Western Carolina University has won a $5,000 grant from a bicycle parts manufacturer to support construction of a multi-use, community trail system on campus.
The grant is from Specialized Bicycle Components based in Morgan Hill, Calif., through a program in which the company awards grants to advocacy initiatives supported by Specialized dealers. Project support from Motion Makers Bicycle Shop, which has stores in Sylva and Asheville, made the grant possible for WCU trail development.
“The grant from Specialized is significant because it will not only go toward the construction costs for the trail system, but also provide seed money to help us qualify for other grants,” said Josh Whitmore, director of outdoor programs at WCU.
The first phase of the project is construction of a 5-mile loop trail to be built near and connect to WCU’s nearly completed Health and Human Sciences Building and will cost $80,000 to construct.
Kent Cranford, owner of Motion Makers Bicycle Shop, said it meant a lot to him as a Specialized dealer as well as Jackson County business owner and trail enthusiast, to be able to connect Specialized’s advocacy grants with the trail project.
“This trail – and any new trails in Jackson County – will increase accessibility to trails right here in our community and attract walkers, hikers, mountain bikers and other trail uses,” said Cranford, who said he also expected increased use of local resources such as this trail and the proposed greenway trail along the Tuckaseigee River to have economic benefits too.
Whitmore cited the recent formation of the Nantahala Area chapter of the Southern Off- Road Bicycle Association, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting land access, trail preservation and new trail development, as important for helping win financial support. The new chapter is focused on enhancing trails in far Western North Carolina, including the WCU area.
“Constructing the trail will require a joint effort of professional trail builders and volunteers, and formation of the Nantahala Area SORBA chapter helped show we have a ready and willing volunteer force in our community to help,” said Whitmore. “I encourage anyone who is interested in supporting this project to join the Nantahala Area SORBA chapter and join us for trail work days at WCU in the future.”
The master plan for the WCU community multi-use trial project was funded with a $14,440 grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. As part of the initiative, the trail system ultimately would link to the planned Jackson County Greenway along the Tuckaseigee River.
Specialized was founded in 1974. The company, based in Morgan Hill, Calif., has grown into one of the world’s most successful bicycle companies, with market-leading performance bicycles, accessories and an ever-expanding domestic and international dealer base.
“As thanks for this success, Specialized feels it is important to give back to its community and industry though its involvement in local advocacy efforts through First Gear and the Specialized Dealer Grant Program, and through working with organizations such as the International Mountain Bicycling Association, Bikes Belong and the National Interscholastic Cycling Association,” said Mallory Burda, who works with USA Dealer Grants at Specialized.