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July 23, 2014

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From left, Bill Hall, Anne Burgess, Blowing Rock Commissioner Jim Steele, Boone Mayor Loretta Clawson, Watauga County Commissioner John Welch and Tweetsie Railroad owner Cathy Robbins prepare to cut the ribbon officially opening the Middle Fork Greenway between Blowing Rock and Boone. JEFF EASON PHOTO

Originally published: 2013-04-25 08:33:34
Last modified: 2013-04-25 08:33:33

New greenway trail portion 10 years in the making

More than a decade ago, a group of outdoor enthusiasts had a dream that one day there would be a trail that connected Blowing Rock with Boone.

That dream came one big step closer to becoming a reality last week when the Middle Fork Greenway Association officially opened a new section of trail near Tweetsie Railroad.

With the official ribbon-cutting on April 18, a nearly mile-long stretch f the trail opened for hikers, bikers and joggers.

The goal is to eventually connect Blowing Rock to Boone’s Greenway Trail by winding along the Middle Fork New River.

“Good things take a long time,” said Anne Burgess, founder of the Middle Fork Greenway Association. “This is a very good thing, so it’s taken a very long time.”

Burgess, who lives near the New River between Boone and Blowing Rock, became involved in the project around 1999. In talking to neighbors, she discovered that many desired a place to walk and a way to visit with neighbors as past generations did.

“We needed to learn to walk again,” she said.

Since then, volunteers have been working to promote the walking and bicycling trail concept.

The group raised $65,000 to conduct surveying and engineering work necessary to allow the greenway to pass beside Mystery Hill and through a culvert beneath U.S. 321 to a three-acre plot donated by Sterling and Barbara Whitener. Other grants and donations also were critical to the project.

“The Whitener family is sort of the keystone to this project,” said Bill Hall, president of the Middle Fork Greenway Task Force.

The group is already thinking about fundraising for the next segment. But last Thursday, the thoughts were centered on celebration, as families gathered to talk and ride bikes on the new path.

“Tweetsie Railroad is proud of its contribution to this ambitious and worthwhile project,” said Tweetsie owner and operator Cathy Robbins. “We want to thank Robert Higgins of Solid Ground Grading and Jason Gaston of Valor Engineering for their assistance in construction of this section of the greenway.”

About 150 people attended last Thursday’s ribbon-cutting event near the entrance to Tweetsie Railroad. The group included dozens of children who hiked and biked on the trail between Tweetsie and Mystery Hill.

“This is something we can leave our children and grandchildren that they can enjoy long after we’re gone,” Hall said.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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