For those students who have yet to find that one perfect running route or those who avoid the spider web overhangs and debris lining the railroad tracks when walking to downtown Belmont, help is on the way! This summer, Governor Pat McCrory signed official approval for the “Belmont Rail Trail,” yet another step for the long-awaited running and biking trail that will make its start at Belmont Abbey College.

belmont rail trail2 Belmont Rail Trail Coming Soon

Photo courtesy of Anthony Wyatt

For those students who have yet to find that one perfect running route or those who avoid the spider web overhangs and debris lining the railroad tracks when walking to downtown Belmont, help is on the way! This summer, Governor Pat McCrory signed official approval for the “Belmont Rail Trail,” yet another step for the long-awaited running and biking trail that will make its start at Belmont Abbey College.

The trail, a ten-foot-wide greenway that will run alongside the unused railroad track that spans from North Belmont to Belmont Abbey College, will allow students a safe and scenic route to their favorite downtown shops and restaurants, another way to get to classes at the Sacred Heart campus, or simply a fresh route for early morning runs. It is still currently unknown when the trail will be completed, but significant progress is currently being made. The trail will likely be completed within two years.

The “Rail Trail” project has been in the planning stages since 2011, but has recently experienced delays. According to Adrian Miller, the Belmont Assistant City Manager for Community Services, “[The trail] has been pushed back a bit due to an unexpected need to ask for special state legislation for the project by the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA). The NCGA approved a bill to allow us to build the greenway in the NCDOT railroad easement as long as we received approval form the owners of the property on which the railroad easement exists.” With special assistance from Gaston representatives Senator Kathy Harrington and Representative John Torbett, the bill was approved unanimously in the NCGA before receiving final approval from Governor McCrory in June. The project now lies within the hands of Belmont residents. Local property owners who would be affected by the trail will be consulted by the city council at a public meeting (the date of which has yet to be determined, but will likely be within the year).

The Belmont Rail Trail will become a new piece of the “Carolina Thread Trail,” a landmark project devoted to establishing and protecting North Carolina’s natural areas in the hopes of explorative, scientific, cultural and historical progress. As such, special funding from the Thread Trail will be gifted to the Rail Trail to help cover the costs associated with planning and land development. With funding, state approval and likely support from Belmont residents, the Belmont Rail Trail finally shows signs of coming to fruition despite years of setbacks.

By: Kevin Miller for The Crusader Online, Student newspaper of Belmont Abbey College

September 20, 2013