Revitalization: Blazing a New Trail in Rocky Mount, NC

Rocky Mount NC Rail Trails

Rocky Mount’s mile-long railway spur has been out of use for some time, but that all could change soon with the creation of a rail trail. This former mill town is rebuilding itself in a variety of ways, but this most recent revitalization possibility will revive its tobacco and cotton mill roots while providing additional outdoor activities for residents and tourists.

What is a Rail Trail?

Rail trails are created by converting unused railways into multi-use paths; these paths are ideal for walking, bicycling and inline skating – even horseback riding. Rail trails are extremely popular as recreation and transportation corridors. They traverse urban, suburban and rural America, and make an ideal foundation since they’re already flat and long.

Rail trails also serve as wildlife conservation and historical preservation corridors. In this case, the historical area is the Rocky Mount Mills, a section of town already designated for revitalization efforts. The new rail trail would connect the Rocky Mount Mills with the thriving Farmers’ Market and the Imperial Centre, Rocky Mount’s creative soul.

These trails, once reborn, stimulate local economies by increasing tourism and promoting local business. And one of the best parts: a trail like this promotes active lifestyles for all ages!


What's Next?

Rocky Mount native and transportation planner, Bob League, came across information on North Carolina rail-trails and immediately thought of Rocky Mount’s old rail line. He believes that a rail trail on the spur will encourage revitalization of the nearby buildings.

“We’ll probably have a few squabbles up and down the line regarding public use of the right of way,” says Bob. “Rail-trail is a new concept to this area. But they’ll come around.”

In 2007, Raleigh-Durham’s Capitol Broadcasting Company purchased the empty mill buildings and surrounding 72 acres. Their Development Manager, Evan Covington Chavez, is tasked with finding an action plan for the Rocky Mount property. She says: “We’re focused now on figuring out what Rocky Mount will support."

We’re seeing potential to draw tourism traffic off I-95, branding Rocky Mount as an interesting town on a beautiful river, with historic and artistic value. Retirees might be attracted there for its quiet friendliness, proximity to nature, hiking, paddling on the Tar River Paddle Trail and the Rocky Mount arts scene. Plus, it’s just 45 minutes to Raleigh and a couple of hours to the coast.

The City of Rocky Mount is investigating the right-of-way and has requested NCDOT funds for the project.

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