For Immediate Release
Contact: Walter Clark
Blue Ridge Conservancy
Blue Ridge Conservancy Donates $15,000 for the Construction of the Middle Fork Greenway
The proposed Middle Fork Greenway will connect Boone’s Greenway to Blowing Rock
Boone—Blue Ridge Conservancy, a land trust serving seven counties in western North Carolina, has donated $15,000 to Watauga County Pathways to help with the construction of the Middle Fork Greenway. Blue Ridge Conservancy received funds from the Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative to place an electric pole on a property the conservancy owns.
The Middle Fork Greenway Association, an all-volunteer nonprofit initiative of Watauga County Pathways, Inc., is spearheading the effort to build the Middle Fork Greenway along the headwaters of the South Fork of the New River connecting Blowing Rock to Boone. The plan is to extend the proposed greenway from the existing Boone Greenway all the way to the network of paths in the vicinity of the Shoppes on the Parkway at Blowing Rock. The Middle Fork Greenway Association is currently working on securing the permits and engineering studies to build a Highway 321 pedestrian underpass connecting Tweetsie Railroad, Mystery Hill, and Sterling Creek Park. The Blue Ridge Conservancy has worked with Watauga County Pathways to help with land stewardship.
In 2004, Barbara and Sterling Whitener donated the 3.6-acre property to Blue Ridge Rural Land Trust (now Blue Ridge Conservancy) with the intent of the property becoming part of the Middle Fork Greenway. The property is a mix of open land and forest with 1,300 feet of frontage along the Middle Fork. As a community partner, Blue Ridge Conservancy works with landowners and local communities to protect land and water resources with agricultural, ecological, cultural, recreational, and scenic value in northwest North Carolina.
“Conserving these resources for recreational purposes is part of our mission at Blue Ridge Conservancy,” said Walter Clark, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Conservancy. “We have supported these efforts by helping to write grants and holding easements on the properties. The Middle Fork Greenway will be an important asset to the High Country and we hope to continue assisting Watauga County Pathways with this valuable project.”
Bill Hall, chairman of Watauga County Pathways who has worked on this project since he moved to Blowing Rock 15 years ago, said he hopes the greenway will attract more visitors to the area with its wide range of offerings.
“We plan to have picnic areas with shelters, benches, parking, fishing access, and have private businesses provide bicycle rentals,” said Hall.
The Middle Fork Greenway will also allow people to bike or walk between Boone and Blowing Rock safely, said Kelly Coffey, senior planner with the High Country Council of Governments and Blue Ridge Conservancy board member.
As a planner in a seven-county region, Coffey frequently hears about the need for more trails and greenways in the area.
“I always see people parked on the side of the road fishing in the Middle Fork and it’s just not that accessible,” said Coffey. “Generally when a greenway is built, the demand will typically follow. In this case, the demand is there before the greenway is even established.”
Eric Woolridge, the director of tourism planning for the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority, said the greenway could provide economic benefits by increasing commerce along the corridor.
“We think along with other community leaders that it could become a significant economic development project for the two towns and the county,” he said.
Hall said he and his association have worked hard with their community partners and landowners to make the Middle Fork Greenway happen. He said the greenway will provide significant benefits to the area.
“This greenway will attract visitors to the area and it’s a step in the right direction to creating a healthier society,” said Hall. “Watauga County will be known not just as an outdoor mecca in North Carolina, but throughout the entire Southeast.”
Blue Ridge Conservancy is a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization incorporated in North Carolina. Since our founding, we have protected close to 16,000 acres in Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey Counties. In addition to protecting working farmland, BRC’s efforts have resulted in the creation of state natural areas like Beech Creek Bog, Bear Paw and Bullhead Mountain. We continue to help Elk Knob State park expand its borders and in 2008 we led the way in establishing a 2,000-acre State Game Land preserve on Pond Mountain in Ashe County.