Spencer Trailhead Project Honored with 2022 Quality of Life Award

Every year, Centralina Regional Council presents the Region of Excellence Award for Improving Quality of Life to a nominated community that has developed a program, project or plan to provide amenities, service and or opportunities that helps residents thrive. In 2023, we were honored to present this particular award to one small and one large community. The Town of Spencer (small community) was recognized for its work to develop the Yadkin River Trailhead, a regional recreational attraction that aims to highlight the significant historical and natural resources of the area.  

The Need for Recreational Amenities 

The Town of Spencer is a small town in Rowan County that was named after the first president of the Southern Railway, Samuel Spencer. The town has been strongly tied to railroading ever since its founding in 1905, branding itself as “Rowan’s original gateway” for the business development and positive changes the community has experienced over the years. Spencer is also home to the North Carolina Transportation Museum, which attracts nearly 100,000 visitors each year. Though Spencer’s roots are aligned with connectivity, town officials still saw that easy access to recreational amenities was missing and desired by members of the community. The Yadkin River Park in neighboring Davidson County is a popular spot amongst Spencer residents, along with the Grants Creek Greenway within the City of Salisbury. Though Spencer sits right in the middle of both attractions, there wasn’t an existing route that allowed residents to easily navigate to these places. In response to this unmet need, interested stakeholders, organized and lead by Town of Spencer Planning Director, Stephen Blount, began discussing a plan to create a trailhead within the community that would offer seamless connection to surrounding amenities.  

The Solution 

Blount picked up planning the project in January of 2022, which sprung from years of interest and discussion within the community. His extensive background in planning skills and interest in involving people of different backgrounds and disciplines into the process helped to streamline necessary planning steps, such as the voluntary annexation of the land, plan approval and zoning from the Planning Board and Board of Alderman, etc. One of the overarching goals Blount spearheaded during the planning process was connecting the new trailhead to existing greenways to create a larger regional urban greenway system. The final plan incorporated access to the existing Grants Creek Greenway and Stanback Forest Park, allowing the vision for interconnectedness to expand beyond Spencer alone. Ground broke on the project on October 17, 2022, and is expected to be completed in the coming months.  

Moving Forward 

Once finished, the Yadkin River Trailhead will connect Spencer residents and visitors alike to the historic U.S. Highway 29 “Wil-Cox Bridge,” along with current and future amenities at the Yadkin River Park in Davidson County. Parking will be located on the Rowan County side of the river where visitors can access the first 1,100 feet of trail that will then connect to the urban greenway system. Visitors can exit downtown Spencer through the trail, walking through the scenic Stanback Forest to access the nearby recreational amenities. Families will benefit from this new access pathway that offers recreational and exercise opportunities for jogging, dog walking, biking, fishing and more. This project will also help to improve environmental quality in the area as the trailhead offers a new, carbon-free transportation alternative for commuters. Blount has already begun preliminary plans of improvement for the project that would expand the trailhead through more of the Stanback Forest Park through 7th Street and Salisbury Avenue. This project is just one of many already in the works to improve the attractiveness and competitiveness of the Town of Spencer. Future developments include plans for a new access road along Long Ferry Road, the re-striping of the four-lane US Highway 29 to calm downtown traffic and plans for a future urban park near Town Hall.  

To stay updated on the progress of the Yadkin River Trailhead Project, visit the town’s website and monitor their social posts on Twitter and Facebook.