Middle Fork Greenway Opens New Section

Middle Fork Greenway Opens New Section
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By David Rogers. October 22, 2014. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Bit by bit, the long envisioned Middle Fork Greenway is becoming a reality. On Wednesday, the Middle Fork task force opened a new stretch between Tweetsie Railroad and the U.S. 321 culverts near Mystery Hill.

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L-R: Albert Yount, Nathan Miller, Doug Matheson, Andy Ball, John Welch, J.B. Lawrence, Ray Pickett, Billy Kennedy and Lynne Mason

Well-wishes and thank-yous were in abundance at the celebration venue, just west of the U.S. 321 culvert in front of Mystery Hill and Doc’s Rocks Gem Mines. Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence and Boone Mayor Andy Ball addressed the almost 100 fans of the Greenway, representing the towns the Middle Fork biking and pedestrian will connect.  “It seems like this project was envisioned 25 years ago,” Lawrence chuckled. “It’s been a long time and it’s great to see it coming to fruition.”

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Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence was among the municipal dignitaries to address the celebration, with Andy Ball, left and Billy Kennedy, right, also speaking as representatives of Boone and Watauga County, respectively.

Watauga County Commissioner Billy Kennedy represented the county, quipping, “Now it’s probably going to be a long time before we get this greenway all the way out to Bethel…” With plenty of laughter from the appreciative crowd, Kennedy went on to congratulate the Association on the latest segment completion.

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The crowd was several rows deep, flanking Ann Browning on all sides.

Retired private equity investment professional Ann Browning has been a key operative in the Middle Fork Greenway (MGA) project for the past year and was credited by MGA board member and Blowing Rock resident Bill Hall as a driving force behind the project’s advancement during that time. For seven years, Browning was among the organizers of the Carolina Thread Trail aimed at connecting two North Carolina counties, two states, and an estimated 2.5 million people, with over 135 miles of the trail already completed and open to the public in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties.

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ZAP Fitness/Reebok Executive Director Zika Rea addresses the crowd, thanking them for their support of the MGA vision.

Browning welcomed the MGA supporters, dignitaries and media on hand, introducing Zika Rea, Executive Director of ZAP Fitness/Reebok, an elite running team and camp non-profit based in Blowing Rock.  ZAP Fitness has been a major financial donor for MGA, as well as providing organizational support.  Ms. Rea introduced and acknowledged the government and civic leaders in the crowd, as well as thanked the many supporters and donors to the project.

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Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce board member Don Hubble (center) took a trip down the culvert and back, greeted on his return by Blowing Rock Planning Director Kevin Rothrock

After all of the speech-making, Mayor Andy Ball and Mayor J.B. Lawrence, flanked by County Commissioners John Welch and Nathan Miller, Blowing Rock Town Commissioners Albert Yount, Doug Matheson and Ray Pickett, and Boone Town Commissioner Lynne Mason in cutting the ceremonial ribbon to officially open the trail.

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