By Nathan Ham
Residents, town council members past and present, town staff and other dignitaries have been invited to Blowing Rock on Tuesday, January 11 at 4:30 p.m. for a special ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the years of work that led to the completion of the Bass Lake sidewalk project that started back in 2014.
The ribbon-cutting will take place at the intersection of Green Street and Highway 221.
“We have invited the DOT, contractors, homeowners, current council and former council members. The project extended over seven years so hopefully, we will have a good turnout. It’s going to be cold so hopefully, everyone will bundle up,” said Shane Fox, Blowing Rock’s Town Manager.
The sidewalk connects Main Street to Bass Lake and the Blue Ridge Parkway. The final cost of the work was $1.25 million and 80% of that was paid for by an E-FLAP (Eastern Federal Lands Access Program) Grant. Fox said the town’s portion of the bill was approximately $250,000.
“Grants like these are available for towns, cities and counties that are trying to connect local government property to park service federal lands,” Fox explained.
Planning for the project began back in 2014 and took about six years to acquire all of the necessary easements from private property owners as well as working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the National Park Service to get the proper permits for construction on state and federal land.
The project was bid out in 2020 and awarded to Country Boy Landscaping in Statesville.
Construction of the project was delayed out of the starting gate by COVID-19 and supply chain issues.
“The project was delayed and finally started around March of 2021 and was completed around Thanksgiving. Crews did a final walk-through in December,” Fox said.
In addition to the concrete and fencing work, the underground work that was completed was just as important as what residents and visitors see above ground.
“There was a tremendous amount of below-the-surface work that had to be done, primarily moving water and sewer lines and moving some of those grates around. It was quite a bit more work underneath the surface than on top,” Fox said. “We upgraded a decent amount of water and sewer work in that area. Anytime we get a chance to upgrade water and sewer lines, we are going to.”
Overall, the project consisted of 3,000 linear feet of sidewalk. The sidewalk is five feet wide, including curbing and guttering. The project added 750 feet of retaining wall and decorative metal fencing that matched what has been constructed on Highway 321 and Sunset Drive.
“We already had people using that area to walk and it wasn’t that safe walking on the side of Highway 221,” Fox said. “The sidewalk is a tremendous asset for us to have from a safety standpoint. We were also able to add the bike lanes as well that were not there previously.”