A collaboration between the New River Conservancy and the Todd Community Preservation Organization will allow the public to access the South Fork New River at a new access point within the Todd town limits.
The new access is located at the intersection of Big Hill Road and Railroad Grade Road. Where the two roads intersect, Elk Creek flows into the South Fork.
“Primarily, it’s designed to get folks in the town access to the New River without having to trespass on anybody’s private property,” said Brad Baskette, stewardship coordinator for the New River Conservancy, based in West Jefferson.
Baskette said Todd residents Martha Enzmann and Tom Sternal purchased the land and donated a portion of it to the TCPO specifically for giving the public access to the New River. The NRC formally announced the opening of the public access on Thursday, June 19.
“I believe (Enzmann and Sternal) bought the land in the past year,” he said. “They were aware that in town there was no public access, so they contacted us, because they wanted to do something about a public river access.”
The NRC and TCPO teamed up with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission to help clear brush and construct a path to the New River.
There is a public parking area provided for the access that is located near the Todd General Store. From there, people can walk to the New River through a path that starts at the intersection of Big Hill and Railroad Grade roads.
“It is a path that is probably 100 feet from the intersection of those roads down to the river, it’s probably three feet wide,” Baskette said. “It is kind of brushy (on the trail), but there were steps that were installed to make it easier for folks to be able to go up and down the trail to the road.”
The biggest reason for the trail’s construction was to build steps because of the path’s steep grade down to the river access, Baskette said. Enzmann and Sternal still own the land, but are in the process of giving the land to the TCPO.
The new access will be the first public access to the South Fork upon entering Ashe County. The closest access to the New River is approximately three miles upstream at Green Valley Park in Watauga County. Downstream, the closest is also approximately three miles away at Todd Island, located on Railroad Grade Road near Castle Ford.
“We like to thank the good graces of both (Enzmann and Sternal) who really care about making sure the public has access to the South Fork,” Baskette said. “From our perspective, the more folks get on the river and enjoy it, the more likely they are to be advocates for its beauty in the future.”
For more information on the New River Conservancy, visit www.newriverconservancy.org/
Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.