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County to acquire Burch Station river access, expand broadband

Ask civic and business leaders to rattle of the greatest benefits Surry County has when it comes to luring both tourism and business to the area and near the top will be found the abundance of green spaces, parks, trails, and access points to the four rivers that run through.

As Director of Surry County Parks and Recreation Daniel White is always a busy man and this spring has been no exception.

White was given approval by the Surry County Board of Commissioners to work with the Yadkin Riverkeeper organization on grant proposals to buy a new piece of land for the county, the 9 acres of land on which the Birch Station Public Access is found at the confluence of the Mitchell and Yadkin rivers.

He said the application for a Complete the Trail Fund grant was submitted last week and he hopes to hear back within “a month or two.”

A “complete the trail” grant for a river access may sound odd but White said that while this access is part of the Yadkin River Trail system it cannot be designated as an official Yadkin River Trailhead unless it had a perpetual easement on it for public access. “Purchasing this property will allow us to receive this very important designation.”

He went on to say, “This river access sees over 37,000 visitors annually and has an estimated economic impact of $1.4 million. When the opportunity arose to purchase the property, we felt it was an important asset to own.”

The property has an appraised value of $63,000 and a new owner. Knopf said the new owner of the land was interested in selling the land to the county rather than continuing the lease agreement.

This drew interest from the board with Chairman Eddie Harris calling the Burch River Access, “a very valuables asset to Surry County.” The board was told if White is successful, the land may be able to be bought at no cost to taxpayers.

“I believe this is a great opportunity for our county,” Commissioner Bill Goins said of the possible acquisition of the land. The former Eagle Scout is an avid outdoorsman, as are many in this area, and often touts the myriad options for those seeking to enjoy the great outdoors.

He said moving the river access to county ownership means “It gives us control over an access that is important for recreation. It benefits our citizens, communities, and folks who visit here for the many recreational opportunities that Surry County has to offer.”

“Burch Station is a historical landmark,” Commissioner Mark Marion agreed, adding that he was hopeful that White and the Yadkin Riverkeeper would be successful in their quest for grant funding.

The Burch Station River Access is located at 116 Greenwood Circle, Elkin, where the Mitchell and Yadkin rivers meet and has a sister location just over 4 miles down the Yadkin River near the crossing with Highway 601.

“We have plans to do a groundbreaking in August for a river access at Luck Stone (along the Ararat river at Sheep Farm Road and Park Drive, Mount Airy). Construction should begin in September or October. Improvements are also planned for the Mitchell River access in Mountain Park, and also the HWY 268 East access,” White said.

Additionally, Parks and Rec has taken over responsibilities for ground maintenance on county lands, so White reclassified a post to add a grounds technician to his staff.

All that extra mowing means he needs more equipment too, the board allowed a shift in budgeted funds to buy a new 30-degree slope mower, a power rake attachment for a walk-behind skid steer to prepare the Mountains-to-Sea Trail floor, and an additional sit-down mower which will make the job easier on that worker over a stand-on mower.

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Master Plan has been completed, White said, and Parks and Rec continue to work on the Friendship Trailhead for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. “We are looking to open the trailhead and parking lot June 2.”

With the county’s new disc golf course open at Fisher River Park in Dobson, White got approval to offer business sponsorships for holes on the course. A sponsorship will get that business’s name at the tee box and in all promotional event materials for the course. Initial sponsorships will be $300 per hole, and renewals will be $150.

When the course was opened, White said it would never be fully complete as it will grow and morph to fit the needs of the players. Sponsorship “will help us with our goals and objectives” for the course.

In other recent board action:

– The board was informed that the Lowgap Convenience Center at 130 Canyon Road will be closed for maintenance from May 22 – 27. Jessica Montgomery of Public Works said there are some issues with conditions of the concrete at the site and it needs repair. She said all other centers will open and be able to accept the extra traffic with ease.

– Greg Casstevens, Terry Kennedy, Brian Moser, Dr. Dean Simmons, Jon Tucker, and Marion Venable (alternate) have been approved as the new members of the Surry County Planning Board, Board of Adjustment, and Historic Preservation Commission. Commissioner Van Tucker was given permission to recuse himself from this action as Jon Tucker is his son.

All these members are being appointed at the same time so the county has set up a staggered length of term for each so they would not all need replacing at once. Moser and Simmons terms will end in March 2024, Tucker and Venable in 2025, while Kennedy and Casstevens will serve the whole three-year term.

– County Manager Chris Knopf presented a request from the Communications Department that the board approve an interlocal agreement with both Elkin and Mount Airy regarding 911 services. The board approved the agreements that formalize the flow of state 911 funds from the county to the municipalities to support their secondary 911 centers; Surry County operates the primary center.



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