By Jesse Wood
Oct. 23, 2014. The Middle Fork Greenway celebrated another milestone with a second ribbon cutting for a subsection of greenway trail in between Boone and Blowing Rock on a chilly Wednesday afternoon.
Among the dignitaries that came out were Blowing Rock Town Council Members Al Yount, Doug Matheson Ray Pickett, Watauga County Commissioner Chair Nathan Miller, Boone Mayor Andy Ball, Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence, Watauga Commissioner John Welch and Boone Council Member Lynne Mason.
“The Middle Fork Greenway dedication marks the first step in implementing a regional recreational vision,” Ball said on Thursday. “When we expand greenways, we connect our communities and promote walking, biking and recreation.”
Once all is said and done – and nobody really knows when that will be because of easements that need to be secured and funding that needs to be raised – the 6.5 miles of hiking and biking trail along the Middle Fork Greenway will eventually connect Boone. The Middle Fork Greenway will be a part of the New River Headwaters Trail, which is a network of three greenway systems, including the Boone Greenway and South Fork Greenway, to connect Boone, Blowing Rock and Todd.
The project is an initiative of the nonprofits High Country Pathways and Blue Ridge Conservancy, and spearheading the effort is the Middle Fork Greenway Task Force.
“We are proud to be a part of this legacy project connecting Boone and Blowing Rock,” said Walter Clark, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Conservancy. “Creating public recreation opportunities is a key part of our mission at BRC.”
The portion of trail for yesterday’s ribbon cutting is 1,965 feet in length that connects Mystery Hill and the recently completed Sterling Creek Park via a pedestrian tunnel under U.S. 321. This connects the first subsection that was completed in 2012, is 2,337 feet long and runs past Tweetsie Railroad theme park. The Middle Fork Greenway will extend into the vicinity of the “Shoppes on the Parkway.”
“We are thrilled to have this section of the Greenway completed and are profoundly grateful for the many partners that are coming together to enhance access to local recreational activities in the High Country,” said Ann Browning, executive director of the Middle Fork Greenway Association. “This new segment of the Greenway would not be possible without the involvement and commitment of NCDOT, Appalachian District Health Department, the Whitener family, and Mystery Hill, among many others.”
Earlier this year, Watauga County secured $375,000 in NCDOT funding to complete this section of trail.
The next section of the trail to be constructed will follow U.S. 321 in front of Shoppes on the Parkway and will connect to the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and the Appalachian Regional Healthcare’s new Chestnut Ridge facility. Fundraising is underway for this section.
Read more about this subsection of trail here. For more about the Middle Fork Greenway project, click here and view the master plan of the project here. For more information about the Middle Fork Greenway Association, click here.