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Trail Town Trash

Following the Burke Chamber Litter Sweep, BRTA decided to continue monthly Trail Town Trash Pickups. May was rained out and even though it was raining on June 3, we went ahead with our cleanup. 11 volunteers got soggy as we started at McGalliard Falls Park in Valdese and covered some of Church Street and all of Meytre. On July 7, we will be in Rhodhiss. Meet at Horseshoe Park at 3pm.

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Successful Pickin’

Around 125 people took part in the Glen Alpine in the Street Committee’s first event – Pickin’ in the Streets including Senator Warren Daniel and wife Lydia. Aldermen Reid Scott and Luke Boone continue to be supportive of advancements in the town and work with the volunteers to make things happen.

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Getting the Word Out

Burke River Trail Association has three Focus Areas:

  • Connections – Physically get trail on the ground to connect communities
  • Communities – Build stronger communities through economic development and civic engagement
  • Conservation – Educate communities about the environment, wildlife and recreating responsibility
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Glen Alpine Residents Giving Back

Planning Committee Members: Matt Reschke, James Glick, Teresa Reep, Stanley Benedict, Luke Boone, DeAnna Boone, Jacob Boone, Kallie Smith, Reid Scott, Patsy Scott. Not pictured – Beth Heile, Jason Siedel and Wesley Kelley

A tree along the railroad tracks that looked like a turkey tail, gave the Town of Glen Alpine its original name in 1868 – Turkey Tail. Now residents wanting to revitalize downtown and strengthen community pride, are leaning into that history to plan events for the community.

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Glen Alpine Public Meeting

The Glen Alpine Downtown Park Public Input meeting was held Thursday, April 11 at 6pm – with a horrible rainstorm 5:50-6:10pm – we still had 24 in attendance for the 50-minute meeting.

There was a 24×36 inch poster of the illustrative park plan for discussion as people were arriving. At 6pm, the meeting started with a 20-minute power point presentation about the park site, park amenities, NC PARTF grant and process, matching funds, budget, and trails coming through the park. Then questions and comments were addressed.

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Rhodhiss Mill Grant

Burke River Trail Association submitted an Opportunity Appalachia Grant application for technical assistance in creating a financial pro forma development analysis for Old Glory Mill. The report will show how much income will be generated by mixed use development that includes the Burke River Trail along with expenses to show profitability to potential developers. What is the Old Glory Mill Project all about?

Pre-application meeting with attendees on roof of Old Glory Mill. Staff from Sen Daniel’s office and Rep Blackwell were present to show support the granting agency.

The Town of Rhodhiss does not have a “main street,” just a main road running down the center. It does not have a downtown, just some stores scattered along the 2 mile road. From the outside, it may look like the town doesn’t have any hope. But the town elected officials and residents are determined to change that.

“Since 2003, the town has been on a mission to bring new life to our community. When the mills closed, our village declined dramatically like so many others throughout the south. But we survived and now we are about to reap some benefits of years of hard work spent leveraging funds to modernize our water supply and waste/water infrastructure. For the past several years we have worked with state and county leaders and developers to help develop a plan to revitalize the textile mill into a mixed-use facility.” Town Manager Rick Justice

Cue the music for “I Will Survive!”

BTRA Executive Director Beth Heile first met Rick Justice in 2020 when floating the idea of the Burke River Trail. It was perfect timing when each was looking for someone else to believe in their individual projects and the combination of a regional trail and a downtown center made perfect sense. A regional trail will bring economic development opportunities, quality of life, resident health (social, mental, physical), tourists that will hopefully become residents, outdoor recreation amenities, jobs and a safe mode of transportation. The mill will bring many of the same benefits with the addition of housing, a location for new businesses, a new town center for Rhodhiss and a way to preserve history.

Since then, Beth and Rick have been on a mission to make this project (Old Glory Mill with Regional Trail) a reality for the town, and for its people.

It is estimated the building will house six new businesses with 54 employees. The businesses could be a restaurant and informal eatery (or maybe a food hall), apartment leasing office, UPS/Fedex/Office Store for the town and those working out of their apartments, an outfitter and another retail store. Town of Rhodhiss offices could move to the site.

80 market rate apartments are in the plan to provide much needed housing for the town and the county. From a 2024 Burke County Housing Study, it is estimated the county has a five-year rental housing gap of almost 1,500 units and a for-sale housing gap of 3,323 units. Working with the developer mixed-income development will be explored for better community acceptance and better community mirroring.

The site could become a desired destination in the region for events for nonprofits, businesses or family celebrations – with the board room, roof top, office space and co-warehousing.

Finally, walking or pedaling distance via Safe Transportation with the Regional Trail to get to work, school (elementary and college), essential needs and fun places is a key element of the site.

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Community Spotlight – Drexel

Picking at the Barber Shop every Thursday-Saturday mornings.

While much has come and gone in Drexel over the years, the Drexel Barber Shop has remained a constant. Lawrence Anthony started it across the railroad tracks in 1949. Most of us older folks can remember sitting in that tiny smoke-filled shop listening to our dads as we patiently—or not—waited for a buzz. If I’m not mistaken, there was a shower back in a backroom somewhere for guys needing to clean up after a day in the factory. Anyway, it seems like the wait for a haircut was hours, as the room was usually packed with men and boys (and maybe women) and one or two barbers who all had a lot to say.

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Litter Sweep

As part of the Burke County Chamber Litter Sweep, Burke River Trail Association held trash pickups in all the towns along the Burke River Trail route during the week of March 20-27. 65 bags of trash were collected in 9 towns over the 8 day event.

