RAMSEUR — Ground was broken on Dec. 7 for construction of the Sandy Creek Bridge, which will connect the Franklinville and Ramseur section of the Deep River State Trail.
After years of planning and searching for money to pay for the project, work is scheduled to begin early in 2024, according to Brandon Shore of Eastern Structures of Mocksville, which has contracted to do the project.
The bridge will be of concrete, 75 feet in length, 10 feet wide with metal rails. It will include a decorative center panel featuring the Deep River State Trail logo.
Mary Joan Pugh, Randolph County trails coordinator, called the groundbreaking “a celebration of a major milestone, connecting Franklinville and Ramseur.”
“We dreamed of a wonderful trail from Randleman to Ramseur,” she said, “with the rich mill history and quaint villages.”
She then gave the history of the Deep River State Trail, beginning in 1998 when the Randolph County Tourism Development Authority (TDA) chose the Deep River corridor as an initiative area. It was designated a state trail in 2007.
Franklinville, Randleman and Ramseur began constructing trails. The TDA set up a task force to coordinate efforts in 2015.
In 2017, the TDA funded the conceptual plan with 15 miles of land and 15 miles of water trails. The Randolph County Board of Commissioners approved the plan and created a Strategic Planning Implementation Fund (RCSPIF) and funded the No. 1 priority — a preliminary engineering study for the Sandy Creek Bridge connecting Franklinville to Ramseur.
In 2018, a preliminary engineering study cost estimate was $300,000. The main source of trail funding, Recreational Trail Program, had a maximum of $100,000, not enough to fund engineering and construction of the bridge.
In 2019, the county trails coordinator position was created as part of the county wellness program. Also established was the County Trails Advisory Council with representatives from the eight municipalities, the TDA, Piedmont Legacy Trails, Uwharrie TrailBlazers and other trail associated groups. Also in 2019, the advisory council received $60,000 in RCSPIF monies for Sandy Creek Bridge construction.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, everyone flocked to the trails, especially the Deep River Trail sections, for a safe place to gather with family and friends. It was learned that trails are no longer just a nice amenity but a necessity for not only physical but also mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.
To meet the demand for more trails, in 2022 as part of the pandemic recovery plan, the county provided $1 million for “investment ready” DRST projects including the Sandy Creek Bridge construction. In 2022, the county also received an RTP grant for $100,000 which is matched with $137,000 in RCSPIF and $450,000 from the $1 million allocation to fund the Sandy Creek Bridge construction project.
Franklinville has 1.75 miles plus .75 mile at Faith Rock for a total of 2.5 miles. Ramseur has .6 mile near US 64 and .5 mile near downtown for a total of 1.1 mile. The Sandy Creek Bridge Connection has .5 mile of trail and will connect a total of 3.25 to 3.5 miles, for a round trip of more than 6 miles.
"That is long enough to attract walkers and bikers from beyond the local and regional areas, making it a significant economic benefit and quality of life factor," Pugh said.
Franklinville Mayor A.C. Hurley said completion of the bridge “is going to be really exciting.” Perry Conner, his predecessor, said, “I’ve been working on this since 2005.”
Ramseur Mayor Vickie Caudle complimented those involved in the effort for being “so organized and thorough. I was glad to jump in. Ramseur is so excited.”
David Allen, vice chair of the Randolph County Board of Commissioners, called the trail “an economic driver for the community. To give a much longer trail is meaningful going forward.”
Commissioner Hope Haywood called the trail “something for everyone. It’s an opportunity for exercise and therapy just being outdoors.” She praised the collaboration, “everyone working together. It takes time and vision. I appreciate those with the vision to get the parts of the trail together. I look forward to coming back for the ribbon cutting.”
NC Sen. Dave Craven said walking trails were important for quality of life. “Things like these make quality of life so essential. Thank you all for your efforts.”