WCU gets grant for multi-use trail

Western Carolina University has won a $5,000 grant from a bicycle parts manufacturer to support construction of a multi-use, community trail system on campus.

Motion Makers Bicycle Shop in Sylva helped WCU land the grant from Specialized Bicycle Components based in California, which supports “advocacy initiatives” endorsed by its retail dealers.

“The grant from Specialized is significant because it will not only go toward the construction costs for the trail system, but also provide seed money to help us qualify for other grants,” said Josh Whitmore, director of outdoor programs at WCU.

The first phase of the project is construction of a five-mile loop trail to be built near (and connect to) WCU’s nearly completed Health and Human Sciences Building. In total, the trail will cost $80,000 to construct.

“This trail — and any new trails in Jackson County — will increase accessibility to trails right here in our community and attract walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and other trail uses,” said Kent Cranford, owner of Motion Makers Bicycle Shop.

Whitmore cited the recent formation of the Nantahala Area chapter of the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting land access, trail preservation and new trail development, as important for helping win financial support. The new chapter is focused on enhancing trails in far Western North Carolina, including the WCU area.

Creating a master plan for the WCU multi-use trail project was funded with a $14,440 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. As part of the initiative, the trail system ultimately would link to the planned Jackson County Greenway along the Tuckasegee River.

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