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Mill Walk

Burke River Trail Association was granted $2500 from Mountain BizWorks for pre-development work to show how the Burke River Trail will flow between the Old Glory Mill and the Catawba River.

David Harmon Architecture was selected to create four renderings of how a two-story restaurant with outside dining space, the trail and access from inside the building to outside could be combined. The brick section in the renderings already exists as part of the mill building.

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Riverkeeper

Though Catawba River is prominent in the nonprofit’s name, Catawba Riverkeeper advocates for all waters of the Catawba River Basin

Because of their involvement with our waterways and our work of making connections along the river and creeks, we meet from time to time to keep each other updated on projects. During a recent outdoor meeting at Valdese Lakeside Park (a trailhead for Burke River Trail), Ryan Carter, Policy Manager and Grant Buckner, Northern Basin Director for Catawba Riverkeeper, reviewed area conservation efforts for water, land and wildlife with Rep Blackwell and Burke River Trail Executive Director, Beth Heile.

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Rails and Trails

Our Trail Towns could also be Rail Towns! In December 2023, the Federal Railroad Administration selected the Salisbury to Asheville rail route as part of the Corridor Identification and Development Program. The route is one of seven NC corridors receiving a $500,000 grant from the Department of Transportation to pay for the feasibility studies to decide the viability of the routes.

Salisbury to Asheville is the dashed gold line that passes Long View, Hildebran, Connelly Springs, Rutherford College, Valdese

There is the potential for our Burke County towns to host a train station or be a whistle stop. BRTA will be working closely with the Waiting for the Train nonprofit to make sure our Trail Towns do not miss out. All towns have Norfolk Southern running through town limits – except Rhodhiss and it is on a private spur — so potential there.

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Rhodhiss Workshop

There was an incredible turnout for the Rhodhiss Trail Workshop. Business owners, landowners, aldermen and residents met at the Scout Building to share ideas. Shelly Gref who owns the Copper Penny Grill – Lake Hickory said she would will allow trail between the restaurant and water. She also shared the story of how her Rutherford location and Forest City location are now connected by trail and what a benefit it is to have that regional trail as a draw.

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Glen Alpine Park

A community park has been on Glen Alpine’s wish list for a long time. Burke River Trail Association Executive Director Beth Heile shared with Glen Alpine Town Aldermen that thanks to a directed state grant from Rep Blackwell, the park is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Glen Alpine Community Park and Trailhead Rendering by Equinox Environmental
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Sharing Success

BRTA Executive Director Beth Heile shared the story of the economic development opportunities found along the Burke River Trail route with The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond’s Community Investment Training participants to help others spot worthy projects in their community. BRTA will receive a small grant for Beth’s time.

Beth participated in this investment training as a student last year and received an award for her presentation about Rhodhiss Revitalization.

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Morganton Greenway Extension

Mayor Ronnie Thompson has included the Morganton Greenway Extension in his State of the City talks to civic groups to start off 2024. This extension to the east is the Burke River Trail. Picking up at Rocky Ford Access (where the paved greenway stops) eventually trail will cover about 3 miles in the city’s jurisdiction. An update to the trail head is also in the works (shown below).

Currently an uneven gravel parking lot, Rocky Ford access is home to the Morganton Greenway, Fonta Flora State Trail, Overmountain Victory Trail, Mountain Bike Trails and soon Burke River Trail. Updates would include a paved parking area, restrooms, kayak launch and picnic tables.

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Connelly Springs Workshop

Lindy’s Discount Furniture was the perfect place for sharing ideas on what sites should be highlighted along trails in Town of Connelly Springs, NC. Some suggestions included the old hotel and spring, a second hotel and spring, Israel Chapel, Hudson cemetery, Chicken in the Basket (the longest open restaurant in the same building in NC), the Knob, cool views on the south side of I-40, stage coach road, Pottery Curve, the old store that is now moved onto Hudson property and more. Even if a structure no longer exists a kiosk can be put in the place telling the history for future generations!!

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Burke Trail Partners Share Updates and Ideas

What is becoming a twice a year event, the organizations responsible for getting trail on the ground in Burke County met to share updates on planning and building trail. Representatives from local governments and nonprofits submitted three slides in advance and had four minutes to provide updates during the first half of the meeting followed by general strategy discussions.

Attendees included those responsible for 3 of the 4 State Trails in Burke County (Fonta Flora State Trail, Overmountain Victory State Trail, Wilderness Gateway State Trail), the 2 large multi hundred-acre parks (Oak Hill Park, Valdese Lakeside Park), a regional trail (Burke River Trail), municipal greenways (Morganton and Valdese) and a trails planner from NC State Parks. Discover Burke County Tourism staff were present to make sure that they had all the latest information to share with visitors stopping in their office.

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Grant for Predevelopment in Rhodhiss

As more and more trails are built across the state, studies show that a trail can be much more than just a health and recreation amenity. It can drive economic development. Beth Heile, president of the Burke River Trail Association, has found that to be true working on the Burke River Trail route through each small town in eastern Burke County. Heile has uncovered several potential projects for housing, retail, restaurants and outdoor recreation businesses.

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Passenger Train

Burke River Trail Association’s main focus is getting trail on the ground to provide economic development opportunities in eastern Burke County. With supporting economic drivers as a goal – we follow, get involved and promote all opportunities. We are making sure any town involved with the Salisbury to Asheville passenger rail service is staying up to date!!

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Old Glory Mill – Trail and More

BRTA President Beth Heile was selected to be a part of the Mountain Bizworks Investment Framers Cohort. Participants were chosen from the 25 counties in western NC to learn how to spot an opportunity, put together stakeholders, find funding and take the project to completion.