Rutherford County leaders break ground on Thermal Belt Rail Trail

Photo: WLOS staff

A crowd gathered in Spindale on Friday for the groundbreaking ceremony for the Thermal Belt Rail Trail in Rutherford County.

The trail will be over 13.5 miles long and will connect multiple communities throughout the county.

A portion of the trail runs through Forest City and will eventually become a paved pathway leading to a new amphitheater and splash park.

During the groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning, leaders and community members celebrated this step in advancing the health and economic vitality of the county.

Once complete, the trail will connect five towns in Rutherford County.

"All these little small town main streets and being able to connect them and grab lunch, or ice cream, or a beer, or whatever you want to do in each little town along the way is going to be really unique," Jerry Stensland, the president of Rutherford Outdoor Coalition, said.

It will be used for walking, running and biking, and include playgrounds and trailheads to provide access to other points of interest.

County leaders say it will follow in the footsteps of the railroading past.

"We have thought in advance of how we can recognize the railroad that played a very important part of our community, and you'll see that evident on the trail," Rutherfordton Mayor Jimmy Dancy said.

County leaders say the rails have now been removed and the trail is being prepped for paving work to begin on Tuesday.

The project is estimated to cost a little more than $4 million but is being funded mainly by the local RHL Legacy Foundation. The county's government also was awarded a $30,000 federal grant for the project this week.

County leaders say the trail is expected to open fully in the fall. Some portions of the path may open sooner as construction is carried out.

County leaders urge the public to use caution during construction.

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