A ‘green’ link from Highlands to Cashiers

A Greenway connecting Highlands and Cashiers is a lofty concept but there are folks who think it’s worth a try.

In recent weeks, Mayor Pat Taylor has met with various members of the communities to discuss the feasibility of connecting Highlands and Cashiers with a greenway – similar to the way the Highlands Greenway connects areas of Highlands.

As it turns out, with the BlueZones region project underway, a hiking trail to Cashiers would fit right in. Since at least 16,000 people need to be involved the BlueZones project proposed for the area involves Highlands, Cashiers, Sylva and Franklin. 

“BlueZones fit well within the social determinants of health and a connecting greenway would be great for people’s health and a great component of economic development,” said Taylor. 

For now, the Mayor is the only elected official in the group of like-minded individuals – The Greenway’s Hillrie Quin, Dr. Gary Wein of the Highlands Cashiers Land Trust, members of the town’s GIS/MIS department, and Sam Lupas from Cashiers.

“This workgroup is trying to map out possible routes around country clubs and private property, if possible,” he said. “No formal proposals are forthcoming – it’s too early for that.”

Calling it the “map exploratory phase,” the mayor said the group is looking at map overlays and discussing what are possible connections between the two communities in way of trails. 

“We have come up with about three possibilities that are very general and not complete by any means,” said Taylor. “This will take months and years to come about. There are a lot of moving parts – agencies and stakeholders involved – and it would take a lot of funding.” 

The type of trail will be based on the terrain, barriers, and possible mixed-use. Would it just be for hiking or biking, too? 

Due to potential meandering routes the trail would likely be longer than the 12-mile stretch between the towns. The mayor stressed that this would be a semi-volunteer project that will include stakeholders with resources – Macon and Jackson counties, NCDOT, USFS, and the Leadership Council in Cashiers.

He stressed that this is a baby step in a conceptual process that he hopes will move forward. The Town Board will hear about the project tonight.

By Kim Lewicki and Brian O’Shea

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