Middle Fork Greenway plans massive fundraiser for July 100 businesses signed on to 'Round Up' campaign

Article taken from Watauga Democrat. For original source, see https://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/middle-fork-greenway-plans-massive-fundraiser-for-july/article_74718b76-fbaf-536c-b669-d5e2f5cb5ef8.html

BLOWING ROCK — Approximately 50 people met at Appalachian Ski Mtn. on May 7 for an update on the progress of the Middle Fork Greenway Trail, a 6.5-mile paved path connecting Blowing Rock and Boone along the Middle Fork of the New River.

From all accounts, the greenway is pushing forward as planned.

“We have so many great supporters of the Middle Fork Greenway Trail here today, but still we get asked every day, ‘what is it?’” said Wendy Patoprsty, executive director of the greenway trail project. “In most places it will be a 10-foot-wide paved path for pedestrians, cyclists, roller-bladers, strollers, hikers and commuters. It will have safety features, and there will be no motorized vehicles present.”

According to Patoprsty, the trail will run from the Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway in Blowing Rock and connect with the Boone Greenway Trail near the Watauga Medical Center.

In a mere 6.5 miles, the Middle Fork Greenway Trail will cross or pass by a walking sidewalk to Bass Lake, the Mountains to Sea Trail, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, Appalachian Ski Mtn. Welcome Center, Doc’s Rocks and Gem Mine, Mystery Hill, Sterling Creek Park, High Gravity Adventures Zipline and Aerial Park, Tweetsie Railroad, Goldmine Branch Park, Wahoo’s Adventures, Payne Branch Park and Boone Golf Club.

“Attractions will include three county-owned picnic parks with river access to a state-stocked trout stream,” Patoprsty said. “On some of the steep areas we are planning to build a boardwalk, and we will have steel truss bridges crossing the waterways.”

According to Patoprsty, a recent North Carolina State University economic impact study found that an investment in the Middle Fork Greenway could result in:

  • 38,000 annual trips on the greenway
  • $10 million health benefits (value of extended life over 10) years
  • 9.5 percent increase in the values of properties within a half mile of the greenway
  • $296,000 increase in local property tax revenue per year
  • 12 new jobs that support $276,300 in labor income
  • 12,000 annual tourist trips — estimated to generate $6 million to the local economy.

Currently, a one-mile section of the greenway is completed from Tweetsie Railroad to Sterling Creek Park. Section one of the greenway, located in Blowing Rock from the Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway to the Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge, is paid for and shovel ready as is the section from Tweetsie Railroad to Goldmine Branch Park.

“We foresee the greenway as having a ripple effect down the U.S. 321 corridor, encouraging new businesses and helping the local tourism-based economy,” Patoprsty said.

At the meeting, it was announced that 100 local businesses had joined a fundraising venture called Round Up for the Greenway. During the month of July, businesses will encourage their customers to round up to the next dollar on their purchases to support the greenway.

Spearheaded by the Moretz family of Appalachian Ski Mtn. and other business leaders, the fundraising effort includes digital donations at Chetola Resort, High Gravity Adventures and other destinations.

Funding for the greenway has also been secured through private donations and public grants, including those from the federal government and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Thus far, $4 million has been raised to purchase land, build trail and fund the next two sections for completion. An additional $9 million to $10 million in funds are needed to complete the trail. Organizers hope to complete the trail in four to five years.

Organizers stated at the meeting that two new hotels and other tourism-based businesses are planning to open in the near future along the greenway.

“The Middle Fork Greenway Trail has the potential to connect Blowing Rock, Boone and Appalachian State University, enhancing our area’s tourism all the while,” said Charles Hardin, executive director of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce.

“We have such beautiful outdoor experiences here in the High Country, and this will make it that much easier to share the rich cultural experience of our area.”

Nikki Robinson