Contributions given to the Middle Fork Greenway

Pictured from left are Middle Fork Greenway Director Wendy Patoprsty, BB&T staff John Barrier, Josh Hammaker, Libby Winebarger, Brandon Miller and Jonathan Lubkemann on the Middle Fork Greenway.

BOONE — The Blue Ridge Conservancy recently provided updates on how donations from the Round Up for the Middle Fork Greenway campaign — held for the second year last summer — have helped the project make progress.

The Middle Fork Greenway is an emerging multi-use trail that will connect Blowing Rock to Boone, providing residents and visitors of all ages safe and healthy access to the natural world while protecting the environment and strengthening the local economy. The Middle Fork Greenway is a Blue Ridge Conservancy project in partnership with the town of Blowing Rock, town of Boone and Watauga County.

Donations totaling $200,000 came in from 130 Watauga County businesses in 2019 during the second year of the Round Up campaign, as businesses participated by asking their customers to round up their purchase to the next dollar or give to a donation jar. Some businesses gave a percentage of their sales for the month or made a one-time donation.

The response from local businesses inspired gifts from the Wells Fargo Foundation and the BB&T now Trust Charitable Fund, both awarding $100,000 to the project and doubling the community’s impact. This $400,000 leveraged as a match for $430,000 from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund that secured the money necessary to build another section of the greenway.

“The enthusiasm from the Round Up is creating a ripple effect and inspiring corporations and foundations to make large gifts to the Middle Fork Greenway,” Middle Fork Greenway Director Wendy Patoprsty said in a statement. “They are so impressed when they see the list of businesses and individuals who are all rallied behind a project to strengthen the local community. It’s a wise investment for them, too.”

The Round Up for the Greenway began with inspiration from family-owned Appalachian Ski Mtn.’s Brad Moretz and Brenda Speckmann, who saw the potential of the community coming together to get the greenway built. For the last three years, Appalachian Ski Mtn. added a $1 processing fee to every online transaction throughout the entire ski season for the Middle Fork Greenway which has already kick-started the 2020 Round Up for the Greenway.

Recently, community dollars were well spent on the finishing touches at the trailhead in Blowing Rock. The trailhead was officially unveiled on Nov. 6, 2019, when the community gathered to experience all of its amenities including lighting, safety features, interpretive signage, customized bike racks, a covered pavilion, boulders and a parking area. The N.C. Department of Transportation and N.C. Division of Water Resources funded much of the construction and landscaping.

ZAP Endurance funds the majority of the Middle Fork Greenway administrative costs, so the money raised in the community goes directly to the development of the greenway trail.

The Anne Cannon Trust is honored on a bench at the trailhead for their recent three-year pledge to the Middle Fork Greenway. The custom benches are all donated by Charleston Forge.

“The Anne Cannon Trust is committed to education and appreciation, and feel strongly that the Middle Fork Greenway will provide an excellent opportunity toward that end,” Executive Director Zach Tate said of the Anne Cannon Trust in a statement.

The acquisition of land for the development of the greenway is often considered one of the more challenging aspects of trail development.

Blue Ridge Conservancy purchased a critical 2.5-acre connection in 2019 to extend the existing Sterling Creek Park south toward Blowing Rock. Funding for this project came from Round Up for the Greenway proceeds and the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

The Whitener family donated a remaining 0.20-acre connector tract between the park and the new acquisition to complete the link for the greenway. The Whiteners are longtime supporters of the Middle Fork Greenway who donated their land to create Sterling Creek Park.

“Every day we are getting closer to seeing more on the ground progress,” Patoprsty said in a statement. “It’s hard to put a timeframe on the finished greenway trail because there are so many external factors that need to coalesce for it to go to construction. We are partnering with diverse funding and landowner partners, including NCDOT, the state of NC, the Federal Highway Administration and the National Park Service to receive authorization and funding to move forward.”

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