Watauga TDA nets grant for MST
The Watauga County Tourism Development Authority received a $75,000 grant from the North Carolina Recreation Trails Program to rehabilitate and improve the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Julian Price Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The grant, and another $18,750 pledged as 25 percent matching funds by the WTDA, will devote a total $93,750 to rebuild a two-mile, badly eroded portion of the Boone Fork Trail, a key part of the MST.
The funds will also build a dedicated Mountains-to-Sea trailhead parking area, information kiosk, and 700 feet of new trail adjacent to Holloway Mountain Road between Foscoe and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
“In these times of limited grant funding, we’re honored to receive this grant to improve hiking on the Blue Ridge Parkway, consistently mentioned as one of the primary draws for visitors to our area,” said WTDA executive director Wright Tilley.
“We’re very grateful for this grant,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis. “The Boone Fork Trail is one of my favorites, and a favorite of many. It needs a lot of work and some repairs to make the trail safer and more enjoyable — and this grant will make a big difference.”
“To be able to leverage $18,750 in occupancy tax funds contributed by visitors to gain an additional $75,000 for recreational tourism infrastructure is a significant achievement for our team. Eric Woolridge, our director of tourism planning, has done an excellent job procuring and managing grants for the TDA,” Tilley said.
“We’re working to develop a long-term relationship with the Park Service to improve the Parkway’s trail and recreation facilities for the future,” Woolridge said.
“It’s easy to forget that existing trails, especially trails as popular as Boone Fork, occasionally need to be rebuilt,” said Randy Johnson, Mountains-to-Sea Trail task force leader for the Grandfather Mountain to Blowing Rock section of trail. “The grant makes that possible and will also give local volunteers new opportunities to support trails.”
During this last grant cycle, there were 43 requests from across the state totaling $3,116,000. Only 21 applicants were selected for grants, awarding a total of $1,383,796.
Design of the trails and trailhead will start in late winter with the work expected to be completed by fall 2013.
The Boone Fork project was an idea that was supported at the WTDA’s 2009 Outdoor Recreation Summit.
Woolridge maintains a blog about outdoor recreation development projects throughout the Boone area at http://www.booneareaoutdoors.com.
The RTP grant program is managed by the state, but is a federal assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration.