Green Roundup: Landowners along Ecusta Trail win $5M claim against federal government

Ecusta rail line
NO DELAYS: A $5 million settlement for landowners along the 19-mile Ecusta Trail will not impact the construction schedule for the greenway between Hendersonville and Brevard. Photo by Real Digital Productions, courtesy of Conserving Carolina

After several years of litigation, a recent court ruling has required the federal government to pay over $5 million to 164 landowners along the proposed 19.4-mile Ecusta Trail. Compensation to individual property owners ranges from $223 to $191,061.

The multiuse greenway, scheduled to be completed in 2028, will run along an unused railway corridor connecting Hendersonville and Brevard. The plaintiffs, residents of both Henderson and Transylvania counties, asserted sections of the recreational biking and hiking trail crossed onto their properties.

According to a press release from the law firm Lewis Rice, the federal Surface Transportation Board issued a notice of interim trail use on June 28, 2021, allowing for the conversion of the railroad corridor formerly owned by Blue Ridge Southern Railroad into the Ecusta Trail.

“This federal law gives railroads the ability to … preempt the owner’s state law property rights, and allow the railroad to sell this easement … for a different use, for trail purposes,” says Lindsay Brinton, an attorney for the suit from Lewis Rice’s Federal Takings & Rails to Trails Practice Group in St. Louis, Mo., according to the release.

“The real issue in this case came down to damages,” Brinton continues. “The government tried to argue that they were not required to compensate these owners for any damages. We were … able to get these owners compensated when otherwise the federal government did not want to pay these owners anything.”

On May 31, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., awarded compensation to the landowners, which includes interest from when their property was taken to the date of payment.

Despite the win, Brinton says dissatisfaction over the process remains.

“For these [landowners], it’s definitely disappointing and frustrating for them because not only do they not want a public trail in their backyard, but any privacy or solace they had with foliage being there has now been removed,” Brinton says.

“We are happy to see that the system worked as the federal law was structured to do,” says Mark Tooley, president of Friends of the Ecusta Trail, a nonprofit formed to advance the development of the greenway. Tooley says the settlement will not impact the construction schedule for the trail.

“Several landowners involved in the settlement have indicated that they will donate the compensation they received to support construction of the trail,” Tooley says.

Save the date

  • Author and wine expert Chuck Blethen’s “How I Tamed the Wild Muscadines of Madison County, NC” covers the discovery, propagation, and commercialization of Madison County’s wild muscadines. The book details how to grow North Carolina’s cold-hardy native grapes. It’s $23.99 plus shipping from Amazon. More information at
  • Asheville Humane Society will have over 20 pigs available for adoption at its Pigapalooza event. The gathering runs Friday, June 28, and Saturday, June 29, noon – 6 p.m. at the Buncombe County Farm in Swannanoa. All adoption fees will be waived in the hopes of finding forever homes for these animals. Many of the pigs have been surrendered after their owners could no longer care for them. Most are potbelly mixes and can grow to weigh as much as 250 pounds. All male pigs have been neutered. These pigs are not intended for human consumption. More information at
  • The Leicester Library Giving Garden will host its next garden work day on Saturday, June 29, 9 a.m.-noon. All food grown in the community space is provided to residents for free. The event is open to all regardless of experience. More information at
  • Bee City USA Asheville’s booth at the North Asheville Tailgate Market on Saturday, June 29, will show how pollinators make our food possible. A scavenger hunt will challenge kids to see how many pollinator-dependent foods they can spot at the market. More information at
  • Asheville Botanical Gardens will host All About Butterflies and Moths on Monday, July 8, from 6-7:30 p.m. The class, led by Sharon Mammoser, explores the major butterfly and moth groups, including their relationships with plants and their roles in pollination. Mammoser is an educator who shares her knowledge through the blog Nature For My More information at
  • Kids ages 3 and over can meet a variety of live wild animal guests with host Carlton Burke, a  WNC naturalist, environmental educator and wildlife rehabilitator. The event is Friday, July 19, with shows at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at West Asheville Library. More information at
  • Pangaea Plants in Lake Lure, the largest certified biodynamic and medicinal herb farm in the Southeast, is accepting applications for a comprehensive herb farmer training course taught by industry experts. Students learn medicinal herb farming and production-size herb growing and processing and receive food safety training certifications. The six-week fall course runs from Monday, Sept. 9 – Tuesday, Oct. 15. More information at
  • The town of Woodfin announced a contract has been signed for the construction of Taylor’s Wave project. Part of the Woodfin Greenway Blueway’s system of parks, greenways and waterways, the wave is for whitewater kayakers and canoeists. Taylor’s Wave will be created when the French Broad River’s current interacts with a fixed-location, in-stream, granite ledge. The town’s Riverside Park also will be doubled in size as part of the project. The wave is expected to be completed by fall. More information at




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About Patrick Moran
As Mountain Xpress' City Reporter, I'm fascinated with how Asheville and its people work. Previously, I spent 25 years in Charlotte, working for local papers Creative Loafing Charlotte and Queen City Nerve. In that time I won three North Carolina Press Association Awards and an Emmy. Prior to that, I wrote and produced independent feature films in Orlando, Florida. Follow me @patmoran77

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2 thoughts on “Green Roundup: Landowners along Ecusta Trail win $5M claim against federal government

  1. T100

    I thought railroads owned their right of ways. Is the argument that they gave the right of way to the trail organization? If the RoW was purchased from the then owners 125+ years ago, I can’t see why it needs to be purchased AGAIN from the current land owners?

  2. T100

    I don’t grasp why the govt is required to pay? Seems like it should be the Ecusta trail group or nobody.

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