For Debi Whitmire, owner of Headwaters Outfitters, the vision of the French Broad River paddle trail is an exciting opportunity that is becoming one step closer to reality thanks to a grant from REI to the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA). Whitmire has been operating Headwaters Outfitters for 19 years and “would love to be able to offer overnight trips that would connect the Headwaters of the French Broad River with campsites through Transylvania and Henderson Counties to Asheville. This would be another great way to enjoy the scenic upper section of the French Broad River.”
Thanks to this grant WNCA and REI will partner to together on a service project to construct the next French Broad River campsite on October 21. Employees from REI and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, as well as local volunteers, will be put to work during a service day to build the third of seven additional campsites that will connect over 120 miles of the French Broad River from Rosman, NC into Tennessee. The first new campsite as part of the paddle trail was built in May in Etowah, NC, with the help of Americorps Volunteers, the second in August with volunteers from REI, and this next addition to the paddle trail near Brevard, will bring the trail one step closer to linking the entire river.
The campsite construction will involve building rock steps to access the river, clearing brush, treating invasive species, replanting native plants, and building a picnic table. This site will eventually become part of the larger paddle trail that is being constructed and maintained by the Western North Carolina Alliance. The initial phase of the paddle trail involves building seven additional campsites that will connect over 120 miles of the French Broad River from Rosman, NC into Tennessee. A reservation system will be established, and volunteers will help maintain the series of campsites that will connect existing access points and campsites along the river. Currently, paddling for more than two days along the river is difficult, because the river is dominated by private land and public camping is very rare. The paddle trail, when complete, will be a combination of public and private land, strategically located between the few existing public campsites.
“These campsites offer an opportunity to get people on the river and increase the appreciation and stewardship of the river, but they also provide a significant economic boost to the region. Recent studies have shown paddle trails in eastern North Carolina had an economic impact of more than $100 million,” explains French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson.
When: Friday October 21 from 10am-4pm
Where: Private farm near Brevard
Who: Western North Carolina Alliance, REI, Department of Environment and Natural Resources
WNCA is a 29-year-old grassroots organization that empowers citizens to be advocates for livable communities and the natural environment of Western North Carolina. Visit www.wnca.org to learn more.