From the Times-News editorial page:
“Henderson County commissioners deserve the community’s thanks for backing the Ecusta Trail project with a $7 million loan to Conserving Carolina.
The local land trust on Oct. 27 entered a contract with Blue Ridge Southern Railroad LLC, a division of WATCO Companies, to begin purchasing the Henderson County portion of the proposed 19-mile greenway trail.
The N.C. Department of Transportation last year awarded a $6.4 million grant to Conserving Carolina to be used toward buying the rail corridor. Tourism Development Authorities in Henderson and Transylvania counties have also committed funding. . .
So far, Henderson County has applied for and won three construction grants through NCDOT, said Chris Burns of Friends of the Ecusta Trail, which has been advocating for the trail since 2009.
Construction on the first section, from downtown Hendersonville to the Laurel Park Town line, is scheduled to start in January 2022 and expected to take about 12 months. Phase 2 will start January of 2023 and extend to western boundary of Laurel Park near Hawthorne Hills and is also expected to take about a year. Phase 3, from there to the French Broad River, is expected to start in fall 2023 and take about 15 months. . .
The conservancy is buying the rail line under a federal railbanking agreement that would allow for it to be returned to rail service if there were a compelling need to do so in the future. . .”