Establishing Boone and Blowing Rock’s Gateway Greenway
The Middle Fork Greenway is a project led by Blue Ridge Conservancy in partnership with Watauga County, the Town of Blowing Rock, and the Town of Boone.
The 7-mile Middle Fork Greenway, connecting Boone to Blowing Rock, has gone from far-flung fantasy to a regional planning success story that promises to transform the region.
From Plan Vision to Reality
DbD completed the Middle Fork Greenway Master Plan in 2013. Also, DbD assisted with various design projects until 2018, culminating with the design of trailhead facilities, which were manufactured in November 2018.
The signs and shelter were ultimately installed in 2019 at the Blowing Rock Trailhead (Structural Engineer: IONCON; Landscape Architect: Mosiac Civic Studio).
Trail Facility Designs
A few communities in the region stand out from the pack for their blend of attractive quality-of-life assets. Blowing Rock and Boone are two such places. Like their NC mountain town brethren, each offers bountiful opportunities for outdoor recreation, but they also boast an eclectic mix of culture, arts, and city amenities. Tourists and long-time residents alike seamlessly blend together in these thriving mountain communities.
The two towns – separated by a 15-minute drive along U.S. Route 321 – are distinct in their identity, yet their proximity to each other highlights the common threads they share. Popular attractions like Mystery Hill and the Tweetsie Railroad Theme Park lie halfway between Boone and Blowing Rock, along the 321 Corridor, as if to encourage day trippers to work both towns into their weekend itineraries. The Middle Fork Greenway will make this all the more possible and enjoyable, while also making the area much more livable for full-time residents.
A Unique Challenge
Working with two principal jurisdictions also presented inherent challenges for a master planning process that would rely on cohesion across the communities. DbD knew that regional collaboration would be key to overcoming the challenges that the Middle Fork Greenway posed.
The process that guided the Middle of the Fork Greenway initiative didn’t materialize overnight.
In 2010, the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority identified the Middle Fork Greenway as a priority initiative. Passion and interest were never lacking over the many years that the greenway became a regional initiative. The initiative had a regional champion in High Country Pathways, Inc. who helped cobble together the volunteers, funding, and regional alliances necessary to bring a project of this magnitude to fruition.
Though the passion was always there, the greenway initiative at times lacked a clear vision. In 2013, DbD stepped in to help fill the void by leading a collaborative master planning process that sought to channel this community passion into strategic areas of prioritization. Since the previous DbD-led Master Plan first established a refined new vision for the greenway, leadership capacity has grown, community engagement has increased, key funding for the greenway has been secured, and key sections of the greenway are completed or underway.
The leadership provided by High Country Pathways and the Middle Fork Greenway Task Force since the greenway was first tabbed as a top regional priority were central to the successes that the initiative has yielded.
Success Breeds Success
Ultimately, the master planning effort that DbD led for the Middle Fork Greenway was about developing consensus and building momentum. The early successes realized during the planning process gave way to a community-driven commitment to continue the momentum and see the project through.
In 2014, High Country Pathways and the Blue Ridge Conservancy joined together to serve as the lead regional organizations behind the push to get the greenway developed. This partnership greatly enhanced the leadership capacity of the greenway initiative, and helped attract significant project funding from a variety of sources.
The community’s interest in seeing this regional priority through is evident in the growth and engagement of the Middle Fork Greenway Task Force. The task force now holds monthly meetings to solicit community input and keep the public apprised of the status of the greenway’s development.