Mills River – Rural Roots in a Blossoming Community
Mills River is both the oldest community in Henderson County and its youngest municipality. Settled hundreds of years ago and named for a tributary of the French Broad River, Mills River has a rich history, much of which is rooted in farming and agriculture that continues today.
Since its incorporation in 2003, lower-density housing development policies in the 22-square-mile town have helped Mills River retain its rural feel. Not far from Hendersonville, Asheville or Brevard, the town is amidst the mountains and has lots of farmland.
The 50-acre Mills River Park includes multi-use trails, a dog park, a playground, a picnic shelter, a basketball court and tennis and pickleball courts. At the back of the park there is a canoe and kayak launch and a handicapped-accessible fishing pier on the Mills River.
The Town of Mills River is in the early design and planning stages of the Mills River Valley Trail, a multi-use recreational path along NC 280 that will tie into a similar path planned for Hwy 191. The Town also recently completed a river bank restoration project to shore up eroding river banks along the Mills River and within Mills River Park.
Within the park, the Town Hall is home to government offices as well as the Mills River Library, a branch of the Henderson County Public Library that opened in 2005. In the past few years, solar panels have been added to all Town buildings. Solar panels on the Mills River Park’s Maintenance Building power electric vehicle charging stations which are free of charge to park patrons.
Glenn C. Marlowe Elementary School and Mills River Elementary are both in Mills River and are top-rated in Henderson County and the region.
The town has seen increased economic development in the last several years, including in the craft beverages sector. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company chose the town as the site of its East Coast operation and began brewing and distributing from its facility in 2014. The following year, Bold Rock Hard Cider selected Mills River as the site for its third facility and began producing ciders there that same year. The town is now home to three breweries and one cidery as well as several manufacturing companies that add a significant tax base.
With its opening in 2018, GF Linamar is the largest economic development project in the last 50 years in Henderson County and the most recent large-scale economic development in Mills River. Mills River is also home to other manufacturers, including medical technology company Raumedic and pressure-sensitive label maker UPM Raflatac in the Broadpointe Industrial Park.
Mills River’s agricultural heritage continues, too, with commercial farmers and agribusiness companies like Flavor 1st Growers and Packers, plant grafting specialists Tri-Hishtil and the Van Wingerden Greenhouse Co.