A little less road walk for Bartram Trail hikers with this reroute of the trail connecting to the Little Tennessee Greenway.
It’s been a long and winding road (so to speak) to get to where we are today, but the first new reroute of the Bartram Trail is in sight. After just a few hours of walking, measuring, and flagging, the Bartram Trail reroute connecting through the Macon County Recreation Park to the Little Tennessee Greenway is underway.
Continuing the great partnership we have with Mainspring Conservation Trust, Stewardship Manager Kelder Monar, met a few of us at the park to walk off the proposed trail through the wetlands area nearby. The group spent a good bit of time placing the small flags along the proposed path and discussed the next steps for the new section of trail.
Things are certainly moving forward and we’re hopeful that we’ll soon see the next phase taking shape. “Mowing and mulch” will likely be the near-future tread solution, once we have approval from the state regarding the proposed path through the wetlands.
We like to think things are moving quickly at this point, as it was just a few weeks ago that we met with a much larger group to walk the wetlands and discuss planning and execution details. Representatives from Macon County, Town of Franklin, Mainspring Conservation Trust, and the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy, walked the proposed trail route and discussed considerations. This was a long time following the original proposal developed by Jason Love in the spring of 2019.
Love’s proposal, “Using a National Recreation Trail to Connect to Cherokee History and to Link the Town of Franklin to Nantahala National Forest: Expanding the Bartram Trail through the “vale of Tanase” and up Trimont Ridge,” outlined the various sections that would reroute hikers off the highway and back along paths that William Bartram may have actually strolled along. Certainly, native Cherokee inhabitants would have lived, traded, and traveled along these paths.
Love included in this proposal, which has been received very positively, several “intriguing highlights:”
- The trail would follow a portion of the Franklin Greenway, bringing additional attention to this sometimes underfunded resource. This is where we are now!
- The trail would pass by Nikwasi Mound, which was mentioned in Bartram’s Travels. There is currently renewed interest by both the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the Town of Franklin to rejuvenate the area around the mound. A newly formed non-profit termed “The Nikwasi Initiative” is engaged in activities to help bring this important “Mother Town” mound out of obscurity. This is where we are now!
- The trail would pass through downtown Franklin. Franklin is designated an “Appalachian Trail Community” and part of Franklin’s “brand” is being the gateway to hiking and the outdoors. Having a National Recreation Trail through downtown would help to strengthen this image. This is where we are now!
- The trail would connect the Town of Franklin to Nantahala National Forest via the Trimont Ridge Trail. There are only about 3 properties that would need to be acquired to make this possible.
- The trail would pass by old mica mines. These mines connect with Franklin’s past; the term Nikwasi means “Star Place” and is likely reference to the starry soils and stream lined with mica. It is well known that mica was mined in the area of Nikwasi and traded throughout North America. There are historic Cherokee mounds near the Trimont Ridge Trail. There is a mica mound that is about 6 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide that extends about 30 feet into bedrock. It would be interesting to see if this mine could be made safe for tourists; much is said about mica mining, but I don’t know of any mines that the public can enter.
- The old Co-Op is an intriguing piece of property. It once housed the old State Prison. The primary center building is made of brick and is well-constructed. If this property were in Brevard or Asheville, it would already be turned into a hip brew-pub or concert venue. The county has tentative plans to purchase the property for a new Senior Center. The county already owns a 0.86 acre sliver of property on the west side of the property; this would be an ideal place to have trailhead parking. UPDATE: As of fall of 2022 we are working with Mainspring and the NCDOT on a right-of-way or easement access along the border of these properties.
- The Bartram Trail eventually connects with the Appalachian Trail at Wayah Bald. Revitalizing the Trimont Ridge Trail would give AT hikers the opportunity to hike the Bartram Trail all the way into town for resupplies, etc. The Bartram Trail does indeed share about 1 mile with the Appalachian Trail from Wayah Bald to Winespring Gap.
Since this proposal, some goals and interests have changed the approach, but overall the plan is moving forward. While not walking along the highway is a huge benefit to hikers for their safety and general enjoyment of the hike, the secondary benefits to residents, businesses, and visitors are much more valuable.
Walking With Bartram
Check out this episode of Walking With Bartram to learn more about the current road-walk and future re-route.