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Green in brief: Ecusta Trail under contract, Arboretum launches kids bird-watching program

Conserving Carolina under contract for Ecusta Trail

A new 19-mile greenway between Hendersonville and Brevard is now on track — pun fully intended. On Nov. 18, nonprofit Conserving Carolina announced that it had entered a contract to buy an unused rail corridor between the two cities for conversion into the Ecusta Trail.

Partners in the purchase include the N.C. Department of Transportation, which awarded Conserving Carolina a $6.4 million grant toward the trail; Henderson County, which extended a short-term loan for the nonprofit to cover the transaction; and the tourism authorities of both Henderson and Transylvania counties, which have committed occupancy taxes. The nonprofit Friends of the Ecusta Trail has been advocating for the project since 2009.

Trail supporters, including state Sen. Chuck Edwards and retired Rep. Chuck McGrady, have suggested that the Ecusta would fill a similar niche as the Virginia Creeper Trail and Swamp Rabbit Trail, drawing running enthusiasts and bikers from throughout the area and creating economic activity. As previously reported by Xpress, it would also comprise a key east-west corridor of the proposed Hellbender Regional Trail, a web of Western North Carolina greenways stretching over 150 miles. (See “Chance in Hellbender,” Sept. 2.)

Additional funding will still be needed to convert the railbed into a greenway. And because the purchase will take place under the federal railbanking program, the line could be restored to railroad use if an operator were to pay fair market value for the land.

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