Starting in January 2022, the Old Fort Trails Project will start building 42 miles of new and diverse trail in the Pisgah National Forest. The US Forest Service has approved the plan, funding for the first six miles has been completed, and the first trails are slated to open in late Summer 2022.
A press release for the project says that the new trails are intended to be accessible and sustainable and made for riders of all abilities. The plan originated from the G5 Trail Collective, a local trail maintenance and advocacy group that partners with the USFS. The project picked up steam in 2019 when Old Fort community members embraced the idea of making the outdoors more accessible. They held community meetings to gather feedback and worked with the USFS to identify and lower barriers to national forest access. Lisa Jennings, the recreation project manager for the Grandfather Ranger District in the Pisgah National Forest said the trails master plan has been through 20 different iterations and has been altered and improved with community feedback.
Initial funding was provided by the Dogwood Health Trust, People on the Move for Old Fort, IMBA, and Kitsbow, bringing almost three-quarters of a million dollars to the table. This will go toward the first six miles of trail, a parking lot, project management, signage, and outreach. Four out of six miles will be for beginners, and two miles will be rated as intermediate.
The Old Fort Trails Project intends to improve connectivity and access for community members in the Old Fort area, as existing area trails like Kitsuma can be challenging to access, and many of them are segmented. The new master plan, shown above, will bring access closer to the town of Old Fort and improve routing options throughout the forest.
New parking lots are also a major part of the plan and improve accessibility and sustainability. With the boom in visitors to the Brevard and Asheville area, new parking lots need to be greater in size to keep the trails accessible and keep roads from eroding due to cars parking outside of lots.
Old Fort has historically been known as an industrial area, and community members are hopeful that these new trails, which will take a total of 5-10 years to complete, will be a boon to the community in more ways than one.
For more information and to stay up to date on the project, see the G5 Trail Collective website. The first six miles of trail are projected to open in August of 2022.