Trail maintenance work just got a little easier for the N.C. Forest Service staff at DuPont State Recreational Forest (DSRF). In late 2023, Friends of DuPont Forest donated a brand-new Kubota mini excavator funded by grants from the Henderson and Transylvania County Tourism Development Authorities (TDA). 

“It’s incredible that our local TDAs are investing in their public land. We are so incredibly appreciative of their support,” said Jane Dauster, recreation specialist with DSRF. “Clearly, these local leaders understand the importance of outdoor recreation to the area.”

According to a 2022 report from the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in North Carolina generates $8.3 billion in wages and salaries, $28.0 billion in annual consumer spending, and $1.3 billion in state and local tax revenues. The Henderson and Transylvania County TDAs underscored the economic impact of outdoor recreation through their support of the Friends of DuPont Forest’s request for funding for the mini excavator. 

“When I heard about what a game-changer a mini excavator could be for the DuPont trail system, I knew it was something that we had to make happen,” said Sara Landry, executive director of Friends of DuPont Forest. “We are incredibly grateful to our two local TDAs for their investment in our public lands. We’ve named it ‘Trendo’ to honor both Transyvlania and Henderson County TDAs.”

Trendo is a unique piece of equipment that will allow the DSRF to repair and maintain numerous trails more efficiently. DSRF staff have already used it to complete a wide variety of projects, like repairing the Little River streambank along High Falls Loop trail and installing rocks on either side of the steps to the Hooker Falls trailhead. Both projects protect the trails and streams from erosion. 

DSRF staff will continue to rely heavily on the Friends of DuPont Forest volunteer trail crews—except that now Trendo will do the heavy lifting. In 2023, the Trail crew gave more than 2,000 volunteer hours and repaired 31 miles on 38 trails. Thanks to Trendo, the crew plans to double this mileage in 2024. The volunteer trail crew uses shovels, rakes, and other hand tools to install new drainage features and maintain existing ones, trim vegetation along the trails, repair and smooth the trail surface, and perform other critical trail maintenance activities. 

The Henderson County Tourism Development Authority provided $17,500 for the mini excavator through its Destination Enhancement grant program, and the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority provided an additional $17,500 toward the purchase through its Transylvania Always grant program. Funding for both grant programs comes from the room tax paid on short-term rentals in the two counties. Transylvania County estimates that visitors spend more than $115 million annually within the county, while Henderson County estimates that visitors spend more than $391 million annually.

“We are extremely grateful to have support from our local tourism development authorities,” said Jason Guidry, forest supervisor for DSRF. “We are also extremely grateful to have a collaborating partner like the Friends of DuPont Forest that can see something that the forest needs and figure out a way to get it.”

The Friends of DuPont Forest also collaborated with the Henderson County and the Transylvania County TDAs to provide DSRF with $99,000 in grant funds for the development of a master recreation plan for DSRF. The funds contributed by the local tourism development authorities supplement the State’s $200,000 allocated for the development of the master recreation plan and $550,000 designated for the implementation of the plan. The state’s funds for the DSRF Master Recreation Plan were set aside by the N.C. General Assembly in 2021. 

“Support from the state, Friends of DuPont, the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, and the Transylvania County Tourism Development Authority have created this opportunity for the development of a master recreation plan for DuPont State Recreational Forest,” said Guidry. “It is truly amazing to have this level of collaboration between our local TDAs, the state, and a local nonprofit organization focused on DSRF. By working together, they are helping to ensure that we can balance the ecological, social, and financial sustainability needs of the forest while simultaneously improving the DSRF experience for the more than 1.2 million visitors who come here each year.”