BLOWING ROCK — With the tying of two shoes together, the Middle Fork Greenway trailhead in Blowing Rock was officially opened during a ceremony on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
Joined by Blowing Rock Mayor Charlie Sellers and Blue Ridge Conservancy Chairperson Zika Rea, the tying represented the thousands of miles that will be walked or run on the greenway, according to Middle Fork Greenway Director Wendy Patoprsty
Also, Patoprsty unveiled a gift from the Wells Fargo Foundation of $100,000, which will go toward completion of a future section.
Patoprsty noted the support from local businesses and donors has made a difference.
“This kind of support is what has inspired groups like the Wells Fargo Foundation to give a major gift to the greenway a couple weeks ago,” Patoprsty said.
The new trailhead plaza includes bike racks, signage and a covered overlook of the Middle Fork New River, which has informational materials at the trailhead to teach visitors about hellbenders and watersheds.
The Middle Fork Greenway, a subsidiary project of local nonprofit Blue Ridge Conservancy, is a 6.5-mile multi-use trail between Blowing Rock and Boone that is in the process of being built. Currently, Tweetsie Railroad to Sterling Creek Park — known as Section 4A — has been completed and Patoprsty said funding is in place for more of the project to be completed in the next two-plus years.
The 1.3-mile section going from the trailhead to Chestnut Ridge — Section 1 — is funded and construction work will take place in 2020.
“When this section is done, we’ll have 1.2 miles out, 1.2 miles back, that’s two and a half miles to get on your bike and ride out of Blowing Rock, go to the (Blue Ridge) Parkway, go to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail,” Patoprsty said. “This is really going to elevate Blowing Rock on so many levels for recreation.”
Section 4B is the 0.95 miles from Tweetsie Railroad to Gold Mine Branch Park and is the subject of most of 2019’s funding efforts, Patoprsty said. The 2019 Round-Up for the Greenway, which Patoprsty announced raised more than $200,000, is designated for Section 4B.
“We are at 84 percent of our Section 4 goal ... to connect Niley Cook Road to Tweetsie Railroad,” Patoprsty said. “We have our final designs done and now we’re in the permitting phase to get this on the ground.”
The hope is for Section 4B to go to bid in 2020, Patoprsty said. Construction is expected to start in April 2020, MFG said in a statement.
“It includes boardwalks, a parking area, a highway underpass, a large steel truss pedestrian bridge crossing the river, three additional bridges crossing streams and stream restoration,” MFG said in a statement.
Patoprsty said that Section 3, south of Sterling Creek Park, will be the focus of fundraising in 2020 and 2021.
“Once (Section 1) and (Section 4B) is done ... we’ll be halfway done with the greenway,” Patoprsty said.
The trailhead and plaza were designed by Mosaic Civic Studios of Boone. Patoprsty also credited the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority and ZAP Endurance with helping to bring awareness and fundraising efforts to the project.
The Middle Fork Greenway trailhead was funded through a variety of sources, including being a part of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s U.S. 321 widening project, the N.C. Division of Water Resources, the Blowing Rock Community Foundation, a grant from the St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church’s Tour of Homes, a grant from PeopleForBikes and the Dillon Foundation.