curt's blog

Pre-registration for 2013 Ales for Rails-Trails 5K Opens August 1st

This 5K event will be held on Sunday October 13th at 4pm, with start and finsh near the FullSteam Brewery on Madison Street in Durham.  Registration through September 30th will be $25, and $30 from October 1-13. Please see our Ales Events page and our Facebook page for more on our third annual 5K race.

Third Year Impact Study of Swamp Rabbit Trail

Greenville County S.C. and Furman University have recently released an economic impact study of the third full year of the 18.7 mile Swamp Rabbit Rail Trail. Trail usage by both local citizens and visitors has grown substantially since the trail was opened in May 2010. A number of new small businesses catering to increased tourism have been spawned near the trail at the eastern end of the trail in Travelers Rest, SC. The County and others involved with the trail have produced a number of useful maps of the trail. For an interesting documentation of the long term role of this rail corridor please see http://greenvillerec.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Swamp-Rabbit-Trail-H...

NCRT Welcomes New Executive Director

Ms. Emily Herbert will become the next Executive Director of North Carolina Rail-Trails (NCRT). Emily, a resident of Durham (and alumna of NCSSM and UNC), has been involved with other local nonprofits, including the Eno River Association, Duke Medicine, and the Diaper Bank of NC. Emily will officially begin her service on January 1st, 2015.

Our January 10th board meeting, in downtown Durham, will include an official welcome to Emily, as well as acknowledgment of Carrie Banks’ accomplishments during her 4+ years as our first E.D.

 

Community Input Workshop on the ATT--Sept. 27th

The American Tobacco Trail Study being done by North Carolina Rail-Trails and researchers from NC Central and NC State is going well. A community input workshop will be held this Saturday (Sept. 27th). The team will have a tent with tables at 2919 Fayetteville St. in Durham (just off the American Tobacco Trail at The Office Connection) from noon-4pm. It's a drop in type of event, no need to stay long but there will be hot dogs and raffles!

If you can't stop by but would still like to provide input, please take a few moments to complete the On-line Survey  (Survey open through October 26)

Durham Receives Grant for Duke Beltline Planning

On September 10th Durham took a first step towards planning for the future acquisition and development of a 2.2 mile rail corridor in downtown Durham. The Duke Beltline is a rail spur that rings the western and northern portions of downtown. Supporters of a rails-to-trails conversion see it as a complement to the American Tobacco Trail and other city greenway projects. Federal officials have awarded Durham a $222,700 grant the city can use to fund planning for a new trail along the Duke Beltline rail corridor.

U.S. Reps. G.K. Butterfield, D-1st, and David Price, D-4th, issued a joint statement Wednesday evening announcing the decision by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Butterfield made a point of thanking Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, a former mayor of Charlotte, for supporting the application. The grant replied to an application from the city government, which hopes someday to acquire the downtown-ringing Beltline from the Norfolk Southern Corp. City Manager Tom Bonfield said the planning work should bolster the city’s case if and when it comes time to seek outside funding for an acquisition. “If we were going to look for philanthropic support from the private sector, the foundation or business world, it was difficult to do that without a plan or strategy or some visual representation of what we’re talking about,” Bonfield said, summarizing the advice officials have solicited from organizations who might be able to help. Officials will need to come up with a $75,000 local match, with private contributions being a potential source of at least some of that money. City Transportation Director Mark Ahrendsen said in putting together the grant application, officials touched base with Duke University, Downtown Durham Inc. and the people behind the American Tobacco complex and the proposed Durham Innovation District. They “indicated if we were successful [in landing the planning grant], we’d be returning to them,” Ahrendsen said. “They were open to that, but no commitments were made at that time. We will follow up with the private interests that expressed support for the project.”  He added that the grant is supposed to pay for the creation of a master plan for a trail project along the beltline, to include “trail development guidelines, [construction] phasing and a funding strategy.” Officials in assembling the application figured the work will take about a year. It can’t begin until they nail down grant agreements with the federal government and the N.C. Department of Transportation, and select a consultant. The city’s timetable calls for the administrative spadework to be completed by the end of the year and the selection of the consultant to take place by the spring. That would translate into a completed plan sometime in early 2016, Ahrendsen said. Acquisition talks between the city and Norfolk Southern bogged down in 2013 after the railroad said it wants $7.1 million for the corridor. The city had $2 million on hand thanks to a Price-secured federal appropriation. The project gained new life this year when a Virgina-based trust, The Conservation Fund, signaled interest in lending a hand. Its North Carolina operation is led by Bill Holman, a former Sierra Club lobbyist, state administrator and Duke University policy analyst. Bonfield said representatives of The Conservation Fund and the railroad have met several times and, while not making any deals yet, are having “fruitful talks” about the Beltline. Holman confirmed that talks are continuing. To date, the conversations are about “seeing if we can get together an agreement on what the property is worth,” as a preliminary to figuring out “how to pay for it and how quickly to pay for it,” he said. But “both parties are very interested in working things out,” Holman said. Holman added that the planning grant “will help a lot.”  “There are opportunities to bring other public and private funds into the project,” he said. “Having a great plan developed [using the grant] will aid those interests.”

