Brevard to open Bracken Mountain trails July 27th, 2012 at 2PM
Bracken Grand Opening Ceremony, 2:00 PM, July 27, 2012. All welcome! Park at the Brevard Music Center parking lot. Contact City Planning at 885-5630 for more info or to RSVP.
By Nathaniel H. Axtell
Published: Friday, July 13, 2012 at 7:32 p.m
Mountain bikers, trail runners and nature lovers will have new ground to explore when 7.1 miles of trails within Brevard’s Bracken Mountain Recreation Area open to the public July 27.
The 395-acre Bracken Mountain tract off Pinnacle Road, near Brevard Music Center, has been off limits to recreationalists for decades, originally to protect the city’s water supply but until recently because it was landlocked by private property and lacked trails.
After Mayor Pro Tem Mac Morrow snips the ribbon at 2 p.m., the city of Brevard officially will open a new playground for cyclists and hikers just minutes from town, with options ranging from short hops to longer forays into the adjacent Pisgah National Forest.
“It’s going to provide a great after-work run or ride,” said Julia Tellman, 23, one of roughly 30 bikers who had the chance to test out the new trail system last week as part of the city’s Volunteer Appreciation Day. “It’s so convenient. It’ll be so nice to have an 8- to 10-mile loop, right out your backdoor.”
More than 75 volunteers, including Schenck Job Corps students and local cycling club members, helped clear the way for city contractor Long Cane Trails to build two loops within the interior of the Bracken Mountain tract, along with a connector trail to Forest Service Road 475C.
That road leads to the Bobby Setzer State Fish Hatchery parking lot in Pisgah, which is a hub for many other mountain biking rides and hikes. This gives visitors to Bracken Mountain many distance options, City Planner Daniel Cobb said.
“If you go all the way to the fish hatchery, that’s probably 17 or 18 miles,” Cobb said.
But there is a shorter, 3- to 4-mile loop ride or hike within the city’s recreation area, as well as a 4- to 5-mile loop, he said. No matter what you choose, prepare for an initial grunt after leaving the trailhead.
“From the parking lot up to the tip-top, it’s 1,000 feet of elevation gain,” said Cobb, who added that the trail, though steep in places, is “wide enough for people to get off the bikes and walk, without blocking the rest of the trail.”
The thrilling descents from up on Bracken Mountain are worth the uphill effort, said Tellman, who has won more than a dozen first-place finishes in bike races across the Southeast (and who happens to work at family owned Bracken Mountain Bakery in downtown Brevard.)
“It’s a pretty tough climb out of the parking lot,” Tellman said. “It might discourage some people who are just setting out on an easy stroll. But once you get up a little in elevation, after that, it’s all good.”
As the larger loop trail switchbacks along the slopes of Bracken Mountain, it crosses several small creeks and seeps. The city has installed four wooden bridges to avoid damaging these wet, sensitive areas, Cobb said. Horses and motorized vehicles are not allowed within Bracken Mountain.
The city will add more trail miles within the recreation area this year, Cobb said, as well as build a camping shelter on a knoll halfway around the largest loop. “In the wintertime, you should get a pretty good view up there,” he said, adding that signs, paint-blazed trees and an informational kiosk at the parking lot will help guide visitors.
Bracken Mountain’s trails are “a good deal for taxpayers,” said City Planning Director Josh Freeman, because they were funded by the city selling its development rights to the property to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. The city has budgeted $400,000 for developing the recreation area, but so far the project hasn’t cost that much.
“We may use (the remainder) for maintenance on the property or roll it back into the general fund,” Freeman said.
Brevard purchased the Bracken Mountain tract between 1910 and 1915, using it as a water supply until 1979, when it began drawing from Cathey’s Creek. City fathers briefly considered developing or selling the land in the late 1980s, but decided in 2004 to preserve it with low-impact recreation in mind.
Work to develop the area for recreation began in 2007, when the city began negotiating with local landowners to secure a public right-of-way into Bracken Mountain, which was landlocked. Pinnacle Road landowner Josephine Ranzulli granted the city a 50-foot right-of-way across her land.
Eventually, sidewalks and/or bike paths will link Bracken Mountain’s trails with the city’s popular biking and hiking path, which runs about 5 miles from the Davidson River area in Pisgah Forest to McLean Road in town. The city’s five-year capital plan calls for improvements along Probart Street in 2014 or 2015 that would help close the gap between McLean and Bracken Mountain.
“We could do a bike path along one side of the road or maybe a bike lane like you see in Asheville these days,” Freeman said. “The real answer will come when we see how much room we have to work with. The right-of-way is very narrow, so we can’t say precisely what you’ll see.”
The city is asking those interested in attending the grand opening on July 27 to RSVP by emailing Cobb atDaniel.firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 885-5630.