State Budget Donates Money to Blue Ridge Conservancy for High Country Projects | Local news

HIGH COUNTRY – North Carolina’s new state budget for the coming year has set aside unprecedented funds to support the outdoors and conservation throughout the High Country.

Leila Jackson, director of communications for Blue Ridge Conservancy, said this year’s state budget spent the most money on conservation since the 2008 recession.

With $ 300 million earmarked for conservation and preservation, and an additional $ 200 million for flood resilience and resilience, the budget will impact the High Country in multiple ways.

Three BRC projects received government grants: the Middle Fork Greenway, the Watauga Paddle Trail and the Northern Peaks Trail.

The state budget allocated $ 500,000 to the BRC for the Middle Fork Greenway, a project connecting the hiking and biking trails of the Boone and Blowing Rock area. One of the Middle Fork Greenway starting points is at Blowing Rock near the Tangier outlets, and in the future it will connect to the Boone Greenway.

“There are still several plots of land to purchase for the Middle Fork Greenway,” Jackson said. Government funding is particularly intended for the purchase of land to be preserved and to be added to the greenway.

Right now, BRC is preparing to open the trailhead near Blue Deer Cookies on Route 321, where the organization recently installed two bridges. Going forward, Jackson has said this will be the primary trailhead park.

Government funding for the Watauga Paddle Trail was $ 150,000, which Jackson said will be used to build the parking lot and some facilities for a river access point for canoeing.

The Watauga Paddle Trail has been around since about 2011, Jackson said, and because much of the Watauga River runs alongside private property, the paddle trail access points are places for water recreation participants to go and paddle. on the river. There are six drop-off points along the river paddle trail, with the Valle Crucis Community Park being one of them.

The funding will be used to develop an access point just below the Valle Crucis Community Park on 8.5 acres of land that was donated to the BRC.

The Nordic Peaks Trail has been in the works for some time, Jackson said, and it’s a collaboration between many conservation groups. One challenge with the trail is that the three peaks it highlights, Tater Hill, Elk Knob, and Three Top, are home to a number of endangered plants and animals, but mostly plants, Jackson said.

The state budget has set aside $ 50,000 for the trail, which Jackson says will go to a Natural Heritage Program study to develop a plan for the trail with the least impact on the ecosystem.

Beyond the High Country, the state budget provides for two new state parks, the Roanoke River Paddle Trail and the Bakers Lake State Natural Area. A total of $ 2.1 million in recurring funds and $ 877,000 in non-recurring funds have been allocated for fiscal year 2021-2022, parks will receive an increase of $ 3.5 million in recurring funds in 2022-2023 .

Marisa Mecke is a Report for America Corps member for Mountain Times Publications. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues.

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