The Endor Iron Furnace
Past and Present

Endor Trail Greenway



Pottery Festival Flyer

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The Endor Trail


The Endor Trail, the greenway stretching from Sanford to the Endor Iron Furnace historic site, is moving forward. Phase I which includes development of 1.5 miles of trail starting at Kiwanis Family Park now has a completed design and sign-offs from regulatory agencies.


Funded with an initial appropriation of $800,000 from the 2006 Transportation Bill the project received a minor setback when the Federal Highway Administration rescinded a portion of the funds but the Sanford City Council stepped in and appropriated $171,000 to save the funding.  


According to Sanford Planning Director Bob Bridwell the city is currently obtaining agreements from affected property owners and receiving final encroachment agreements from NCDOT. Once these agreements are in place Bridwell expects that bid documents will be prepared and let for construction.


Meanwhile the Sanford Rotary has begun a supplemental fund raising project and hopes to name a portion of the trail for prominent citizen and Rotarian Don Buie who recently passed away. The initial trail will set the standard for the larger and very ambitious project that not only includes the 7 miles of the Endor Trail but also the larger greenway that parallels the Deep River and returns to downtown Sanford at Depot Park. The total trail runs an estimated 28 miles and coincides with the State’s Deep River Trail. This will place Lee County in the position of having a premier walking, running and biking trail to coincide with an exciting canoeing trail along the river.

 Construction begins at Riverbirch

Rendering by artist Jeannatte Rosser of the             Construction begins at Riverbirch
Endor Trail at Spring Lane and
Riverbirch Shopping Center.




The first section of Sanford and Lee County Greenway Plan named the Endor Trail is scheduled to begin construction.  Take5 asked Planning Director Bob Bridwell how the greenway program was started and what he expects to happen in the future. 


Where did the idea of the greenway for Lee County and Sanford get started?  Back in 2002 Lee County Parks and Recreation Director John Payne recognized that to be more successful in the grant requests they were making for parks and recreation funding, a strategic plan was needed for parks and open space.  A collaborative effort was started with the Sanford/Lee County Community Development Department and work began on a Lee County Parks and Open Space Initiative.  From that effort it was recognized that one of Lee County’s most significant natural resource was the 42 miles of river frontage along the Deep and Cape Fear Rivers.  It was also recognized that the most logical way to access this river resource was along two major tributaries to the river:  Big Buffalo Creek and Little Buffalo Creek.  Both of these streams stretch from greatest population concentrations in Sanford along very scenic corridors through Lee County to the river.


How did the Endor Iron Furnace come in to the plan?  Long before work was started on the Parks and Open Space Initiative there were major efforts to secure and improve Lee County’s most significant historical site, the Endor Iron Furnace.  The Railroad House Museum had been working for some time to save this important Civil War historical edifice and the Triangle Land Conservancy had been successful in purchasing the site and turning it over to the NC Department of Cultural Resources to develop for its historic and recreational value.  This large site is not only located on the Deep River but is also at the junction with Big Buffalo Creek.  It was natural to tie the anticipated development of the Endor Iron Furnace Historic Site to the long term development of the greenway plan.  The two projects were perfectly complementary and supportive of each other.


Why the greenway is named the Endor Trail?  I guess it’s pretty obvious that since the greenway along Big Buffalo Creeks leads into and provides access to the Endor Iron Furnace that it would be natural to name it the Endor Trail.  Coincidentally when funding opportunities were being sought for the Endor Iron Furnace an important effort was made by Congressman Etheridge to secure “earmark” funding in a Congressional transportation act appropriation.  An appropriation of $800,000 was designated for the trail leading to the Endor Iron Furnace, and another $450,000 was reserved for trail development within the Endor site.  The funding for the trail provided a wonderful opportunity to not only implement the greenway plan but to also serve as a gateway to this most important historical site.

