From wooden footbridges to a rumored new Starbucks location, Burke County offers lots to like.
One of my favorite pastimes is walking on Morganton's Catawba River greenway. The shady asphalt path and flowing river soothe the soul. And what fun it is to cross the wooden bridges and feel the bouncy, floating sensation when a jogger runs by.
Another cool bridge is the new White Creek Covered Bridge on the Fonta Flora State Trail, close to Lake James. This new structure is only a few hundred yards along the trail from the Linville Access Area off Highway 126.
Scott Carpenter, Burke's deputy county manager and community development director, designed the bridge.
"We wanted to go with something natural that lasts a long time and smells good,” Carpenter said. “When you walk through it, you get a whiff of a big cedar chest."
HSN Contractors in Asheville used Western red cedar in the 52-foot-long bridge. The roof is cedar shake.
"The bridge is a Southern spin on a Yankee classic,” Carpenter said “We changed it up by adding sides with mountain laurel."
Growing up in Bent Creek near the Asheville Arboretum helped Carpenter develop an appreciation for nature and the outdoors. He's worked in Burke County for seven years with a current focus on the Fonta Flora trail. As an advocate for trail elements to be rustic and high quality, he appreciates the willingness of the county to support those efforts.
"We actually got it done for a very good price,” he said. “HSN Contractors were $100,000 less than the nearest bid."
The price was $225,000.
"The bridge was financed directly out of county general fund monies," Carpenter added. "I was really pleased that Commissioners stepped up. This will help bring in grants and will be a world - class destination for biking and hiking. We're showcasing Linville Gorge, Lake James and the mountains."
The Fonta Flora trail will ultimately be about 27 miles and will circle Lake James. Eighteen miles have been completed and 10 more are planned to be finished in 2019.
"Most rural counties would never undertake a project of this magnitude, so a lot of credit is due the Commissioners and the county manager, Bryan Steen."
Folks visiting the bridge can park in the lot at the Linville Access Area, which is about 11 miles from Freedom High School north on N.C. Highway 126.
Speaking of parking, another one of my favorite things is fading away. The parking spaces at the now defunct Morganton Kmart had painted double lines for roomier spaces. I wish every lot had this margin-for-error parking. Kmart's demise surely had nothing to do with its customer-friendly car park.
If you're still reading only because I mentioned Starbucks, here's a hearsay alert: the following is gossip, but the sources were reliable enough for me to believe what they say is accurate. Three locations have been rumored for a stand-alone Starbucks in Morganton, yes, with a drive-through. The possibilities are: downtown, Burkemont Avenue near Exit 103 off Interstate 40, and where the old Abele's restaurant sits on South Sterling Street.
The old State Employees Credit Union building might make a good site right off I-40 at Exit 104, but my understanding is that the state highway patrol is looking to use that location.
I will continue my latte habit at Ingles, as it will remain the closest Starbucks for me compared to those other locations. The Grind Café and Swede’s have great espresso, too. Meanwhile, my husband likes the 50-cent senior coffee at McDonald's. We're a case of opposites attract, but at least we both enjoy the beautiful nature trails in Burke County and even hiked together once this year.
Gwen Veazey is a member of the Morganton Writers' Group.