The first golf cart tour of the E&A Rail Trail took place Wednesday morning as Dan and Sally Park and Ginger Lowe were escorted along the trail at Elkin Municipal Park by Bill Blackley, EVTA volunteer and local veteran.
Golf cart rides coordinated through the Elkin Rec Center staff and led by local volunteers from the Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter are possible thanks to the donation of the golf cart by Ken and Patricia Nix of Tampco, Blackley said.
“The golf cart has seats, and 11 veterans have signed up to be drivers,” he said as he and Lowe helped the Parks onto the golf cart. “We are going to do this every week, and you are the first official tour.”
The golf cart, now stickered with the VFW, Elkin Recreation and Parks and Elkin Valley Trails Association logos, was given to the EVTA, who in turn donated it to the town. Blackley said the town will keep the battery charged, keep it cleaned and it falls under the town’s liability insurance.
Dan Park said he spent many days walking along the old single-file trail on the banks of Big Elkin Creek, but this was the first time he’d had a chance to get on the rail trail. “We had to fight the bushes and briars to get out here. I came out here many, many times,” he said as the golf cart moved along the handicap-accessible gravel dust trail.
Blackley took the time to point out each of the markers along the trail, marking the various historic sites, nature features like tree markings, explaining who donated what element of the trail development and taking them from one end at Elk Spur Street bridge all the way to the other end, allowing them to sound the gong indicating what is now the end of the trail. At the end of the month, a new footbridge will be installed extending the trail farther north.
The railway closed in 1931, explained Blackley. And then in the 1940s, the tracks were taken up and used to build war ships.
Park said when he would venture out on the old trail, he would find the old shoe molds along the banks left from when the shoe factories were still in operation in Elkin.
At the end of the hour or so long tour, Park said he was impressed with what he experienced. “It was really pretty,” he said, adding he was remembered meeting with representatives of Duke Power and other groups who donated the land for Elkin Municipal Park during its development.
“It was much larger than I expected,” said Sally Park of the E&A Rail Trail, which is part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
The Nixes were very specific, Blackley said, that no fee was to be charged for the use of the golf cart when they made the donation.
Those who are unable to walk the trail but would like to experience it on a golf cart tour can set up a visit by calling the Elkin Rec Center at 336-794-6478.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.