By Emma Castleberry
Foothills Conservancy of NC (FCNC) will work in partnership with the City of Morganton, Burke County Community Development and local business Overmountain Cycles to construct three and a half miles of mountain biking trails at the Catawba River Greenway in Morganton. The work is made possible by a $100,000 grant from the North Carolina Division of Parks & Recreation Recreational Trails Program (RTP). The RTP grant is funded by taxes paid on fuel used by off-highway vehicles and the money is allocated by Congress. “RTP grants are reviewed with the assistance of scoring criteria that looks at different factors of the trail project, including location, connection to other trails, economic need of the area, surface type, ADA accessibility and the list goes on,” says Brittany Watkins, special projects coordinator for FCNC. “The Catawba Meadows Bike Trail project scored fairly high because of its connection to a greenway and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, as well as the long-term commitment of FCNC volunteers to help maintain the trail and several other major factors.”
The vision is for these trails to eventually connect to FCNC’s Oak Hill Park and on to Lake James via the Fonta Flora State Trail. “This expansion offers users a variety of recreation experiences minutes from downtown Morganton,” says FCNC executive director Andrew Kota. “The more opportunities people have to recreate in various ways and on a variety of landscapes, the more likely they are to care about protecting and stewarding open spaces for future generations.”
The Catawba River Greenway also gives riders access to Catawba Meadows Park, creating an economic opportunity for the town. “The current infrastructure at the Catawba Meadows park, which includes multiple parking areas and bathrooms, combined with a sustainable trail design, will make the new trail suitable for National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) races which may bring new events and excitement to the city of Morganton,” says Watkins. “This trail project is an opportunity for us to excite and engage the public in the many benefits of spending time outside. Our hope is that future trail users will gain appreciation for the outdoors and possibly become stewards to the lands they love and use.”
For more information, visit FoothillsConservancy.org.