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Ecusta Trail committee to review engineering candidates

In its first official meeting, the newly formed Henderson County Rail-Trail Advisory Committee on Monday will review consulting engineers’ proposals to design the trail and coordinate permitting and bid documents for the first 6 miles of construction from downtown Hendersonville to Horse Shoe.

The kickoff of the advisory committee comes as the Ecusta Trail gains momentum in funding. The state budget just signed into law by the governor appropriates $600,000 for Ecusta Trail construction and the new infrastructure bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden channeled more greenway money to states.
“I anticipate there will be a lot of activity (in multi-use path funding) of various nature over the next two years,” Chuck McGrady, the former five-term state House member, said at a meeting of the county Transportation Advisory Committee on Nov. 17. “Between the (state) budget and the infrastructure bill, there’s a lot of money moving into trails specifically and transportation more broadly … You’re going to see a lot of things occurring and the theme is connectivity. It’s going to make the job to raise money an easier task. It’s just been an amazing week or two for trails and I think the Ecusta Trail will be assisted by it.”
The Henderson County Board of Commissioners appointed McGrady as chair of the trail advisory committee on Nov. 17 and appointed the rest of the nine member board. The appointing authorities and other board members are:

  • City of Hendersonville: Brent Detwiler, the city engineer.
  • Conserving Carolina: Mike Egan, an attorney and member of the conservancy’s board.
  • Laurel Park: Nancy McKinley, a real estate agent who is retiring from the Laurel Park Town Council in December.
  • Friends of Ecusta Trail: Chris Burns, a founder of the organization.
  • Board of Commissioners: McGrady; Selena Einwechter, the owner of a Mills River B&B and member of the Tourism Development Authority; David Adams, a Friends of Ecusta Trail member; Doug Moon, a former city recreation director and executive director of the Opportunity House; Dr. Ken Shelton, a trail advocate.

Five engineering firms responded to the county's request for letters of interest: AECOM, Alta, Kimley Horn, McAdams and Vaughn & Melton. In a staff evaluation based on experience, project team, project approach and methodology, funding and experience with regulatory agencies and workload and resources Vaughn & Melton scored the highest.

“We need to put all the pressure we can to expedite this work so we can under construction ASAP,” County Commission Chair Bill Lapsley said at the Nov. 17 TAC meeting.

Engineers estimate that the construction of the Hendersonville-to-Horse Shoe leg will take 12-18 months. The Friends of Ecusta Trail and Conserving Carolina have already formed a campaign steering committee to raise money through individuals and corporate donors and the county can continue to seek grants to fund construction of the remaining segments to the Henderson County line. The city of Brevard has agreed to manage construction for the part of the trail in Transylvania County.