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TDA allocates portion of lodging tax to Ecusta Trail

The Henderson County Tourism Development Authority agreed on Tuesday to allocate a portion of the county hotel tax to construction of the Ecusta Trail.

In the first appropriation of public money for the proposed 20-mile greenway from Hendersonville to Brevard, the TDA agreed to commit a quarter cent of the authority’s 5-cent bed tax to the building of the bike and pedestrian trail. A quarter-cent of the tax generates $70,000 to $80,000 a year.
“We saw this as an opportunity for product development so there’s another attraction in Henderson County,” TDA Chairman Shannon Clarke said Tuesday night. “We see this as a great opportunity to enhance what we’ve got here as far as product development. I see this as a new park for Henderson County folks. It brings out a lot of community and gives us a resource to meet and greet and talk with each other and a good opportunity to connect us with Brevard.”
Clarke said the TDA had received no signal from Henderson County commissioners or the county staff on support of the trail.
“We hope that we have a conversation with them from here on out as far as showing our level of support for what’s taking place with the trail,” he said. “I think from here we need to form partnerships and encourage some other folks to get involved.”
The vote was 7-1 with David Nicholson, the former Henderon County manager, voting no.
“With his ties with the county in the past I think he kind of favors folks in Brevard still having that available in case there’s industry that comes into the area,” he said.
The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners has voted unanimously to oppose the trail. The Brevard City Council supports it. Hendersonville, Laurel Park and Flat Rock have all voted to support the trail.

The railroad line, idle since 2002, is owned by Watco, a Kansas-based short-line operator. An economic development study commissioned by the city of Hendersonville estimated development cost at $10 million to $14 million. The study said the trail could produce an annual economic benefit of $9.4 million from additional tax revenue, tourism, health improvements and property value increases.

Clarke said he hoped the TDA’s vote would spark more support for the trail.
“We just want to kind of get things going so hopefully we can be the catalyst for a lot of other municipalities and entities corporate dollars to finance this and get it moving in the right direction,” Clarke said.