(Brevard, NC) January 3rd, 2023 – Butter Gap, a legacy trail in the Pisgah Ranger District in Transylvania County, has been identified as unsustainable by the US Forest Service (USFS). Through heavy use along with extreme weather events with heavy rain and runoff in recent years, the trail is degrading at a rapid pace and threatening the surrounding watershed and environment. With support and collaboration from the USFS, Pisgah Area SORBA (PAS) is leading a large project to re-establish the alignment of Butter Gap to provide an environmentally sustainable trail. More than a mile of degraded portions of the trail will be decommissioned, while over five miles of new and sustainable alignment will be built. Heavy maintenance will be performed on two miles of existing trail infrastructure to improve resilience during extreme weather conditions.

“By prioritizing trail projects such as the Black Mountain project in 2021 and the Butter Gap Project in 2023, we are prioritizing our future. PAS is working to ensure access to outdoor recreation is preserved for years to come,” said Craig Ruhland, President of Pisgah Area SORBA and current project manager of the Butter Gap Project.

Pisgah Area SORBA has been in continuous collaboration with the USFS throughout the planning of this project. The Pisgah Conservancy, a fellow local nonprofit, has also provided continuous support, such as funding the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements. An approved NEPA is required before constructing new trails within the forest.

In addition to building environmentally sustainable trails, decommissioning detrimental trails, and protecting the local watershed, the realignment of Butter Gap will change the seasonal availability of trail access to the popular Butter and Cat Gap route, providing year-round access to mountain bikers. This will be accomplished by changing a section of  the Cat Gap trail to a hiking-only designation while creating an alternative route for mountain bikers. This change aims to reduce trail-user conflict, further disperse users throughout the forest, and establish year-round access to the area, which is currently only open to mountain bikers six months out of the year.

The entire project will cost between $275,000 – $350,000, depending on the final construction specifications. $100,000 of that cost will be covered by a state Recreational Trails Program grant which PAS was awarded in 2018. The grant will be matched in over $11,000 in volunteer hours. The Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority (TCTDA) has also committed to $45,000 in funding.

“The Tourism Board created Transylvania Always several years ago as an organizational commitment to the sustainability of the public lands in our county,” said Aaron Baker, TCTDA Board Member and Transylvania Always Committee Chair. “I see this as a core principle of the TCTDA – we’re utilizing occupancy tax dollars collected from visitors to directly benefit and protect the natural places we all enjoy. The Butter Gap Project is incredibly exciting and we look forward to many more projects to come.”

Other financial partners include the FOX Factory Trail Trust and Athletic Brewing. PAS recently raised an additional $26,000 from a bike and kit giveaway, which was made possible by the support of many local businesses within the bike industry. PAS is continuing to fundraise in order to be able to fulfill its mission of preserving technical trails in Pisgah National Forest. Construction of the project is set to begin in the Spring of 2023.

Pisgah Area SORBA is one of over 40 dedicated mountain bike groups that have banded together as the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA). As the largest nonprofit mountain biking organization in the Southeast, SORBA’s mission is to promote land access, trail preservation and new trail development for all mountain bikers.

Pisgah Area SORBA is dedicated to preserving mountain biking opportunities by maintaining and improving trail systems in the Pisgah Ranger District and surrounding region. Learn more about Pisgah Area SORBA at pisgahareasorba.org.