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Edwards, Moffitt announce $7.5 million more for Ecusta Trail construction

Map shows the funded and unfunded segments of the Ecusta Trail. Map shows the funded and unfunded segments of the Ecusta Trail.

A new appropriation by the N.C. General Assembly adds $7.5 million to cover construction of the Ecusta Trail, state Sen. Chuck Edwards and Rep. Tim Moffitt announced Monday.

The two Henderson County legislators said in a news release that the state had secured the money for Western North Carolina, adding millions to the original $292.2 million appropriated in the 2021-22 state budget. The $7.5 million for the buildout of the Hendersonville-to-Brevard greenway is in addition to the $600,000 designated in the budget earlier.

In a related move, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday will take up a request from staff to apply for a federal Surface Transportation Block Grant for trail construction. The county received $5 million from that U.S. Transportation Department source in 2020.

"Staff is researching multiple grants that the Rail Trail may qualify for and requests that the Board direct staff to explore these options," a staff memo to the board said. "These grant options require a 20 percent match from the local government. No matching funds are required until the project is implemented and only as the work is completed."

Edwards and Moffitt said the new state funding, aside from the money for the greenway, expands the Agricultural Crop Loss Program for Western North Carolina farms that experienced damage and losses of agricultural commodities in a series of freezes in April 2021. Farmers in eligible counties may now receive financial assistance to mitigate the impact of the lost agricultural commodities including apples, peaches and berries.

“Just about every local government, tourism authority, business promotion group and major health care advocate in my district have made this greenway a high priority," Edwards said. "And, in the past, we have seen too many state dollars go to help eastern farmers while ours in the west were ignored. I'm pleased that with the help of Rep. Moffitt, we've made sure our western counties' voices are being heard and their needs are prioritized."

"Henderson County’s family farms are central to both our identity and our economy," Moffitt said. "I want to thank our agriculture commissioner, Steve Troxler, for working with us to get this done. North Carolina’s farmers should know that we will always have their back.”

Counties are eligible to apply for financial assistance from losses endured during the April 2021 freeze disaster through the Agricultural Crop Loss Program program are Henderson, Buncombe, Haywood, Polk, Rutherford and Transylvania. Farmers who experienced losses during both the freeze disaster and Tropical Storm Fred may apply for financial assistance for each instance so long as they demonstrate separate and distinct losses.