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More trails coming to Old Fort with the help of state funding

25-30 miles of trails will be added to the Pisgah National Forest with a $2.5 million allocation in the NC state budget.

A group of bikers gathered on a trail.

The expansion of trails aims to bring more accessible outdoor recreation + economic development.

Photo by Darrell Cassell

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The G5 Trail Collective, an Old Fort-based nonprofit under the umbrella of nonprofit camp and recreation hub Camp Grier, received $2.5 million from the state to build 25-30 miles of trails over the next two years. The allocation was outlined in the state budget that became law earlier this week.

G5 partners with the US Forest Service (USFS), trail-user groups, and the local community to create more accessible pathways, extending trails through the Pisgah National Forest.

In late 2021, the Grandfather Ranger District approved the Old Fort Trails Project, which created plans to build 42 miles of new trails from Catawba Falls to Curtis Creek. Ten miles of trail are currently open, with opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

The new state funding will bring the project close to completion within the next two years. “Right now, what we’re doing is we’re looking at those remaining trails to be built. There’s about 16 trails left that were approved back in 2021 that haven’t been built yet,” shares Lisa Jennings of the USFS. G5 and its partners hope to add a dozen new trails with this funding, taking community needs and connections into account to decide which trails will take priority.

But the mission at hand involves far more than creating trails — their work aims to use the growing outdoor economy in Old Fort to create equitable community development. As a result of the investments in trails, two new developments are on track to serve the town. Camp Grier’s Grier Village will add about 75,000 sqft of lodging, student housing, and classroom spaces on 150 acres. Plus, Eagle Market Streets Development Corporation’s Innovation Hub will expand into a commercial facility, adding a state-of-the-art film studio, commissary kitchen, and meeting space.

How you can help

Jason McDougald, executive director of Camp Grier, shared that G5 Trail Collective will likely have to double or triple its volunteer base in the next two years to help with trail work. Find opportunities to get involved, like during the Fall Trail Work Weekend on Friday, Nov. 17 through Sunday, Nov. 19.

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