What happens next with the construction of the trail?  We’re very excited and confident the first 1.5 miles of the Endor Trail will start soon.  Immediately after funding was announced for the Endor Trail we began working with staff from the Bike and Pedestrian Division of NCDOT.  Very early we agreed that the best place to start the trail was in the urban area so that the early stages of the trail would be accessible to a large number of people. We didn’t want to start our greenway with “a trail to nowhere.” Kiwanis Family Park seemed like a logical place to start, since there is already a greenway within its confines.  Based upon the appropriated money, we project we can expand the existing greenway another 1.5 miles, up Carbonton Rd. and paralleling US 1 through Riverbirch Shopping Center, crossing Spring Lane behind Applebee’s and traveling up the creek to a trail head behind the Pantry Headquarters.


NCDOT has been instrumental in providing the construction plans and securing the environmental approvals to develop this section of the trail.  We will be working on completing the surveys and executing agreements with affected property owners and remaining encroachment agreements along DOT rights of way.  Once completed we expect to finalize the bid documents and process in preparation for awarding construction contracts.  Although I have to remind myself that this is a government project with a lot of “hoops to jump”, I’m hopeful that everything will be ready soon.


What will the trail look like?  People use trails for different reasons and have varying expectations.  Some people simply want a place to stroll and walk their children.  They like a wide, hard surface.  Bikers and skaters have their needs and generally like to be separated from the pedestrians.  Runners want a surface that has less impact on their knees.  We’ve even heard from folks who’d like some equestrian capacity.  It’s important that as we expand our design that we try to accommodate as many of these expectations as possible.  We will be attempting to gain enough width to the trail to provide for more than one surface and separation of different users.


Although the $800,000 (plus) is a good start, we will have limitations on what we can accomplish with the available funds.  Indeed, we learned that the Feds had rescinded some of the appropriation and we were fortunate that City Council provide approximately $171,000 to fill the gap.  On this initial stage we will be pleased to be able to clear the right of way, construct the bridges and road crossings, and provide an initial trail surface.  I expect that we will fall short of the funds needed for some of the ancillary improvements such as lighting, benches and landscaping.


How will other improvements happen?  As planners for the trail our ultimate mission is to extend the trail as far as possible with an “eye toward” reaching the river and the Endor Iron Furnace.  We will continue to pursue funding from national and state sources along with support from the City and Lee County.  Sanford and Lee County have a very strong tradition of recreation support from area civic clubs and from private sources.  We are optimistic that tradition will continue.  There may also be some value in the creation of a private/public foundation or commission for the Endor Trail.  I believe that’s how we will gain many of the enhancements and embellishments that could make the trail remarkable.


What’s the long term plan?  I can’t remember who said it but I remember a saying, “Make no small plans.”  The long term plan is fairly ambitious and includes the Endor Trail not only reaching the Endor Iron Furnace but also traversing the Deep River and returning to downtown Sanford along Little Buffalo Creek and terminating at Depot Park.  Together this would be approximately 28 linear miles of trail.  The Parks and Open Space Initiative also include connection to the privately developed Deep River Park and the Carbonton Dam Park.  The long term plan also recognizes regional efforts with the Triangle Land Conservancy, state parks, adjacent county efforts and the National Trail System.  The Deep River has also been recognized as the one of the best canoeing trails in the state.  We have to use our wonderful resources to their full potential.


Why are greenways, parks and open space important?  Quality of life is used extensively when talking about public improvements but I think it’s important to understand that communities are more than just a collection of houses that sit on roads and streets that carry people to where they work and shop.  We define and judge communities by the quality of resources that are offered to the people they serve.  How do people play, relax or be entertained?  How do they spend their time away from work or school?  What opportunities are there to gain enjoyment, reflection, or even worship and meditation?  How can individuals and families find places to play and have fun?  These are the questions you ask when ascertaining the importance of public space and facilities.  How communities respond to such questions part of the answer about what defines the quality of life.

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