Ales for Rail-Trails 2014 Registration is Open

Registration for our Ales for Rail-Trails 5K Race is open. The Race will be held on Sunday October 12th and once again we'll be starting and finishing just east of downtown Durham with a portion of the course on the Ellerbe Creek Trail. Bull City Running Co. will be providing major course support with post-race libations from FullSteam Brewery. Click here for more on the race and a link to our registration page.

Elkin and Alleghany Rail-Trail and New Bridge

Over the past several months the Elkin Valley Trails Association has seen lots of of progress on the E & A Rail-Trail. On July 12th NCRT held its quarterly Board meeting in Elkin and following our meeting took a walk on the trail with Bill Blackley of EVTA http://elkinvalleytrails.org/. The new bridge is open for users and will be formally dedicated later this Summer (click for image). From downtown the trail will be about two miles but the downtown portion is not marked as such. The new portion of the trail is ~ one mile long. EVTA has received great local support from volunteers and received grants and donations from a number of Corporations and Foundations. The bridge alone cost $91,000; installing pilings and bridge $78,000; construction roads and trails over $45,000; FEMA studies, environmental studies and work, engineering, etc. over $60,000. Major contributors/grant givers included: Lowes Foundation; WIFM radio, Town of Elkin, Surry County, Chatham Foundation, Hillsdale Foundation, Winston-Salem Foundation, RTP grant, over 60 businesses, Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce, Yadkin Rotary Club, multiple restaurants, Walmart, Frontier Gas, Greenhill Environmental, Yadkin Valley Railroad, and many more.Good News! In early September EVTA learned that they will be awarded a $200,000 grant for construction of the second bridge. The new bridge will be on the Stone Mountain Trail, a segment of the NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and will connect a section of trail leading to Grassy Creek Winery, onward towards Carter Mill Falls and then Stone Mountain State Park. Funding is from a State RTP grant. The Elkin Valley Trails Association will be working between now and February to raise additional money needed to complete the bridge. If you would be interested in helping us fund part of this critical link in the Mountains-to-Sea Trail please contact Bill Blackley at wjblackley@gmail.com

By the rules of the grant they can't start any construction until funding is received. They are however, planning to build trail north of the planned-for second bridge so that when the grant is completed and the bridge is installed citizens will be able to get on the trails and walk or ride a long way right from the first day.

EVTA has held multiple fundraisers and a dedicated group of citizens have given over 6,000 volunteer hours on the Association's various trails and activities. If you would like to assist in the Association's trail building please check their Facebook page for news on coming events and workdays: https://www.facebook.com/ElkinValleyTrails. Their next workday will be held on Saturday October 18th at the Wells Knob section. Volunteers will be finishing approaches to the second bridge , rough cutting a small re-locate and installing a waterbar.

Spring 2014 Newsletter Available On-line

We've just loaded the on-line version of our latest Newsletter. Our lead article tells some history of the mills, warehouses and rail line which were central to the economy of Rocky Mount during much of the 20th century. Re-development is now occurring and a few active citizens are working hard to put in place a 1 mile rail-trail as a key piece of these changes. You'll also find updates on the Dunn-Erwin extension project, the bridge and other construction work by the Elkin Valley Trail Association in Surry County, and on the completion of the final phase of the American Tobacco Trail in Durham. While not a rail-trail in North Carolina, you may be interested in a fairly new and very popular trail in South Carolina, the Swamp Rabbit Trail near Greenville. This recent article is testimony to the effects this greenway has had on the town of Travelers Rest and shows what a great investment rail-trails can be for local communities.

First Toast to Trails Ride A Success

Our initial Toast to Trails ride saw 62 happy riders cycle 36 miles on the American Tobacco Trail to the Cloer Family Vineyards for lunch, music and wine tasting. A good time was had by all and many of the riders remarked on how lovely the vineyard was and how they enjoyed the ride. We hope to make this an annual event.Thanks so much for everyone who rode, volunteered and helped coordinate this fundraiser.

                                                                                                           

Kick-Off meeting of Study of Crime Perceptions Held on March 25th

On March 25th a group consisting of trail advocates, Durham Police, Parks & Rec staff, pastors, planners and others concerned with trail safety met at North Carolina Central Univ. to kick off a several month study of the views and perceptions of trail crime on portions of the ATT. This study is a partnership between North Carolina Rail-Trails, Dr. Kofi Boone of  North Carolina State and Dr. Deborah Bailey of North Carolina Central University. These researchers  will be leading teams of grad students in conducting interviews, public meetings and collecting survey data via questionnaires. Funding for the study was provided by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.  We'll post any early findings here on our site over the next few months. The study is scheduled to be completed by November 2014. Stay tuned for updates on this exciting project!

For more on this initial meeting please see this article from WUNC radio