For over a decade, people in Western North Carolina have dreamed of transforming the unused Ecusta rail line into something new—a rail trail inviting people out into vibrant communities and beautiful countryside. Now that dream is within our reach! Will you help build the Ecusta Trail? 

The dream is to create a 19-mile greenway connecting Hendersonville and Brevard. Along the way, the trail will pass through Laurel Park, Etowah, Horseshoe, Penrose and Pisgah Forest. And it will link to other greenway and trail systems in Western North Carolina. 

This linear park will beckon people of all ages and abilities to get outside—on foot or by wheelchair, bike, stroller, or scooter. Kids will have places to play. People will get exercise in the fresh air. There will be new ways to get around—without driving. The trail will draw tourists and support local businesses.  

The Ecusta Trail will meander through fields and forests, beside streams, pastures, and country churches, and into thriving business districts—offering visitors the best of Western North Carolina.  

Our dream is to convert this abandoned rail line into a new cultural main street that connects communities, promotes health, enriches the economy, and improves quality of life for everyone. We envision the Ecusta Trail becoming the premier destination greenway in the Southeast!  

Will you make this dream real? 


We’ve Gotten This Far. Now We Need to Build the Trail.

Since 2009, Friends of the Ecusta Trail has advocated for this ambitious vision. In 2019, an opportunity arose to buy the land. Conserving Carolina and the Friends of the Ecusta Trail worked together to make it happen. On August 12, 2021, EcustaRails2Trails, LLC, a subsidiary of Conserving Carolina purchased the rail corridor for $7.7 million.  

Buying the land was a huge leap forward! Now we need to build the trail.  

Construction will cost tens of millions of dollars, and inflation has driven costs higher than expected. Fortunately, federal, state, and private grants are available to pay for about 80% of the costs. But to leverage these grants we need to raise a 20% local match. The exciting news is that we have already raised millions toward our goal! Your gift will help us to reach our goal and start building the trail. 

We’re asking you to make an investment in your community by supporting the Ecusta Trail. You will be leveraging grants that multiply your donation x5!  

Your donation is fully tax deductible. Donations may take the form of cash, securities, real estate, bequests and other planned gifts. Pledges can be made over 3-5 years. 

Ecusta rail line

Ecusta rail line. Photo by Real Digital Productions

Benefits of the Ecusta Trail

What will the Ecusta Trail mean in your life—new places to get outside, new customers for your business, new vitality for your community? 

One thing we know: the Ecusta Trail will pay for itself many times over in benefits for our local economy, tourism, health, transportation, connectivity, and environment! This is why so many local governments and organization have endorsed the trail. Here are just a few of the reasons to build this exciting new greenway: 

  • Every $1 invested in land conservation (including parkland) returns $4 in economic value. 
  • Nationwide, rail trails have resulted in 5-20% increases in adjacent residential property values. 
  • Every $1 spent on greenways returns $3 annually in health care savings. 
  • The trail will provide more opportunities to exercise, resulting in longer, healthier lives. On average, every one hour of exercise leads to two hours of additional life. 
  • Exercise in nature supports mental and emotional wellbeing. It relieves stress, reduces depression, eases social isolation, and enhances self-esteem. 
  • The trail will attract tourists who support local businesses and grow our local tax base. With additional tax revenue, we can further improve our communities.  
  • Shared outdoor spaces bring people from different walks of life together, creating stronger social cohesion. 
  • Greenways are networks for alternative transportation, so people can get around without driving. This means less air pollution, less traffic, and better health.  
  • Natural areas along greenways provide corridors for wildlife. They also protect waterways, resulting in cleaner water and less flooding.  


Map of the Ecusta Trail with Potential Trail and Greenway Connections

Ecusta Map with trail connections


Questions About the Ecusta Trail? 

You can learn more about the Ecusta Trail on the Friends of the Ecusta Trail website, including their FAQs.  

In October 2022, Henderson County released a storymap that shares preliminary design plans, with concepts for features such as bridges, road crossings, streams and wetlands, trail width, estimated costs. The storymap includes an interactive map of the trail in Henderson County.

If you have questions about how you can support the Ecusta Trail, please call Jenn Tutor, Conserving Carolina’s Development Director at 828-697-5777 x. 209 or email [email protected]. We’d be happy to discuss how you can help make this dream real.  

How You Can Make the Dream Real

Please make a generous gift to build this exciting new rail trail! Your tax-deductible donation goes through Conserving Carolina. Here are options for how to give: 

Make a pledgeYou can spread your gift over 3 to 5 years. Get a pledge form HERE. You can send us your pledge form either online or by mail.

  • To fill out the form electronically, simply download it, fill it out, save your changes, and then email it to Jenn Tutor at [email protected].
  • Or, you can print the form, fill it out by hand, and mail it to Conserving Carolina, 847 Case Street, Hendersonville, NC 28792.

Write a check: Make your check out to Conserving Carolina with “Ecusta Trail” in the memo line. Mail the check to Conserving Carolina at 847 Case St., Hendersonville, NC 28792. 

Give online: Go HERE to make your secure donation to the Ecusta Trail campaign.  

Give by phone: We can take credit card donations by phone during regular business hours. Just let us know that your gift is for the Ecusta Trail. Call Conserving Carolina at 828-697-5777 x. 200. 

Business sponsorship: Gain positive recognition in the community through your support of the Ecusta Trail. See sponsorship levels and benefits in THIS FLYER. If you have questions, please contact Jenn Tutor at 828-697-5777 x. 209 or [email protected].

Give stock: To make a gift of stock or other liquid securities, call Conserving Carolina’s Development Director, Jenn Tutor at 828-697-5777 x. 209 or email [email protected].

More ways to give: You can support this campaign through gifts of real estate or other personal property. You can also make a bequest or other planned estate gift to support the campaign. To discuss your gift call Jenn Tutor at 828-697-5777 x. 209 or email [email protected].

Thank you for your generous gift to the Ecusta Trail!   


Privacy Notice

This fundraising campaign is a partnership between Friends of the Ecusta Trail and Conserving Carolina. As such, gifts and donor information will be shared between both organizations for the term of the Making the Dream Real campaign only.  By making your gift to the Ecusta Trail campaign you are giving your permission for your information to be shared in this limited manner. 

Photo by Real Digital Productions.

Donor Recognition

Major gift donors of $5,000 or more will be permanently recognized at both trail heads in Henderson and Transylvania Counties 

Ecusta Trails Donor Levels Chart

Naming Opportunities 

Naming opportunities are available to honor those making donations of $5,000 or more. A list of naming opportunities will be made available before construction begins. 

You can select a naming opportunity to honor a loved one or to build a tradition of philanthropy in your own name. Example: Etowah Rain Shelter – a gift of John and Jane Doe. 

Dollar amounts for naming opportunities represent commemorative values, not actual design, construction, or installation costs. Donors are invited to combine gifts to reserve a naming opportunity.  

 As plans for the trail and facilities evolve, updated lists of naming opportunities will be issued. 

Thank you for making the dream real!