CITY ANNOUNCES ESTATOE TRAIL CONSTRUCTION PLANS
Brevard City Council Member and Mayor Pro Tempore Mac Morrow reported that the proposed FY22 Budget has exciting news on the extension of the Estatoe Trail. Morrow, who serves as Chairman of the Parks, Trails and Recreation Committee reported that the Council Committee unanimously approved City Manager Jim Fatland’s recommendation to include $1 million in the FY22 Budget for extending the Estatoe Trail from Depot Railroad Avenue Park to the Rosenwald Community.
A public hearing on the proposed FY22 Budget is scheduled for Monday June 21, 2021 at 5:30PM at the Brevard City Council Chambers.
Morrow stated that the new Depot Railroad Avenue Park, which was created to be a hub for the trail system, has become a popular jumping off point for the trail with the completion of the recent trail extension linking the Depot with McLean Street, the large parking lot and the recent street improvements.
Fatland said despite COVID-19 Pandemic, the City of Brevard continues to move forward with various capital improvements that will be part of an integrated series of amenities along the trail. These are the recently opened Silversteen Playground and basketball court and the Mary C Jenkins Community Center which is scheduled for official groundbreaking on Saturday June 19th at 11 am.
RESOLUTION TO EXTEND ESTATOE TRAIL
Fatland stated that he prepared the Resolution adopted by the City Council in August 2018 to extend the Estatoe Trail to Brevard High School in three years. He admits this was an extremely ambitious goal. However, he noted that the last extension of the Estatoe Trail was completed in 2006 to McLean Street which was his driving force to set the goal. Fatland remarked “if you can imagine the Brevard High School cross country team running from their football stadium parking lot to Pisgah National Forest on the Estatoe Trail.”
According to Paul Ray, Planning Director for the City, “the extension of the Estatoe Trail requires the acquisition of easements from property owners which takes a significant amount of time to complete” and he added “the City obtained a $180,000 grant from North Carolina Parks to pay for 50% of the easement cost.”
And then COVID-19 Pandemic hit our nation, our state and our community. Ray added “negotiation of easements requires contact with property owners, which became extremely difficult during COVID.”
The adopted budget last year did not include funds for capital improvements. No budget appropriation was made to the Downtown Master Plan and Parks and Trails Budgets. Instead the city focused on supporting local business and non-profit organizations as they worked to cope with the economic and health issues of the pandemic. In late September 2020, the City re-evaluated the fiscal situation and amended the FY21 Budget to include funds for design and construction of planned capital projects including the Estatoe Trail.
The Estatoe Trail expansion consists of four construction phases that will extend the trail to Brevard High School and the Boys and Girls Club.
ESTATOE TRAIL PHASE ONE (DEPOT TO WEST MAIN STREET)
At the April 19, 2021 City Council Meeting, council unanimously approved the last easement for this phase. The design has been completed and advertisement for construction bids is underway. Bid opening is scheduled for June 24, 2021 with construction starting in July.
Completion of this phase will link the Estatoe Trail to Downtown Brevard.
ESTATOE TRAIL PHASE TWO (WEST MAIN STREET TO ROSENWALD COMMUNITY)
Fatland stated that funding for this phase is included in the FY22 Budget Recommendations and will immediately follow the completion of Phase One. Fatland reported this phase has been made possible through a $240,000 grant received from the Pisgah Health Foundation. Lex Green, President of Pisgah Health Foundation said, “We are very excited to connect the Estatoe Trail to the Rosenwald Community”.
ESTATOE TRAIL PHASE THREE (TANNERY PARK TO ROSMAN HWY)
The Estatoe Trail will run through Tannery Park, located in the Rosenwald Community, off Cashiers Valley Road and Silversteen Drive, part of which served as the former home of the Transylvania Tanning Company.
According to Paul Ray, City Planning Director, the previous use of land caused environmental contamination and barred any redevelopment, but the City stepped in by purchasing the property in 2015 with financial assistance from NC State Parks Grant Program to break this barrier of redevelopment and provide an amenity for the community. The Brownfields Property Reuse Act of 1997 sets forth the authority for NCDEQ to work with developers to put brownfield sites back into use. Ray said “Getting a brownfield agreement is a difficult and methodical process which is heavily controlled by the State, but it is coming to an end this year and is expected to conclude in late August” and he added “Once a brownfield agreement is in place, City Staff can safely design the greenway trail through the old Tannery property for everyone to enjoy”.
City Manager Fatland reported that funding for Phase 3 and 4 will be included in a USDOT RAISE Grant application that will also be presented at the City Council’s June 21 meeting. Fatland, who also is the City’s Finance Director, is recommending that the city pledge the $180,000 annual contribution to the Parks and Trails Committee budget toward a $2 million loan as the 15% local match requirement.
The deadline for the USDOT RAISE grant is July 12, 2021 with a decision anticipated by the end of the year.
ESTATOE TRAIL PHASE FOUR (ROSMAN HWY TO BREVARD H.S/BOYS & GIRLS CLUB)
Funding for a portion of Phase 4 is also included in the USDOT RAISE Grant application. The remaining portion of Phase 4, located in front of Brevard High School is funded by NCDOT, which includes widening of the sidewalk to 10 feet to become part of the Estatoe Trail.
Fatland stated that if the City is not successful in obtaining grants for Phases 3 and 4, his recommendation to the City Council would be to complete the $2 million Estatoe Trail with an installment loan funded by annual budget appropriation for the Parks, Trails and Recreation Fund.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
These four phases of new greenway were first identified in the City’s 2006 Pedestrian Plan which mapped priority segments for new construction of both greenway and sidewalks. Over the years these priority maps have been updated, however the bulk of the plan, such as the public input and condition surveys, is now outdated. To remedy this the City applied for and was awarded a grant from NCDOT to develop a brand new plan. This new plan will be a combined bicycle and pedestrian plan and will also adhere to NCDOT’s new content standards, which will help Brevard qualify for future construction grants. The active transportation firm Alta has been hired to develop the new plan, at a 90% cost savings to the City, and the process has just gotten underway. You can access input surveys and find updates on the project's progress at https://www.activebrevard.com/.
As Councilwoman Maureen Copelof, Vice Chair of the Parks and Trails committee stated, "Expanding the Estatoe Trail provides the critical link that brings together the various pieces of the city's strategic vision of an interconnected, safe, easily accessible trail system that merges into our Downtown Master Plan with bike boulevards that guide people from the trail into the downtown areas; links the series of recreational amenities that the City has been building namely The Tannery Skate Park, The Silversteen Playground and basketball court, the Mary C. Jenkins Community Center, the Railroad Depot Park, the City Ball Fields, Brevard Skate Park, Dog Park, and connects to both Pisgah National Forest and Bracken Preserve. The City is excited to be moving forward with these plans."