By Dave Russell
Area hunters, bikers, hikers, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts gained another 441-acre playground when a consortium of nonprofit and government entities last year purchased the Black Rock Creek tract. What they need is access, and a trail system to allow folks in there took its first step at last week’s Sylva town board meeting.
The board voted unanimously to give the Nantahala Area chapter of the Southeastern Off Road Biking Association the go-ahead for a proposed design of multi-use trails. The proposal might offer several designs for the Sylva town board to consider.
Town and county leaders voted in February, 2019 to put money towards purchasing the 441-acre parcel, which borders Pinnacle Park to the south and extends down the ridgeline towards U.S. 19, Wolfetown Road.
“I hope to propose a system that is very friendly for everyone, even horseback riders, if horseback riding was part of the intended use when the Black Rock Creek tract was purchased,” said Peter Tay, president of the NAS.
Tay would discuss the process of developing a proposed multi-use/mountain bike trail system with the NAS board of directors and members at their next monthly public meeting, he said.
The first step should be gathering community input, he said.
He pointed to the Chestnut Hill development in Canton as an example.
“They did a great job getting input from all the user groups,” he said. “They put up a website that allowed comments and things like that.”
Tay might put together an ad hoc committee to allow groups like the Plott Balsam Runners and hunting groups to gather and discuss plans and needs.
Part of the proposal for a multi-use/mountain bike trail system would be an environmental impact study, which would be necessary if a design were to move forward. Tay would also be interested in presenting an economic impact study as part of the proposal, he said.
Plans for other amenities such as maps, information kiosks and restrooms would follow, depending on parking and trailhead locations, he said.
The property was purchased from America’s HomePlace, a custom home-building company headquartered in Gainesville, Georgia, for $2.1 million. The Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded in November a $1 million grant for the project. Local government contributed $500,000 ($250,000 from each the county and town). Additionally, the Conservation Fund raised $584,000 in private donations.