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Cotton Gin Park project gets major funding boost

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Colfax Cotton Gin Park - Bird's Eye Perspective. Photo Contributed.

The Cotton Gin Park project in the Town of Ellenboro received major funding from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) recently. The $450,000 PARTF grant and the possibility of a few more grants coming to Ellenboro, the $1.5 million project is well on its way to becoming reality in the future.

Mayor Liz Blanton expressed her delight in receiving the PARTF grant saying she was over the moon about the state grant money.

"I'm just thrilled about this, because we don't have anything down here on this end of the county for citizens and Rutherford County," she said during a recent telephone interview.

Mayor Blanton said because of the grant funding and other potential money, the project will be under construction sooner than first expected.

The Town of Ellenboro has committed $100,000 and Rutherford County's TDA has committed $100,000 for the town's Rutherford Bound project.

The Cotton Gin Park will be established on the property of the Colfax Cotton Gin on Main Street that was acquired by the Town of Ellenboro in 2020 to be developed as a public park, gathering space, a pavilion, stage, playground, walking path, public art and educational signage.

The Town's Beautification Committee and The Town of Ellenboro are committed to the Cotton Gin Park project in partnership with the Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) and to raise funds for engineering and construction.

The Cotton Gin proposal is one of TDA's Rutherford Bound projects, a collaborative effort between the TDA and the county's towns and municipalities. Through this initiative, the community stakeholders are working together to create a vision for the future of Rutherford County, and make it an even better place to live, work, and play.

"The Ellenboro Cotton Gin Park has been an exciting project for the Town of Ellenboro and the TDA to collaborate together on", said TDA Executive Director Don Cason. "The Mayor and the Ellenboro Steering Committee has been very visionary and passionate about moving this project forward," Cason said.

"The TDA appreciates Destination by Design and work on the design and the effort to land the PARTF Grant. The TDA is confident that with the community vision and additional grants and community giving this project will be a reality soon," Cason said.

The Cotton Gin Park is an effort by the town of Ellenboro to preserve its rich textile history after acquiring the cotton gin property.

The history of the area is steeped in culture and history, based on agricultural and the Industrial Revolution. According to history, in 1880 the Seaboard Air Line Railway built a line from Wilmington to Rutherfordton and along the way established several new towns including Ellenboro, named after the daughter of a train engineer with Seaboard.

The cotton gin, built in 1928 operated for 80 years and it is possible that the restoration of the actual cotton gin could be a part of the project. According to Ron Hancoc, with Destination by Design, preserving the actual gin structure would require a significant level of additional funding.

Rutherford Bound has already partnered with Rutherfordton, Spindale, Lake Lure, Forest City and Chimney Rock Village on several projects across the county, as well as interlocal projects. (Visit RutherfordBound.com for a list of the projects).

According to Rutherford Bound, visionaries from each community in Rutherford County come together to envision and execute projects that will enrich the lives of the people who live here.

The projects of Rutherford Bound- vibrant streetscapes, city parks, and greenways- are paid for in part by occupancy tax collected on all overnight stays by visitors to Rutherford County. This 'bed tax' on short-term lodging, such as hotels, B&Bs, campgrounds and vacation home rentals is funneled back into local towns and municipalities.

State law requires that two-thirds of these funds are used for program administration and marketing, to encourage more visitors to come experience Rutherford County. The remaining one-third of tax revenue is spent on capital projects, recreational infrastructure, and other improvements that enhance life for residents and draw visitors to the region.

In addition to occupancy tax revenue, townships and municipalities in Rutherford County contribute portions of their budget to Rutherford Bound Projects. Grant money, capital campaigns, and private donors have also provided significant contributions.

The Ellenboro PARTF grant was one of 19 that was announced by N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper recently. A total $8.5 million will fund parks and recreation projects across the North Carolina.

Regarding the Rutherford Bound Program

"Rutherford Bound is a county wide Tourism Asset Development Plan. It is absolutely amazing to see all the communities in Rutherford County come together to build a better place to live work and play. Everyone of the Tourism Assets being developed is providing our citizens with a better quality of life. The collaboration and everyone working together is second to none in rural North Carolina. Rutherford Bound is getting attention across the state, thanks to the vision of Rutherford County. Rutherford Bound, we are Bound Together, Building Tomorrow" says Cason.

Donations to the Ellenboro Cotton Gin Park and any other projects across Rutherford County are appreciated. Visit RutherfordBound.com to receive more information on donations.

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