Council To Consider Hiring Group To Address Long-Term Improvements To Glen Burney Trail

Glen Burney Trail is steep, rugged and strenuous.

By Jesse Wood

Dec. 8, 2014. The Blowing Rock Town Council will consider contracting with conservation groups to address trail improvements along the Glen Burney Trail, a strenuous town-owned trail that descends 800 feet into the rugged John’s River Gorge.

About one-year ago, the Town of Blowing Rock began conversing with the Blue Ridge Conservancy, N.C. Youth Conservation Corps (NCYCC) and the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps (VYCC) to identify the long-term plan for maintenance of the trail that has a trailhead steps from Main Street.

In short, Town Manager Scott Fogleman said the plan is to control erosion and stabilize the trail for years to come.

Fogleman added that the NCYCC worked on the trail over the summer but realized that the “scope is above and beyond ultimately what they can accomplish.”

So, a partnership formed with the Vermont group.

If the Blowing Rock Town Council approves of an initial assessment with the VYCC for $2,500, the group will provide:

  • a detailed trail map highlighting focus areas and maintenance needs
  • baseline trail designs in the from of trail cross sections for various classes of trail (i.e. foot-traffic only, winter use, universally accessible)
  • trail design recommendations for the various sections of the trail based on the site conditions including any trail structures
  • GPS tracked and photo documented trouble areas and recommendations for improvement
  • a cost estimate for completion of all recommended work, including any materials provided

In a memo to council members, Fogleman said that it would cost $2,400 to fund this work in January if the council were to move forward with this proposal. Fogleman then added after the assessment, the council would know how much the improvements would cost and could plan accordingly during the budget process in the spring.Glen-Burney-Trail

A letter from Paul Schmidt, CEO of VYCC, to Fogleman noted that the conservation group could provide a crew for seven weeks, starting as late as June 2015. The crew would include two trained leaders; up to eight corps members; NCYCC supervision and technical support; all tools, equipment and transportation; and the insurance, liability and workers compensation requirements.

To secure a NCYCC crew for seven weeks, the cost would be $49,000, according to Schmidt.

“This amount represents the typical contribution by project sponsors to the overall cost of the crew as part of a standard cost share agreement with the NCYCC. We would work with the town and other partners to try to reduce this amount through other fundraising efforts,” Schmidt wrote.

In his memo, Fogleman noted that the town’s Parks and Recreation Department staff provides general maintenance and inspections on the trail about once a month and that the ASU Blue Ridge Conservancy student club does general maintenance, such as trimming, raking and trash and debris cleanup, throughout the summer.

The trail was donated to the town in 1906.

Fogleman said that these improvements have nothing to do with the “recent falls over the falls.”

In late October, Alberto Diaz, a 55-year-old man from Miami, fell into the Glen Burney Falls and died. Since the town was given the land more than 100 years ago, tragedies like this have occasionally occurred.

Fogleman did say that town officials have had some recent discussions pertaining to safety along the trail. In particular, Fogleman said that the town has focused on moving signage to direct people to the bottom of the falls, so that visitors are looking up to see the falls and not from the above, where people have slipped and fallen.

To see meeting packet information, including Fogleman’s memo and letter from Schmidt, click here.

A view from below the falls.
A view from above the falls.