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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Ecusta Trail video hits the mark

Don Schjeldahl has plenty of credibility when it comes to industrial development.


A specialist in helping corporations find sites for new plants, Schjeldahl spent 18 months guiding the Sierra Nevada search that ended with our area landing the biggest catch in a generation. People ought to pay attention when Schjeldahl assesses the practicality of reopening the Hendersonville-to-Brevard rail line.
"In terms of trying to bring it back to heavy industrial use, it doesn't really fit very well within my view of the global economy, how North Carolina fits within that economy, the industries and the investments that are taking place," Schjeldahl says. "It's pretty unlikely that you're going to find a company that is of the quality employer, that is going to invest the money to bring that rail back."
On the other hand, Schjeldahl says, "I've also got lots of clients who have a desire to move into a community that is attractive from a quality of life standpoint. And the Ecusta Trail becomes a very important attraction to this region."
Schjeldahl's comments open a new seven-minute video that the Friends of Ecusta Trail commissioned to educate elected officials, landowners and business leaders about the proposed trail.
Chris Burns, the treasurer of the trail-promoting organization, explained that the Friends hope through the film to describe what the trail can be — a boon not only for tourism but for jobs expansion and even industry locations — and also what it is not — a threat to private property rights and a corridor of crime.
At a showing in Brevard, the Friends brought two sheriff's deputies from the Upstate.
"Both of them have patrolled the Swamp Rabbit since its inception," Burns said, "and the reality of crime on that trail is very different from the perception."
Travelers Rest Mayor Wayne McCall admitted to being a skeptic who was quickly won over when a rail-banked line became the Swamp Rabbit Trail in the South Carolina Upstate.
"The economic impact has been nothing short of phenomenal," he said. "Buildings have been renovated. There's been about 40 businesses pop along the 266 corridor, which runs along beside the trail. There's no doubt that the Swamp Rabbit Trail has raised the value of real estate in our area."
The video is must-see TV for skeptics, starting with the institutionally hesitant Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, which stubbornly refuses to see how well the Ecusta Trail plays to that community's assets. Even supporters will benefit from watching the video. It provides reality-based evidence about two greenways that have brought tremendous benefit and pride to small Southern communities like ours. Our hope is that leaders here and in Brevard will take time to watch the video and attend the information meetings the Friends of Ecusta Trail is offering. A open-minded person, it seems to us, would take from the film a sense of optimism that we could have an enormous success here with a rail-trail.