The Cherokee Indian word for rippling waters is Ecusta which has been adopted for a rail-to-trail initiative that will ultimately connect downtown Hendersonville to Brevard. When completed, the 19.4-mile stretch will allow for pedestrians and bikers to enjoy a mostly flat recreational area with little overlap to automobile traffic. The Ecusta Trail will connect to other existing trail systems including the Brevard Bike Path and the Oklawaha Trail in Hendersonville and ultimately to the regionally proposed Hellbender Trail.
Abandoned since 2022 when the Ecusta Mill closed after operating in Pisgah Forest since 1939, the non-profit Conserving Carolinas group holds legal title to the 19-mile trail and granted a 150 year lease for the 11-mile section in Henderson County. The City of Brevard is working with Conserving Carolina on the 8-mile stretch in Transylvania County. Current estimates put the construction costs at just over $31 million which is being funded by public and private funds, including roughly $7 million from the NCDOT construction of the first three phases. The expected annual revenue from tourism and auxiliaries is $9.4 million.
Similar projects, like the Swamp Rabbit Trail in South Carolina, have spurred development in cities and towns along the trail and generally increased property values as more people want to live closely for easy access to the trail. Developers have already proposed a commercial complex in Lennox Station, near downtown Hendersonville, that would cater to users of the Ecusta Trail. A food market and microbrewery have already expressed interest as tenants.
Projects like these take time to acquire the land and right-of-ways, extensively plan, and then construct the trail. Henderson County has taken the lead with construction on the first 5.7-mile section from downtown to Horse Shoe expected to start in the Spring of 2023. If all goes to plan, the first section of the Ecusta Trail should be open to the public in the Fall of 2023. Follow along with the progress at https://www.ecustatrail.org/ and https://bit.ly/ecustahendo