Public-Private Partnerships Enhancing Public Lands Access and Use

 

Mountains-to-Sea State Trail/Fonta Flora State Trail Connector - North Carolina

Enjoying the Mountains-to-Sea/Fonta Flora State Trail Connector; photo by Eric Loomis

Construction of a 3.0-mile hiking and mountain biking trail that traverses the NC Wildlife Resources Commission Game Lands to connect a proposed 30-mile loop trail around Lake James.

The Mountains-to-Sea/Fonta Flora State Trail Connector connects these two State trail systems. The Connector is an approximately 3.0 mile hiking and mountain biking trail that traverses the NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Game Lands – Linville Tract

The Fonta Flora State Trail is an 80-mile proposed trail that connects Morganton to Asheville, North Carolina. It also includes a 30-mile loop trail around Lake James which is currently being constructed by Burke County. Trail segments are built as funding from a variety of sources is secured.

The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail is an approximately 1,000 mile proposed trail that connects Clingmans Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks. The Trail crosses through more than 30 counties, numerous small towns, three national parks, several national forests and wildlife refuges, state parks, and larger towns and cities. Approximately 600 miles of the Trail is complete with almost 300 continuous miles in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Trail under Construction; photo by Tim Johnson

Trail under Construction; photo by Tim Johnson

The Trail Connector provides a connection between all trails in the region, which in the immediate vicinity include the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, the Linville Gorge and Lake James State Park trail systems. The connection with the MST provides long distance adventures to other public lands such as Stone Mountain State Park, Mount Mitchell State Park, Grandfather Mountain State Park, Pisgah National Forest, and eventually when the MST is complete, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The Fonta Flora State Trail - Lake James Loop section connects a County Park, State Park, National Historic Trail, and easements that cross private campgrounds, residential developments and Duke Energy lands. The trail connector traverses public Game Lands owned and managed by the NCWRC. Burke County and the NCWRC executed a Memorandum of Understanding that addressed construction, management, and maintenance of the trail to increase access to the public lands and trail systems in the region. This primary partnership between two governmental agencies and additional partnerships with other state and federal government agencies, private individuals, and property owner associations has opened up an endless number of opportunities for local residents and visitors to access and use the public lands in the area for hiking, mountain biking, hunting, and bird watching.

From left: Ben Khouri and Mykel Wedig, Office of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC); Scott Carpenter, Deputy County Manager, Burke County, NC; Marianne Fowler; Susan Carpenter; Derrick Crandall

From left: Ben Khouri and Mykel Wedig, Office of Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC); Scott Carpenter, Deputy County Manager, Burke County, NC; Marianne Fowler; Susan Carpenter; Derrick Crandall

The success of this RTP project has depended on support from local government officials for the concept of the Trail Connector and cooperation by a multitude of agency personnel at the local (county), state, and federal levels. Planning for the project was completed by a diverse stakeholder group.

Trail design and layout was completed by NC State Parks staff. Access to the land was agreed to and provided by the NCWRC. Initial corridor clearing and construction of the trail route was completed by the NC Forest Service Young Offenders Forest Conservation Program (BRIDGE) crews and Burke County.

A trail contractor from the Professional TrailBuilders Association completed final construction of the trail connector. Burke County provided matching funds and project administration and oversight for the RTP grant and trail construction.

The Mountains-to-Sea State Trail/Fonta Flora State Trail Connector RTP project exemplifies successful public-private partnerships that have increased access to and use of federal, state, and local public lands. The project also involved engagement of local elected officials and agency personnel. Hopefully, the result of these successes will be more funded RTP projects on nearby public lands that will build off of and complement the growing trail system.

More Information on the Fonta Flora State Trail


More winners of this award

2018: McPhee Overlook Trail - Colorado

2016: Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park - Iowa

2015: Montana OHV Trail Maintenance - Montana