NC Division of Water Resources Grants $200K for Section of the Middle Fork Greenway

Published Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 11:49 am

The Division of Water Resources (DWR), a sector of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, awarded $200,000 to Watauga County towards construction of new trail for the Middle Fork Greenway. This .9 mile stretch of greenway will extend the path from Tweetsie Railroad to Niley Cook Road, ultimately connecting two existing pocket parks along the Hwy 321 corridor.

Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) purchased the property for the greenway in 2016.  The 12-acre tract is approximately two-thirds of a mile along the Middle Fork of the South Fork New River, enabling an extension of the existing Middle Fork Greenway and the connection of two existing pocket parks.  The land will provide a vegetated buffer to protect the water quality of nearby streams feeding into the Middle Fork New River, the main water supply for both Boone and Blowing Rock.

The Middle Fork Greenway will pass under Highway 321 through a culvert and continue the course along the Middle Fork of the South Fork New River.

“I am happy to see the momentum gaining on the Middle Fork Greenway” says Watauga County Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, John Welch.  “I believe the Middle Fork Greenway project is going to be a real asset for the entire community, as the greenway will be for everyone, people of all ages and physical abilities to get outside to exercise and be in nature in a pedestrian and bicycling safe space” says Welch.

The DWR grant requires a $200,000 match, and fundraising efforts continue in full swing to reach that mark.

Thanks to the support from High Gravity Adventures and Appalachian Mountain Brewery, $1250 of the match was raised by proceeds from the 2nd annual Mountain Ninja Warrior Contest, a fundraising event held on October 1st of this year.  High Gravity Adventures Aerial Park is located next to Tweetsie Railroad on the Highway 321 corridor.  Having access to the greenway from these attractions will benefit businesses like High Gravity Adventures and Tweetsie Railroad.

“Greenways can spur economic development and attract new businesses to an area” says Joe Furman, Watauga County Planning and Economic Development Director, “especially when the trail connects to destinations and provides alternative transportation routes.”  According to Furman, Watauga County has partnered on the Middle Fork Greenway because of the many benefits it will provide to residents and visitors of the High Country. 

“We want visitors to stay longer, come back more often and spend more money in the High Country, and the Middle Fork Greenway can provide another place for people to enjoy their time here” says Wright Tilley, Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) Director.  The TDA has provided financial support for this section of Middle Fork Greenway from Tweetsie Railroad to Niley Cook Road to get “shovel ready” with permitting, engineering and designs.  This state grant from Division of Water Resources will certainly get this mile of greenway closer to construction in the near future. 

A schematic of greenway crossing Highway 321 through the culvert.

In total, the estimated cost for this .9 mile section is $1.5 million, due to the unique features that will be installed to construct the trail while maintaining and preserving the integrity of the land and the river.

“This is a very challenging section of the Middle Fork Greenway trail because of the topography and stream crossing, says Director of the Middle Fork Greenway, Wendy Patoprsty, “which makes it quite expensive to construct.”  But it will be worth it, because when this section is built it will connect two county owned parks, neighborhoods, and many area attractions including Tweetsie Railroad, High Gravity Adventures, Mystery Hill, and Doc’s Rock’s Gem Mine.  Fortunately, Blue Ridge Conservancy was able to purchase twelve acres along this route last year to make the connection with funding from NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

The Middle Fork Greenway is a project led by Blue Ridge Conservancy in partnership with High Country Pathways, Watauga County, the towns of Blowing Rock and Boone, and many community partners.  To learn more or donate to the greenway’s progress, please visit www.middleforkgreenway.org.

The .9 mile extension of the greenway will connect 2 existing pocket parks, many local businesses and tourist attractions along the Hwy 321 corridor.

About Blue Ridge Conservancy

Blue Ridge Conservancy (BRC) is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina. BRC has protected over 20,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties.  In addition to protecting working farmland, BRC’s efforts have resulted in the creation of state natural areas like Beech Creek Bog, Bear Paw State Natural Area and Bullhead Mountain. We continue to help Elk Knob State Park and Grandfather Mountain State Park expand their borders and established Pond Mountain Game Land in Ashe County.  More information about Blue Ridge Conservancy is available at www.blueridgeconservancy.org.

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