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Touring the Trail

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

FRIES — Blue Cat on the New has reeled in the contract for a pilot program to increase accessibility on the New River Trail State Park.
Only this outfitter, with locations in Fries and Draper, has received permission from the state to host tours of portions of the popular trail using golf carts.
Business owner Donnie Turner’s application was accepted last winter when the state park system sought proposals.
The tours out of the Fries location can stretch to about 2.5 hours and extend as far as Byllesby Dam and the Gambetta area.

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This will give people who can’t hike, bike or ride a horse a chance to see parts of the trail they might have otherwise been unable to experience.
Gary Sumner, also mayor of Fries, will act as guide on the excursions, and he sees it as a good fit for the elderly who don’t have the mobility on their own.
“Donnie is providing a tremendous service to the community,” Sumner said.
Setting off from the outfitter and the New Riverside Store, tourists can enjoy the green tree canopy of spring and summer, the fall colors, views of the river cascading down rocks, flowers blooming, wildlife and birds, the old train trestles, the rail tunnel near Fries and other artifacts leftover from the trail’s former life as a N&W Railroad line.
These sights create much of the draw that attracts more than 1 million users to the 57-mile-long linear state park.
“I tell everybody at the store, if they see any place prettier than this, send me a postcard,” Sumner said.
The speed limit for the EZGo golf cart is around 5 mph, and the vehicle yields for all other trail traffic.
Riders can easily exchange waves and pleasantries with other trail users as their bike or horse goes by.
Natural topics of discussion for those on the tour include the history of the whole area, the old mill town incarnation of Fries, the mining industry and the quality of the fishing.
Tours can accommodate up to 10 riders now. Turner encouraged anyone wishing to hire the golf cart and guide to make reservations at least 24 hours in advance.
In the future, Blue Cat will schedule one outing in the morning and one in the evenings on weekdays, and two tours each in the afternoon and morning on the weekends.
Turner also plans to add special tours like one with photography tips from professional Gene Dalton, bird watching events and fly fishing schools.
Fees are $30 per person, with a minimum of two riders.
Being an outfitter, Blue Cat can supply kayak, canoe, river tube and bike rentals; shuttle service; and fishing supplies. There are also places for camping.

For more information, call the outfitter at Fries (276) 744-2027 or Draper (276) 766-3729.