Contact: Jill W. Miracle, Community Impact Director
Thermal Belt Rail Trail Project Moves Forward
The Thermal Belt Rail Trail is moving forward and should become a reality in late 2018 as a result of action taken by the RHI Legacy Foundation Board of Trustees at its meeting on June 12th. The RHI Legacy Foundation Board voted to fund construction of the 12-foot wide, 13.36 mile asphalt trail that would connect communities across the county from Forrest Hunt School to Gilkey. The grant also includes funding for up to six potential trailheads to provide parking and other amenities at access points for the trail. The grant request was approved for $4,250,000. Dr. Bobby England, Chairman of RHI Legacy Foundation stated, “The construction of this trail represents a transformational project for the county that combines health and wellness, economic development and neighborhood improvement. Due to this project's importance, we prioritized it outside of the Foundation’s normal grant cycle.”
In 2016, the Town of Forest City received a $149,000 grant from RHI Legacy Foundation to survey and engineer the trail. Forest City applied on behalf of Rutherford County, Ruth, Rutherfordton, Spindale as well as itself. In addition, Forest City received an Appalachian Regional Commission grant for trailhead design and master planning. McGill and Associates and David Odom Engineering are providing the trail design and engineering. Keith Webb from McGill and David Odom made the presentation to the RHI Foundation Board. Keith Webb said, “David and I have both worked in the county over 20 years. By far, this project reflects the highest level of intergovernmental cooperation and common purpose that we have ever seen.” The RHI Foundation’s grant will provide the funds to pave the trail, but the amenities along the trail will be each local governments’ responsibility. As an example, the Forest City recently applied for a state PARTF grant that would provide fitness equipment, a picnic facility, and other recreational opportunities.
The engineering for the entire 13.36-mile trail will be complete by August 1. After August 1, the McGill and Odom firms will focus on road encroachment agreements with NCDOT, an overpass agreement with CSX and erosion control plans for the entire corridor. The construction project will be put out for bid by November with bids awarded by January 2018. Construction could start by March with an anticipated nine-month construction schedule. Assuming the proposed schedule is met the trail would be complete by the end of 2018.
RHI Legacy Foundation is a grant-making organization that has a broad mission to make Rutherford County healthier. The Foundation invests in projects that address healthy eating and active living because of the impact of healthier lifestyle choices on decreasing the incidence of disease.
Jill Miracle, RHI Legacy Foundation’s Community Impact Director explained, “Trail development is a priority for us because free and convenient access for individuals and families to be outdoors will make an impact on how healthy Rutherford County residents can be. We look forward to the day when local adults practice healthy behaviors and pass those habits down to the next generations. Trail development and recreation is a big piece of our active living strategy, and we are pleased to be a part of this important Rail Trail project.”