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Ground-breaking ceremony scheduled for Old Fort Trails Project
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Event is Saturday at 1 p.m.
'A watershed moment'

Ground-breaking ceremony scheduled for Old Fort Trails Project

Ground-breaking set for Old Fort Trails Project

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The U.S. Forest Service, the G5 Trail Collective and members of the Old Fort community will take part in a groundbreaking ceremony for start of a new 42-mile trails project.

The ceremony will take place Saturday, Jan. 15 from 1 to 2 p.m. in the new parking area at the intersection of Curtis Creek and Jarrett Creek Roads. The community is invited to join local, regional, and state officials and celebrate the groundbreaking of the new 42-mile trail project, according to a news release.

The groundbreaking marks the beginning of construction for the first phase of the Old Fort Trails Project, which was announced during a press conference in November 2021. Included in this initial phase are 4 miles of easy trails forming loops for hiking and mountain biking, as well as 2 miles of intermediate connector trails for hike, bike, and equestrian users.

These community-oriented trails will provide much needed beginner experiences in the Pisgah National Forest. The first 6 miles of trail and new parking area are slated to open in summer 2022, supported by funding from the Dogwood Health Trust. The entire project will be implemented over five to 10 years, according to the news release.

“We invite you to participate in this historic event as we officially begin construction and launch this community-driven project,” said Lisa Jennings of the U.S. Forest Service. “This groundbreaking represents a watershed moment for Old Fort after three years of planning, collaboration, and community building around trails. Join us and dig a shovel full of dirt to participate in history in the making.”

Stephanie Swepson Twitty, CEO of Eagle Market Streets Development Corp., said “The Old Fort Trail Project represents a tidal shift in what is possible on our public lands, and shows what happens when a community of people from diverse backgrounds come together to dream big about their future. We are excited to share the groundbreaking with the community this Martin Luther King weekend.”

The groundbreaking event will include a community-led ceremony. Everyone can participate in digging the first shovels of dirt for the project, followed by a short walk to the trailhead and discussion about the first phase of trails. An outdoor reception at Kitsbow’s Old Fort Ride House will follow the groundbreaking event from 2 to 3 p.m. For additional information and details on the event, click here.

The following are the partners in this effort:

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Dogwood Health Trust is a private foundation based in Asheville with the sole purpose of dramatically improving the health and well-being of all people and communities of 18 counties and the Qualla Boundary in western North Carolina. Dogwood Health Trust focuses on innovative and equitable ways to address the many factors that contribute to overall health and wellness. With a focus on housing, education, economic opportunity and access to care and health resources, Dogwood Health Trust works to create a western North Carolina where every generation can live, learn, earn and thrive, with dignity and opportunity for all, no exceptions. To learn more, please visit www.dht.org.

People on the Move for Old Fort is a group formed under the West Marion Community Forum, a 501©(3) not-for-profit which works to form partnerships between grassroots and institutional leaders to address shared challenges; policy changes at the city, county, and town of Old Fort related to housing and transportation; more unity across race and class; cultural shifts related to healthy eating and active living; and better access to existing resources.

The G5 Trail Collective is a 501©(3) non-profit initiative powered by Camp Grier in partnership with the USFS, the five counties that make up the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest, local communities, and the recreational trail user groups. The G5 Collective was conceived as a solution to the lack of funding for trail maintenance and trail development projects in the Grandfather District. The working group recognized that the district is a tremendous asset and could be a significant force to help build healthy and economically vibrant rural communities.

Eagle Market Streets Development Corp., CDC’s mission is to develop people, property, and business and envision economic and social justice for all. Guided by our mission Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation’s vision is to bring the opportunity for economic and social independence to the low-to-moderate income community. It focuses on property development, economic business and workforce development.

The lands that make up the U.S. Forest Service Grandfather Ranger District, part of the Pisgah National Forest, are those public lands that run from the McDowell/Buncombe county line near Ridgecrest just east of Asheville over to U.S. 321 between Lenoir and Blowing Rock. The Blue Ridge Parkway forms the northern boundary of the district. The Grandfather Ranger District began under the Weeks Act with the purchase of an 8,100-acre tract in 1912, the first tract of national forest land in the Eastern US. Now, the district covers close to 200,000 acres including Linville Gorge Wilderness and the Wilson Creek Wild and Scenic River.

Camp Grier’s mission is to provide opportunities for connection, service, celebration, and renewal in nature. The outdoors provides vital “common ground” that we all need for our physical, psychological, emotional, and social health and it also provides one of the last “common” spaces that we all share. Kids today spend on average between 4 and 7 minutes outside in unstructured play each day. At the same time our neighborhoods, churches, and schools are more segregated than ever. Camp Grier leaders like to say that, “no matter where you’re from it’s not like camp.”

Kitsbow relocated its manufacturing from California to Old Fort. The company is committed to a Just in Time manufacturing model, minimizing waste and maximizing flexibility to serve the customer. All products are packaged in compostable packaging, as well as all shipping materials, ready to return to the Earth in your own garden. Kitsbow already makes over 75% of its products in the United States and is on track to be making all of its products in-house in 2021. Kitsbow is a Bicycle Friendly Business, designated at the highest level (Platinum) by The League of American Bicyclists.

McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, dedicated to providing student-centered accessible learning. MTCC enriches the local community with access to affordable, high-quality, lifelong learning opportunities that promote workforce development. Founded in 1964 in Marion, MTCC plans to open a satellite workforce training location in Old Fort in 2022 to house its Trail Construction and Sustainability program.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university, serves North Carolina, the United States, and the world through teaching, research, and public service. The University’s mission is to serve as a center for research, scholarship, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students to become the next generation of leaders.

As a public research university, Texas Tech advances knowledge through innovative and creative teaching, research and scholarship. The university is dedicated to student success by preparing learners to be ethical leaders for a diverse and globally competitive workforce. The university is committed to enhancing the cultural and economic development of the state, nation and world.

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