Outdoors Recreation

Sierra Club Hosts Panel on Regional Trail Networks

Rail line in Penrose shows how flat the corridor is. Elevation change from start to finish is less than 50’ total over 18 miles.

By Emma Castleberry

On Thursday, May 5, Sierra Club WENOCA will host a Zoom presentation at 7 p.m. in which a group of experts will explore the development of new trail networks in the region. Specifically, the panel will discuss the Fonta Flora and Hickory Nut Gorge State Trails and the Ecusta Trail that will connect Hendersonville and Brevard. The panel, moderated by community planning consultant and past president of Connect Buncombe Linda Giltz, will include Kieran Roe, executive director of Conserving Carolina; Lucy Crown, bike, pedestrian and greenways planning director for the City of Asheville; and Jen Billstrom, owner of Velo Girls and board member of Friends of the Fonta Flora State Trail.

Giltz says the benefit of these longer, interconnected trails are many. “They provide destinations for active recreation and exploration that attract residents and visitors, which helps individuals stay active and healthy and supports new and existing businesses,” she says.

“Longer and more connected trails and greenways allow more people to access and use the trail network. They also provide corridors for commuting and getting around by bicycle to more destinations.”

She adds that support for amenities like this has been growing over the past few decades. “This grassroots support has driven more planning and funding for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and facilities at the local government, state and federal levels,” Giltz says.

“And we also have more leaders at all levels of government advocating for local and regional trails and for transportation infrastructure that is safe for all users and modes of travel.”

The panel will provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about both the existing regional trail networks as well as future plans for additions. “Sierra Club has long supported hiking trails to allow hikers to connect with nature both in body and spirit,” says Judy Mattox, chair of the Sierra Club WENOCA. “Here in Western North Carolina we are blessed with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Appalachian Trail and, now, with trails that are connecting multiple regions and communities. It is important that we have more long-distance trails because many of our established trails are becoming crowded and congested.”

To learn more about each of these trails, visit FontaFloraStateTrail.com, ConservingCarolina.org/Hickory-Nut-Gorge-Trail and EcustaTrail.org. This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. To learn more about the event and to register, visit SierraClub.org/north-carolina/wenoca.

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