Funding Goal Met for Bracken Preserve Expansion
We are pleased to share this press release from our partners at the City of Brevard. We are thrilled to announce that we now have all the funding we need for a 34-acre expansion of Bracken Preserve! The next step is to create 3-4 miles of trails, which will be more moderate than the existing trails, making this treasured nature preserve more welcoming to more people. Learn more.
We offer a huge thank you to the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority for getting us across the finish line. We are also deeply grateful to HomeTrust Bank for donating two lots that will greatly improve the corridor for a new trail connecting to the existing preserve. And thank you to everyone who donated to expand Bracken!
To help raise money to build the trails, take part in Brackenfest on Saturday, Sept. 23!
The City of Brevard’s Bracken Preserve trail network is about to grow by 34 acres thanks to a $49,999 grant from the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority (TCTDA) as well as the support of Conserving Carolina and individual donors. The new parcel—and two lots in Waterford Place that will be generously donated by HomeTrust Bank—will allow for the construction of three to four miles of new, beginner-friendly trails in the Preserve.
First opened to the public in July of 2012, the 395-acre Bracken Preserve sits west of downtown Brevard, adjacent to Pisgah National Forest. Its 8-mile multi-use trail system connects to Forest Service Road 475-C, providing access to the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education. In December 2022, Conserving Carolina, a nonprofit land trust, purchased an additional 34 acres for $320,000. The City pledged $70,000 toward purchasing the property from Conserving Carolina during the 2022-2023 financial year, and additional fundraising efforts by the City and Conserving Carolina yielded $220,000 in private donations, leaving $30,000 to finalize the transfer. On August 24, TCTDA’s board voted to award $49,999 to the City to officially acquire the land from Conserving Carolina and begin new trail development on the parcel.
Conserving Carolina and the City expect to complete the property transfer later this fall.
“Conserving Carolina is excited to take the next step with the City of Brevard to welcome more community members to hike and bike at the Bracken Mountain Preserve with the addition of this new property,” said Rebekah Robinson, Conserving Carolina’s Assistant Director for Programs. “We look forward to breaking ground on the new and improved trail system at Bracken.”
City Councilman Aaron Baker echoed Conserving Carolina’s enthusiasm for Bracken’s future. “As the City’s representative on the TCTDA Board, I am thrilled about continuing meaningful collaborations between both organizations in order to enact positive change. Utilizing occupancy tax dollars to increase conservation of land and improve recreational opportunities shows a willingness by both the City and the TDA to be forward-thinking and innovative. I can’t wait to ride and hike these new trails.”
In addition to the impressive trail network, visitors to Bracken are treated to an ecological paradise. Rare plants like lady’s slipper orchids line the trails, and quiet forest creeks winding their way through the ridge are occasionally punctuated by a modest cascade. But the steep, technical ascent from the parking lot at the end of Pinnacle Road creates a high barrier for entry, and the trail system comprises many intermediate and difficult routes. The Bracken expansion, though, will allow for the addition of more accessible hiking and mountain biking trails on the parcel. Crucially, Phase 1 of the new construction will also involve the re-routing of lower Bracken and the construction of an easier climbing trail, bypassing the notoriously steep entrance trail and expanding access to the preserve. The two Waterford lots donated by HomeTrust Bank will further facilitate the expansion in Phases 2 and 3 by widening the corridor between the new and existing portions of the Preserve.
“HomeTrust Bank is excited to be a part of the new trail enhancements and congratulates all those who have worked to make the Bracken Preserve the best it can be,” said Dana Stonestreet, Executive Chairman of HomeTrust Bank.
The new developments in Bracken mark a shared commitment to accessibility and expanded opportunities to explore Brevard’s natural spaces. “In the decade since it opened, Bracken Preserve has played a significant role in building Brevard’s reputation as an outdoor destination for visitors. And its proximity to downtown Brevard has made it a convenient amenity for the keen hikers and bikers that reside here as well,” explained Wilson Hooper, Brevard’s City Manager. “Now that its expansion is imminent, the City and our partners can begin working to make the preserve more accessible to users of all skill levels.”
With the necessary funding to close on the property in hand, Bracken supporters can now focus their attention on trail reconstruction and new trail development. Todd Branham of Long Cane Trails and Jared Hartman of Pisgah SORBA have developed the initial plans for the upcoming trail work, and money raised at this year’s Brackenfest, which will be held on September 23, will fund the first two phases of that trail development.
According to Howie Granat, a member of the City’s Parks, Trails, & Recreation Committee, Brackenfest serves as “a chance for our local mountain biking (and trail running) communities to give back to their favorite location by participating in a very challenging event to fundraise for these much-needed entry level trails.” “Our area,” Granat explained, “is well known for our more advanced trails—and the goal is to provide opportunities for youth, beginners, young families, and seniors to also enjoy the Bracken Preserve!”
Those wishing to learn more about Brackenfest 2.0 or register for the event can do so by visiting Conserving Carolina’s event page.