Photo courtesy of Darrell Cassell

On June 26th, 2022 in Old Fort, NC, the first phase of trails in the 42 mile planned project opened to a grand celebration of over 500 mountain bikers, equestrians, hikers, and community members. These six miles of new trail in the Grandfather District of the Pisgah National Forest represent some of the first beginner friendly trails built in the forest. With the connection to downtown, the recently completed trails will see an exceptional amount of use by new trail users and seasoned outdoor lovers.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Cassell.

In addition to the six miles of trail, the newly constructed trailhead and parking area that features kiosks, restroom facilities, and picnic area welcomed users for the first time. With room for 100 cars, the trailhead and trails are ready to handle the large amount of visitors expected.

The festivities began at 12:30, with the official ribbon cutting at 1:30. As the crowd gathered, excitement grew. Trail users from different backgrounds took to the trails at 2:00, when the trails officially opened to the public. People from different backgrounds, ages and interest all took advantage of the recent efforts by trail specialist and volunteers. Afterward, the crowd was encouraged to join the G5 Collective team at Hillman Brewing at 4:00 to cap off the festivities with a cold beverage.

“Cutting the ribbon on these first six miles of trail represents years of community engagement, collaboration, and volunteerism,” said Lisa Jennings, Recreation Manager for the U.S. Forest Service Grandfather Ranger District. “Along with the new trailhead and 100-car parking area, this accessible trail system will provide a gateway for all people to experience the Pisgah National Forest.”

Photo courtesy of Darrell Cassell.

The vision of the Old Fort Trails Project is to improve the health and wellness of local residents, to grow the local economy through outdoor recreation, and to build community through shared spaces on public lands. These first 6 miles of trails will be the most accessible trails of the system and are designed to be enjoyed by users of all abilities.

“Outdoor recreation is a catalyst that can improve public health, increase economic vibrancy in our communities, and connect us to one another and the natural world. Our public lands are the best investment we can make in our communities and the livelihood of future generations,” stated Jason McDougald, Executive Director of Camp Grier.

Lavita Logan, Project Coordinator for People on the Move Old Fort said “I’m incredibly excited about having these trails so close to town to promote the outdoors to a diverse community. As outreach coordinator, I work to get more people of color comfortable being outside and on the trails,” Trail construction was funded by a $490,000 grant Camp Grier’s G5 Trail Collective Program received from Dogwood Health Trust, with additional support for commercial real estate development awarded to Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation. In addition to the trail construction, the Catawba Vale Collaborative is working to support all aspects of a resilient community.

“This moment is important for the Town of Old Fort because it will help ensure a diverse economy, including manufacturing, housing, and tourism-related small business development. The development of trails will increase the opportunity for a healthy thriving community that is equitable and inclusive,” explained Stephanie Swepson Twitty, CEO, Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation.

Photo courtesy of Darrell Cassell.