The Thermal Belt Rail Trail is moving forward and should become a reality in late 2018 as a result of action taken by the RHI Legacy Foundation Board of Trustees. RHI Legacy Board voted to fund construction of the 12-foot wide, 13.36 mile asphalt trail that would connect communities across the county from Forest City to Gilkey. The grant also includes funding for up to six potential trailheads to provide parking and other amenities at access points for the trail. The grant request was approved for $4,250,000. Dr. Bobby England, Chairman stated, “The construction of this trail represents a transformational project for the county that combines health and wellness, economic development and neighborhood improvement. Due to this project’s importance, we prioritized it outside of the Foundation’s normal grant cycle.”
In 2016, the Town of Forest City received a $149,000 grant from RHI Legacy Foundation to survey and engineer the trail. Forest City applied on behalf of Rutherford County, Ruth, Rutherfordton, Spindale as well as itself. In addition, Forest City received an Appalachian Regional Commission grant for trailhead design and master planning. McGill and Associates and David Odom Engineering are providing the trail design and engineering. Keith Webb from McGill said, “David and I have both worked in the county over 20 years. By far, this project reflects the highest level of intergovernmental cooperation and common purpose that we have ever seen.