Discussions continue between Richfield, Falcon Thread Trail member

The responsibility for maintaining the portion of the Carolina Thread Trail in Richfield was discussed at length at Monday’s meeting of the town’s council.

Former Misenheimer mayor Mike Riemann, a member of the Friends of the Thread Trail, answered questions from the board regarding the stretch of the trail going through the town.

The board had a resolution before it to approve the route, which would have approved the Tom Webb section of the Falcon Club Trail in Richfield.

However, the board moved to table the resolution to next month’s meeting in order to get more information and copies of the original grant requests.

Mayor Terry Deese said previous resolutions for the section have been retracted because of questions about the $100,000 in grant money for it.

Reimann said the council should have approved the resolution because the three municipalities involved in the trail, including New London and Misenheimer, received a grant for planning. A second grant, he added, was to pay for lawyers and engineers on the project, along with any needed easements.

Reimann said the Falcon Thread Trail group has already spent $14,000 to get hawk lighting for the trail section crossing N.C. Highway 49. Hawk lighting is a type of pedestrian crosswalk which Reimann said the Department of Transportation would eventually take over.

Reimann said the mayors of the three municipalities at the time worked together to develop the various grants.

Councilman Barry Byrd said he did not know Richfield had applied for the Webb grant for the town. He asked if Reimann had talked to Town Administrator Carolyn Capps or Deese about an application. He has not. Reimann said the $100,000 grant request was “part of the original, the other grants.”

Reimann said moving forward it would be hard to stop the trail, adding the other municipalities are aware of the grants.

“I think everybody’s aware … there’s no intent to hide it,” Reimann said, adding he signed the application after asking Capps who she wanted to sign it. “It wasn’t an attempt to bypass anyone.”

Byrd said he has asked repeatedly who would maintain the trail. He said the answer he has received repeatedly was Friends of the Thread Trail, which Riemann confirmed.

Referring to Section 8B of the Thread Trail Agreement, Byrd read out the wording which shows the town could potentially be responsible for repaying the grant. The section reads:

  • The Grant Recipient and project partners are responsible for maintaining the project supported by the Carolina Thread Trail Implementation Grant. Should, at a future date, the trail become permanently unavailable for public access due to the project not being properly maintained, the Grant Recipient is required to return the full awarded amount of the Carolina Thread Trail Implementation Grant to the Grantor within 60 days of its closure to the public.

Byrd asked Reimann if this meant the town had to maintain the trail, which Riemann said “we are looking for new members for the Friends (of the Trail).” Byrd said he needed a yes or no answer, which Reimann said was yes.

“They put that in as a backup,” Reimann said, adding it would be cheaper for the town to maintain the trail.

Byrd again responded: “That was not in the agreement with the town of Richfield to maintain the trail.”

Reimann said it is a “natural trail,” and “people who hike natural trails expect it to be rough. You’ll probably never have to touch it.”

Councilman Kevin Almond asked Reimann who works on the trail, stating he personally never saw anyone but Reimann and his wife working on the trail. Reimann said the Friends of the Trail have 30 to 40 members, and they are being asked to volunteer.

Reimann said money is available for the trail’s maintenance. Maintenance includes anchoring bridges as well as open sunlight parts on the trail.

Almond asked what unmaintained meant in the agreement. Byrd said it would probably be if “the trail was undefinable, washed out or grown up.”

Byrd asked if there was any way the agreement could be reworded to shift the responsibility of maintenance back. Reimann said he was not going to do that.

Reimann said he was working on raising money for a permanent endowment for the Friends of the Thread Trail.

Byrd noted the trail property would still be owned by Richfield since there were no easements granted for it.

The board decided unanimously to table the resolution to the March meeting in order to see documentation on the grant from the other two municipalities.