Planning and Capacity Building Grants


The MADE X MTNS Partnership is investing $250,000 equitably across the region in participating Community Working Groups enrolled in the Building Outdoor Communities Program to advance their outdoor community and economic development projects that catalyze rural development. 

Participation in outdoor recreation has consistently demonstrated positive effects on job creation and business growth, contributing to the economic vitality of Western North Carolina communities. These funded projects contribute to supporting and growing those impacts, creating corridors that lead to commerce, and increasing public health and prosperity in WNC, underscoring the inherent connection between a thriving outdoor culture and robust economic well-being.  

Projects were reviewed by a scoring committee, and funds were allocated in two rounds on a competitive basis to projects that demonstrated high impact, connectivity, regional potential, and sustainability benefit.

FUNDed projects


This project will create a wayfinding master plan that will direct visitors as well as residents and create better awareness, connectivity, and access to activities and natural assets in Yancey County.

This project will allow Mitchell County to consolidate all the outdoor amenities available into the Toe River Valley Outdoor Recreation Guide to help residents and visitors alike craft their adventures.

This project will create a brand, signage and wayfinding plan for the Broad River Paddle Trail (BRPT). The BRPT is a 41-mile river corridor extending from Lake Lure to the Cleveland County line. This branding will establish the entire river as a destination and a regional trail, and will help pursue its status as a designated state trail in the future.

This project will build an innovative outdoor economic brand and industry recruitment strategy to strengthen the county’s economy, create high-wage and attractive career opportunities for residents, diversify the tax base and strengthen its identity and brand through an economic development program focused on the outdoor industry.

The purpose of this project is to explore the potential development of water access points along Long Creek, Tallulah Creek, and Sweetwater Creek before they converge to form the Cheoah River and flow north to Lake Santeetlah. Graham County and the Town of Robbinsville have existing plans for a future greenway system, and this project will fund conceptual designs for sites along that potential greenway path for public access to the water. Ultimately, the identified access sites will allow for sustainable use, education, and connection to these historically and culturally significant waterways in downtown Robbinsville.

This project will deliver an essential pedestrian connection between North Wilkesboro and Wilkesboro, utilizing the Yadkin River Greenway system. The current Greenway system consists of approximately 8 miles of trails. Within that trail system, only one pedestrian bridge currently connects the two towns. All other crossings of both the Reddies and the Yadkin Rivers are NCDOT bridges with automotive traffic. This new pedestrian crossing will serve as a second, safe and effective method for navigating between existing community assets.

This project will develop a trail feasibility study to explore the potential of creating a trail along the existing Caldwell Railroad line that connects to the City of Hickory’s “Hickory Trail” system. Notably, the trail would also create connections to other regional trails, including the Burke River Trail, which itself will connect to the Fonta Flora Trail, the Overmountain Victory Trail, the Wilderness Gateway Trail, and the Carolina Thread Trail Greenway and Blueway.

This project will create a feasibility study to examine a greenway connection in Mars Hill linking Bailey Mountain Preserve, an existing 250+ acre nature preserve with 6+ miles of hiking trails and an historic farmstead, and the Otis T. Duck Greenway, an existing 1.5-mile protected walking and cycling path. Connecting these two existing outdoor destinations in the Town of Mars Hill would add approximately 3 miles of active transportation infrastructure, creating a unique outdoor experience through a pastoral mountain landscape.

This project will conduct a feasibility study for establishing 1.2 miles of the long-proposed Hiwassee River Greenway from Tusquittee Street to Valley Hideaway Drive in Clay County. The feasibility study will assess the existing conditions of the corridor, identify and map opportunities and constraints that could impact implementation of the greenway, design a feasible alignment for the greenway, and develop planning level cost estimates to assist in the pursuit of construction funds.

This project will build an outdoor community partnership between Lees-McRae College and the Town of Banner Elk by developing a Banner Elk greenway master plan that connects LMC’s recently acquired 475-acre property, known as South Campus, to the Town of Banner Elk. This project will provide community accessibility, local park and business connectivity, and successful long-term outdoor recreation and conservation operations that will positively impact the land, College, Town, and Avery County. 

This project will develop a greenway/blueway master plan for Cherokee County. There is great potential to connect and expand these outdoor assets along a river trail, for both walking, jogging, biking, and boating. The proposed Valley River Heritage Trail route is rich with natural and cultural heritage and would link Murphy, Marble, and Andrews along the Valley River.

This project will create a strategic master plan for the rollout of a new “Arts in the Outdoors” initiative, which will include project scoping, conceptual design, detailed planning, community engagement, and implementation support to create an action plan  for public arts in Watauga County that can be replicated across neighboring counties in the High Country.

Building Outdoor Communities Values



    Connect local businesses, cultural heritage, and the natural landscape through high-quality outdoor infrastructure



    Enhance quality of life and sense of place across Western North Carolina



    Care for the towns and public lands that make this an extraordinary region



    Build local capacity and provide resources for communities to make the economic case for further outdoor recreation investment



    Advance the outdoor economy equitably across the region



    Create an outdoor infrastructure network that catalyzes entrepreneurship, business expansion, and recruitment of new businesses and talent

WHY these grants were created

Equitable opportunity

The goal of the Building Outdoor Communities Program is to support Western North Carolina’s community leaders to better leverage their natural assets and collaborate to advance their outdoor community and economic development goals, centered around healthy people and places.

boc projects

  1. Align key stakeholders  
  2. Create outdoor infrastructure and economy priorities
  3. Develop implementation guidance

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