Enthusiasts enjoy the trail during the opening of the Augusta Greenway on June 1, 1996. Photo: Steve Emmett-Mattox)
Regional rail-trails promote tourism, particularly the low-impact, environmentally-friendly type known as eco-tourism. Off-road hiking, bicycling, and saddle touring are growth industries that are limited only by the available open space. Corridor trails satisfy the urge to get out and roam while engaging in healthful recreation. Cross-country trails provide opportunities for food service, lodging, equipment rental and other services even in relatively remote towns and villages. Established trails are now generating millions of dollars in economic activity.
It is understood that the Army purchased the Overhills tract because more space was needed for training, so the economic impact of an Overhills Rail-Trail on the community is a secondary consideration. However, the Armyís leadership in promoting a Rail-Trail on its property would be of inestimable value in promoting the growth of trails and greenways in the area. There is a national plan for an East Coast Greenway running from Key West to Maine which will include the American Tobacco Trail currently under development by the Triangle Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in the Durham area. Another proposed leg of the Greenway would run between Wilmington and Fayetteville, presumably following the right-of-way of the CF&YVís southeast Cape Fear Division. Fayetteville has the potential to be a hub for a North Carolina system of trails. The CF&YVís Bennettsville and Cape Fear (Wilmington) divisions could one day be reclaimed and rehabilitated as part of North Carolinaís contribution to the national Rail-Trails movement.
It is assumed that no commercial development would be sanctioned on the Armyís land along the trail. But the trail could become a its own tourist attraction, as they have in cities and towns as diverse as Dallas, TX, and Connellsville, PA. Private businesses located close to the trail would benefit in providing such services as food and possibly lodging to trail users. Local bicycle shops would benefit through sales and rentals. A trail-outfitter store could be located in the Manchester area at the intersection of Vass Road and NC Hwy 87. With support from private landowners in Harnett County, the trail could be extended in stages to where it intersects with NC 87 at Spout Springs, and a long-range goal could be running it all the way to Sanford.
An Overhills Rail-Trail would complement and enhance the existing tourism resources in Fayetteville, Fort Bragg, and the surrounding area.
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