AppHealthCare has awarded Blue Ridge Conservancy $10,000 to support the development of the Middle Fork Greenway project. The Middle Fork Greenway project will improve the accessibility and connection between the Town of Boone and Town of Blowing Rock for cyclists and pedestrians. Funding for this project is received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant (PHHS) and is overseen by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The funding for this project is meant to support improved access to Payne Branch Park in Blowing Rock which will eventually connect to the Middle Fork Greenway.
“AppHealthCare is thrilled to continue to support the Middle Fork Greenway and knows that the Middle Fork Greenway project will have lasting health impacts on the citizens of Watauga County and beyond,” says Jennifer Greene, Health Director, AppHealthCare.
The Payne Branch Park development project for the Middle Fork Greenway will be a result of the South Fork Dam removal and stream restoration project in partnership between Resource Institute, and Appalachian State University, New River Light & Power (NRLP). The dam was used for power from 1924-1972 and for safety reasons was partially dynamited following its retirement by New River Light and Power. After the removal of the dam and stream restoration slated to begin this year, Blue Ridge Conservancy will use the funding from AppHealthCare to provide bridges across tributaries for access to the newly restored Middle Fork New River. As a result of the dam’s removal, a parking area will be constructed to enable easy access for all visitors along with a concrete pathway leading to a wheelchair accessible picnic table also supported by AppHealthCare funding. Two interpretive signs will be installed along the path providing an educational experience informing the visitors about the history of the dam and the High Country’s aquatic resources.
“The urgency of protecting land and providing public access over the next decade has never been more evident,'” stated Charlie Brady, Blue Ridge Conservancy Executive Director, “and the Middle Fork Greenway will provide public access, along with health, economic, and environmental benefits to our community for generations to come.”
The Middle Fork Greenway will connect with other previously existing trails located in Boone and Blowing Rock, to create over 12 miles of paved trail. The path will serve those who are interested in walking, jogging, bicycling, rollerblading, and skateboarding. The Middle Fork Greenway will accommodate visitors of all abilities and will be fully accessible for visitors to enjoy. This Greenway will serve as a resource for not only residents of Watauga County, but will be inclusive to all individuals who are looking to get outdoors and be active. The Middle Fork Greenway project is led by Blue Ridge Conservancy in partnership with the Town of Blowing Rock, the Town of Boone, Watauga County, Watauga County and Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authorities, state and federal agencies, and many local community partners have had a crucial part in moving the completion of this project forward.