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Thermal Belt Rail Trail Partners are moving forward with implementation of the RHI Legacy Foundation Grant

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Relive the railroading past and get ready for a monumental experience that will unite towns and communities together, shaping and altering the way residents of Rutherford County, and those who visit, travel, connect and enjoy the great outdoors. Named after the area's isothermal effect, the Thermal Belt Rail Trail is a scenic thoroughfare lined with trees and stunning views of the foothills winding through historical sites and main street stopping points of interest. Serious athletes can choose to use the greenway as a training platform for marathon and other race event prepping. Others can enjoy the experience and easy access it will provide to downtowns, restaurants and shopping in the small towns the rail trail passes.

In efforts to grow the community stronger and together, an Interlocal Agreement, formed between the four individual towns of Rutherfordton, Ruth, Spindale and Forest City, as well as Rutherford County, all located within the Thermal Belt Rail Trail corridor, has been signed to manage the rail trail development and maintenance of the trail after construction. Serving as the backbone of the county, the 13.58 mile, and 12 feet wide, paved greenway will cross four Main Streets, a section of the Overmountain Victory Trail, and the Bechtler Mint Site Historic Park.

Along the pathway visitors will find greenspace, exercise stations, playgrounds, and several trailheads providing a solution to the challenges we face to improve Rutherford County's health and prosperity.

In July, RHI Legacy Foundation, Inc. awarded a $4.25 million grant to fund the final engineering, planning, construction and branding development for the rail trail. The goal behind the development of the Thermal Belt Rail Trail project is to bring communities together for the purpose of promoting an active lifestyle in adults and youth, plus support economic development for the county. This creation directly supports the mission set forth by the RHI Legacy Foundation meeting their strong beliefs in funding projects aligned with their three health focus areas of chronic disease, healthy eating and active living.

Representing the grant, The Town of Forest City has moved forward awarding contracts with Odom Engineering of Forest City and McGill Associates of Asheville to provide professional services overseeing the Thermal Belt Rail Trail project plans and implementation of the trails construction. Odom and McGill have since subcontracted with Artifacturing of Rutherfordton for branding and environmental signage design services for the Thermal Belt Rail Trail.

A subcommittee has been formed to spearhead the marketing and branding of the Thermal Belt Rail Trail. This collaboration is comprised of key leaders within the rail trail corridor who strongly believe in the power of bringing communities together. With their passionate leadership, the trail will develop an exciting bond not only for the small towns it connects but for the residents it serves. The collaborating organizations that make up the marketing and branding subcommittee represent the Town of Rutherfordton, the Town of Forest City, Rutherford County Tourism Development Authority, Rutherford County and the Rutherford Outdoor Coalition.

"The Town of Forest City, along with our neighboring communities, are thrilled to be a part of this exciting development", Amy Bridges, Downtown Development Manager for the Town of Forest City stated. "The Thermal Belt Rail Trail will not only be a connecting link in the county, but will provide vital greenspace and improve the quality of life throughout Rutherford County".

Parts of the trail are asphalt paved providing the perfect surface for walking, hiking, and biking, while former railroad tracks often peek out from beyond the other sections that are comprised of crushed stone. However, the gravel, tracks and cross ties will soon disappear as anticipated demolition for removal and preparations for paved surfaces will begin early in the new year. The pathway of the Thermal Belt Rail Trail will be an active construction zone during the first eight to nine months of 2018 with a proposed completion date in the fall.

Watch for updates on Facebook or Instagram @TBRT. For media inquiries, please contact Jenna Bailey at 713-824-9173 or jenna@artifacturing.com.

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