On a humid July morning, trail supporters gathered to celebrate the connection of Valdese Lakeside Park and McGalliard Falls Park with a new 160-foot bridge creating a 2 mile greenway trail.
During his remarks to the over 100 attendees, Mayor Charles Watts said, “When I announced I was running for Mayor of Valdese, the first question I got was ‘Why to we have to have that park?’ Well, they need to be here and see why we have to that this park. It is obvious why we need this park.”
The Valdese Lakeside Park and Bridge project received early help from Foothills Conservancy of NC. Land Protection Director Tom Kenney, who aided the town in negotiating the Valdese Lakeside Park land purchase and writing the grant that brought $673K from the NC Land and Water Fund spoke during the celebration. “Valdese has a place for now and in the future, for visitors and for tourists, to play in the woods, to play in the creek, to shape their lives,” Kenney commented while reminiscing about his early childhood growing up in Raleigh with the sounds of nature all around that are not as abundant now.
NC Land and Water Fund Director Will Summer spoke to the strength of the project and that the fund by saying, “The state does not just hand out money to every applicant. It is a competitive process and many projects do not receive funding.” He went on to “thank all the partners involved: FCNC, Friends of the Valdese Rec, Town of Valdese, PARTF, Rostan Family Foundation, Kellex Seating and the community that stepped up with the needed funding.”
NC State Parks Deputy Director Brian Strong went to Lakeside Park before the ribbon cutting and said “he could feel his blood pressure lowering and noticed everyone he passed was happy, grateful to be out there, energized.”
Reid Wilson, Secretary of the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources reiterated other speakers’ theme of the importance of parks and trails for North Carolinians’ well being. Secretary Wilson said, “The state has a new initiative called PATH — Parks and Trails for Health — that aims to help connect all people to parks and outdoor spaces across the state.”
During her talk, Beth Heile, President and Founder of Friends of the Valdese Rec, encouraged the crowd to cheer every time the word “bridge” was spoken during the event. She shared that the McGalliard Creek Bridge is important for several reasons –
- The bridge connects Valdese Lakeside Park to McGalliard Falls Park with a 2-mile greenway trail
- The bridge is part of the Burke River Trail (20 miles from Morganton to Hickory in the works running south of the river)
- The bridge provides the loop for the Wilderness Gateway State Trail through Valdese (Bakers Mountain to South Mountains to Chimney Rock – with loop to Valdese)
- The bridge is a type of suspension bridge with a little bounce – which is lots of fun and a little scary to some (technically a catenary bridge)
- The bridge was built by a local company, Beanstalk Bridges
Heile continue to say, “because we have a community of givers – givers of their time, talents and money, along with the perfect project that blends conservation and recreation, the state rewarded our efforts. State grants matched every $1 in community donations with $1.80 of state funds to complete the $2.7M Valdese Lakeside Park Phase 1 and Bridge project.
There is more to come in Valdese for parks and trails. A fishing pier and kayak launch will be built by NC Wildlife Resource Commission in late fall at Valdese Lakeside Park. In addition, Friends of the Valdese Rec has started fundraising to convert the second mile of grassy greenway to crushed cinder, as used on the first mile.
A surprise presentation took place during Mayor Watt’s welcome. He presented Beth Heile a “Key to the Town of Valdese” with a Resolution of Appreciation for her “enthusiastic, energetic and endless drive and support.”
To access the McGalliard Creek Bridge, park at McGalliard Falls Park and walk a half mile from the picnic shelter. Or, park at Valdese Lakeside Park and walk 1.3 miles down the greenway. If you prefer to experience the bridge with a group, Friends of the Valdese Rec will host a group walk Sunday at 2pm. Gather at the restrooms at Valdese Lakeside Park and walk to the bridge and then on to McGalliard Falls Park. Attendees can stay with the group or go at their own pace. Dogs on a lease are welcome, and they may want to visit the dog park to run free before or after the group walk.