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WNC Business

New state budget to include WNC counties in trail improvements

Oct 04, 2023 09:44AM ● By WNC Business

RALEIGH – The North Carolina General Assembly’s 2023-2025 budget passed last week invests $54.9 million to advance trail and greenway infrastructure in North Carolina. This funding investment comes during the 2023’s North Carolina Year of the Trail celebration, the largest celebration of outdoor recreation in American history. The campaign has reached more than 50 million people through events, earned media outreach, sponsorships, and advertising.

Palmer McIntyre, Coordinator for the Great Trails State Coalition, says, “This historic budget investment brings better physical and mental health, more access to the outdoors for all people and economic development around trail investment. The Year of the Trail campaign has made it clear that everyone can benefit from trails. It’s a win-win proposition. We are deeply grateful to the North Carolina General Assembly and to all of our trail partners and sponsors who have worked so hard to build awareness and enthusiasm for trails across the entire state.”

This investment is the largest amount designated for trail land greenway projects in the state’s history. The budget creates: 

  • A new non-recurring $25 million trail and greenway funding program called the Great Trails State Program. 
  • It adds $5 million to the Complete the Trails Fund supporting authorized North Carolina State Trails. These are trails that cross country lines. 
  • It also directs nearly $25 million to specific trail and greenway projects across the state. 

NEW: The Great Trails State Program

The Great Trails State Program, funded with $12.5 million each year for two years, will be a competitive grant program for new trail development and extension of existing trails, including paved trails, greenways, and natural surface trails for biking, hiking, walking, equestrian use, and paddling. The fund will be administered by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. 

Eligible applicants will include municipalities or counties, regional councils of government, other public authorities, and nonprofit organizations. Eligible uses for funds will include planning, design, and related environmental assessment or permitting, land and easement acquisition, trail construction, trail structures (such as bridges), trail amenities (such as trailhead parking, signage, etc.), and maintenance, and can be used as matching funds for federal or other non-state grants. 

The fund will require a minimum of a 25% flexible match, including cash, in-kind services, or donation of assets. Grants awarded will be limited to $500,000 per project.

Complete the Trails Fund Focuses on State Trails

The budget adds $5 million to the Complete the Trails Fund which supports authorized State Trails. There are now 15 authorized state trails, up from 12 when the fund was originally created in 2021. Haw River, Saluda Grade Rail Trail, and an Equine State Trail were all authorized as State Trails this year.  Much of the $5 million was allocated to specific State Trails, including $50,000 capacity building funding for each of the approved nonprofit partner organizations working on these State Trails.

Specific Projects Funded

The budget also allocates $24.9 million in non-recurring funds for specific trail and greenway projects across the state:

$12,000,000 for to Conserving Carolina to fund continued development of the Saluda Grade Corridor Trail in Henderson and Polk Counties

$4,000,000 to the Columbus Jobs Foundation, Inc. in Columbus County for a walkway and trail project and related capital improvements 

$2,500,000 to Camp Grier G5 Trail Collective for trail construction and related improvements at in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest in McDowell, Burke, Caldwell, Avery, and Watauga counties. 

$2,000,000 to the City of Shelby in Cleveland County for Rails to Trails projects 

$2,000,000 to the Town of Blowing Rock in Watauga County for the Middle Fork Greenway 

$1,000,000 to Cleveland County Water for the Stagecoach Greenway Recreation Trail 

$535,000 for the Burke River Trail Association which covers eastern Burke County, and the towns of Drexel, Valdese, Rutherford College, Connelly Springs, Rhodhiss, Long View and Hildebran.

$315,000 to the Town of Princeton in Johnston County for capital improvements including trail construction

$250,000 to the Town of West Jefferson in Ashe County for a public hiking trail on Paddy Mountain

$200,000 to the Friends of the Overmountain Victory Trail which covers 225 miles in North Carolina, including Rutherford, Burke, Caldwell, Wilkes, McDowell, Avery and Mitchell Counties

$125,000 to the Town of McAdenville in Gaston County for the Carolina Thread Trail

$40,000 to the Dan River Basin Association for capital improvements or equipment at the Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail in Reidsville in Rockingham County

2023 Year of the Trail Logo

The 2023-2025 budget allocation provides critical support for projects offering lasting and impactful benefits to communities of all sizes, particularly rural communities. Trail investment provides safe places for healthy outdoor recreation, boosts tourism and grows the outdoor recreation economy. Trails are the backbone of North Carolina’s $11.8 billion annual outdoor recreation economy, bringing jobs and enhancing quality of life in communities across the state. 

The Great Trails State Coalition was formed in 2021 to advocate for public trail funding and  execute the NC Year of the Trail. The organization will continue its advocacy in 2023-24 by launching the “North Carolina, the Great Trails State” brand. The coalition will host its first annual Great Trails State Day on October 21, 2023 with the goal of trail activities in all 100 counties. 

About The Great Trails State Coalition: 

Representing 87 nonprofit, local government, and industry partners, the NC Great Trails State Coalition advocates for increased state investment in all types of trails statewide – hiking, paddle, mountain bike, equestrian, and paved trails. Each of our 100 North Carolina counties can enjoy the proven benefits of trails, including health, safety, economic development, tourism, transportation, and environment. The Coalition hosts the 2023 North Carolina Year of the Trail, a statewide campaign to promote awareness and celebrate trails across North Carolina. and

Source: NC Great Trails State Coalition