Group gets trail grant

The latest development along the Catawba River isn’t new homes, but rather a trail to allow more public access between Fort Mill and Rock Hill.

Carolina Thread Trail leaders awarded $150,000 to Nation Ford Land Trust to build about two miles of natural surface trail along the Catawba River. The path will provide access to Thread Trail at Riverwalk, and will be part of a larger, 140-mile connection from Statesville, N.C., to Great Falls.

“This trail section is a key connection between the new Mason’s Bend development and Baxter trails and Riverwalk on the Rock Hill side of the river,” said Janet Steele, land trust executive director.

The $150,000 is part of an overall $350,000 allotment that includes grants in Cleveland, Anson and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina.

Carolina Thread Trail is a two-state, 15-county network linking more than 2.3 million residents. The trail has 250 miles open to the public. To date, trail system awarded more than $4.5 million in grants and projects.

The latest grants were part of a quarterly cycle, given out Nov. 17. Steele said it will take “well over a year” before the trail opens. It will travel under bridges for U.S. 21 and I-77 at their Catawba crossings. They will be natural surface, so they probably won’t draw as many people as Riverwalk on the opposite shores.

Yet the same, largely waterfront, project will draw on the riparian scenery, too.

“They’re getting hundreds of people out there every day,” Steele said of Riverwalk.

Past grants helped the land trust construct trails and a suspension bridge along Sugar Creek, near Nation Ford High School. The school cross country team and Regent Park residents use that trail often, Steele said. Future plans are to link the existing and coming trails.

“If we can tie in somehow from Fort Mill to Baxter, that would give us access,” Steele said. “We still have some areas we need to figure out.”

The coming trail crosses several properties. It ties into trail to be built by Masons Bend developers.

“The reasons these are key is they will provide access to the pedestrian lanes on the (U.S.) 21 bridge,” Steele said.

Travis Morehead, operations director with Carolina Thread Trail, echoed the same reasons for funding the project, the largest dollar figure in the latest round of grants.

“This is an incredibly important corridor,” he said. “It’s part of the north-south spine, which is a major goal.”

Eventual connections to Baxter and Riverwalk will make the new stretch of trail accessible to many, and visible to many along the river. Morehead expects people who already use the Riverwalk trail to access the new one, too.

“It flows both ways,” he said, “and we’re just really excited about it.”

The recent grants fall among many ongoing trail projects with the organizations. On Dec. 3, Carolina Thread Trail held its eighth annual trail forum bringing experts from throughout the region together. The next day, Carolina Thread Trail opened 1.2 miles of trail in Lincolnton, N.C.

Local work includes the 2.25-mile Baxter Village Trail, 2.1-mile Nation Ford Greenway and the one-mile Blue Star Trail through the Anne Springs Close Greenway.

On Dec. 6, York County Council was to hear a proposal to spend $27,000 in York County Forever Commission money for another Nation Ford Land Trust project, this one a 58-acre easement in Rock Hill. The property includes a home built in 1811 and other structures more than 100 years old.

By John Marks, Staff Reporter with the Fort Mill Times