Hundreds attended the celebration and grand opening of the Thermal Belt Rail Trail Saturday with official ceremonies in Spindale and in Forest City. Along the celebrated trail, welcome stations were set up with special promotional gifts and surprises for visitors. Many rode or cycled the trail from their homes in Forest City, Rutherfordton and other areas to attend the ceremonies. Others spent portions of the day enjoying the trail.
Ribbons were cut in Spindale and on the new rail trail bridge over US 74 in Forest City.
The celebration was attended by representatives from the five rail partners -- Rutherford County, the towns of Forest City, Rutherfordton, Ruth and Spindale.
"This is a good day...and the rain has held off," said Mayor Mickey Bland in Spindale just before the ceremony got underway.
There was rain at the Forest City location but no spirits were dampened.
Jill Miracle welcomed the crowd and thanked RHI Legacy Foundation, the Community Health Council, Rutherford County Outdoor Coalition and all those who worked to see the trail become a reality.
County Manager Steve Garrison, Rutherfordton Mayor Jimmy Dancy, Ruth Mayor Denver Buchanan and Forest City Mayor Steve Holland thanked all involved.
A plaque of appreciation was placed on the bridge in honor of John Condrey, former town manager in Forest City. "...for his committed service and leadership to ensure the completion of the Thermal Belt Rail Trail," the plaque read.
Condrey spoke at the ceremonies and thanked all those involved in the years-long process. He also cut the ribbons at both locations as townspeople and county officials participated.
A similar plaque of appreciation was placed on the bridge thanking the RHI Legacy Foundation for its financial support to construct the 13.5 miles of trail for generations to enjoy. The foundation donated more than $4 million for the project.
The 13.5 mile trail from Forrest Hunt Elementary School to Gilkey Lumber is a cooperative effort between five trail partners.