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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Economic development on two wheels

To better express what's at stake, the Friends of Ecusta Trail should go ahead and change the name of the proposed greenway to the Jobs Creating Tourism Promoting Economic Development Fueling Exercise Inducing Greenway.


Inelegant as it is, the JCTPEDFEIG might make recalcitrant politicians in Transylvania and Henderson counties see the value of the trail.
A 2012 report estimated that the trail would cost $20 million to build and would return $9.4 million a year in tax revenue, tourism spending, property value increases and health benefits. The owner of the tracks, Norfolk Southern, has not used the line since 2002 and despite the hopes of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners there is little chance that a manufacturer will come along and trigger a need for a freight train. The last best hope of that was the failed waste-to-energy plant that promised to invite pungent carloads of garbage to Penrose — a dubious economic development trophy for 20 low-paying jobs.P1000401Friends of Ecusta Trail paid for a billboard on U.S. 64 in Brevard.
The Friends of Ecusta Trail, as the Hendersonville Lightning reported on March 12, has intensified its campaign for public awareness about the project ahead of the May 6 primary election, which could swing the balance of power on the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners in favor of the trail and ratify trail support on the Henderson County Board of Commissioners.
The governing bodies of Brevard, Hendersonville, Laurel Park and Flat Rock are already on record in favor of the project.
One point that Ecusta Trail supporters ought to be making to our friends to the west is that the trail, even if it does foreclose on use of the tracks for industrial freight, is the better option for economic development.
Elected leaders too timid to take a stand for the trail are fond of throwing the question back to Norfolk Southern. It's a nonstarter, they say, until Norfolk Southern agrees to railbank the track.
Wrong. It's a starter when local elected leaders agree on the value, link arms, march forward and make the case up and down the line — from the city of Hendersonville to U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows. The big picture in our greenway future links the Ecusta Trail, the Oklawaha Greenway, the Brevard Greenway, Oskar Blues brewery, Pisgah National Forest, a potential N.C. 280 bikeway and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. campus.
Politicians who fail to see that future are destined to be left behind.
Whether this election cycle or the next, we're approaching critical mass on the Ecusta Trail politically, culturally and economically. Those who aspire to lead — in job creation, quality of life, appeal to newcomers and young people and better health — would be wise to get on board now before the train, to coin a phrase, leaves the station.