A ribbon cutting this month marked the opening of the Oxbow Foot Bridge in Hillsborough, extending the Mountains-to-Sea Trail of North Carolina.
The 95-foot bridge crosses to the Eno and connects Hillsborough’s Riverwalk to the west with the Historic Occoneechee Speedway Trail to the east. You can get to the footbridge from Elizabeth Brady Road or South Cameron Street in Hillsborough.
The $260,000 project was a collaboration among the state, town, Crescent Communities, Vietri, Kim Walsh Memorial, and hundreds of local individuals.
“This was a big deal for Hillsborough,” said Mayor Tom Stevens. “This connects neighborhoods in the east and around the Sportsplex to the downtown historic district.”
“I was walking with my wife on the Riverwalk and we met a couple who had just moved into Forest Hills recently and they were walking a library book back to the library,” Stevens added. “We (the town) have been intentionally working on the connectivity of Hillsborough.”
The Mountain-to-Sea trail is an 1,150-mile trail from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks, 700 miles of which are already developed walking trails, said Kate Dixon, executive director of the Friends of the MTS.
Work on the trail started in 1977, when former Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee, then Secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural Resources and Community Development, proposed a trail from the North Carolina nountains to the Outer Banks.
“In the last eight years alone, 200 miles of trail have been added to the project,” Dixon said.
“The town alone could not have paid for this bridge, but it is great for Hillsborough, and so many grants and individual donations made it possible,” said Town Commissioner Evelyn Lloyd.
Ayr Mount Site Manager Bill Crowther sees great potential in the trail’s impact on Hillsborough.
“The MTS Trail is nearly 1,200 miles long and Hillsborough may end up being the halfway mark,” he said. “This would make Hillsborough a destination in North Carolina and mean that we would need a campground with showers and amenities.”
Stevens sees the same potential.
“We are one of the only towns the trail actually goes right through,” he said. “So they could enjoy the trail and our historic downtown area.”
In other business
At Monday’s Town Board meeting:
▪ The board received a letter of interest from residents of Faucette Mill Road. The residents requesting annexation currently receive water service from the town but not sewer service. Extending sewer service would likely require a pump station, since gravity sewer service appears impossible. The board directed staff to evaluate costs to extended sewer service and research funding mechanisms.
▪ The board received an update from Police Chief Duane Hampton on the Police Department’s use of force, training, body and dash cameras, diversity efforts and other initiatives. The department already does data analysis but is exploring options to increase the amount of analysis done.
▪ Representatives of the Orange County Food Council discussed how the council’s efforts aligned with the town’s priorities. The board approved $1,000 in support for the council.