The Ecusta Trail is a future 19.4 mile, multi-use greenway along an unused railway corridor (aka a "rail-trail") between Brevard and Hendersonville.
The goal is to create a linear park that will give people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to get outside, on foot or by wheelchair, bike, stroller, or scooter, and enjoy the scenic countryside of the French Broad River valley. The Ecusta Trail will meander through fields and forests, beside streams and pastures, and into thriving business districts. The trail will give residents new ways to exercise and get around without driving, while also being a major draw for tourists and supporting local businesses.
Once complete the trail will connect the City of Brevard, Penrose, Etowah, Horse Shoe, the Town of Laurel Park, and the City of Hendersonville. Pisgah National Forest will be accessible via the City of Brevard's existing Estatoe Trail greenway.
In June of 2021 the Brevard City Council adopted Resolution 2021-21, officially stepping up to take the lead on the the Ecusta Trail within Transylvania County. This includes securing funding, overseeing design and construction, and trail maintenance and safety once in operation. This will involve working closely with a variety of partners, including Conserving Carolina, Friends of the Ecusta Trail, NCDOT, and the Land of Sky RPO.
In August of 2021, a subsidiary of Conserving Carolina, EcustaRails2Trails LLC, purchased the corridor from Blue Ridge Southern Railroad, LLC, which is a division of WATCO Companies, for $7.8 million. The purchase was made possible by a major grant from NC Department of Transportation, as well as significant funding from the Tourism Development Authorities of Henderson and Transylvania Counties and a grant from the Community Foundation for Western North Carolina. The corridor has been “railbanked,” meaning that it can be used for a recreational trail until such a time that the line is needed again for rail transportation.
Designing and constructing the trail will be a public process, requiring participation from multiple local governments in both Henderson and Transylvania Counties. The City of Brevard is committed to working with local land owners on proactively addressing potential issues and trail conflict points. The City hosted an input meeting for adjoining property owners on August 9, 2022 to hear directly from those who have homes, businesses, farms, and other property directly adjacent to the trail corridor. There will be additional public meetings and input opportunities for neighboring property owners, and the general public, in the future.
Resolution 2021-58, adopted by Brevard City Council in December of 2022, created the Brevard/Transylvania County Ecusta Trail Advisory Board. The Advisory Board meets on the last Wednesday of each month. Agendas and minutes of the Board's meetings can be found in the Agenda Center.
How you can help
Conserving Carolina is the lead agency working on a fundraising effort to raise enough funds to build, and eventually maintain, the Ecusta Trail. More information can be found at https://conservingcarolina.org/ecusta/
If you want to help with your time and energy, you can find volunteer opportunities through the Friends of Ecusta Trail. The FOET is a 501(c)(3) formed in 2009 with the mission to make the dream of the trail a reality. You can sign up to volunteer at https://www.ecustatrail.org/how-you-can-help/volunteer.html
The trail's name comes from the main user of the railway while it was in operation: the Ecusta Paper Mill in Brevard. The mill was originally built by Ecusta, Inc. in 1939 after owner Harry Straus developed new paper manufacturing techniques using flax to manufacture cigarette papers. The mill flourished during World War II and quickly diversified its production to include writing paper and other flax-based products, eventually moving on to plastics and cellophane. The plant was purchased and operated by Olin Industries from approximately 1949 to 1987, and then the P.H. Glatfelter Company until it was closed in 2002.
The name not only recognizes the history and importance of what was once the key employer of Brevard, but also honors the area's first inhabitants. The word "Ecusta" comes from the original name given to what is now known as the Davidson River by the Cherokee Indians, meaning "rippling waters."
The Henderson County plans to complete its section of trail in two phases. Phase 1 is a 5.7-mile section that begins at South Main Street in Hendersonville and ends at US 64 in Horse Shoe, and Phase 2 is from Horse Shoe to the Transylvania County line. These sections have received STBG and TAP funding via the French Broad River MPO. More information on this section of the trail can be found here.