Threading a 1,200-mile trail through Charlotte

Charlotte's McAlpine Creek GreenwayIn the mid-1990s the Triangle’s greenway system wasn’t a system. It was a disjointed connection of asphalt strips scattered hither and yon. If you lived a block or two away from one of these strips, you probably paid it an occasional visit. If you didn’t live within a block or two, you probably had no idea the Triangle even had greenways.

Then the Triangle Greenways Council came up with the Circle the Triangle Trail concept.  Circle the Triangle basically called for linking these disparate stretches of trail to create a trail network linking the Triangle’s various communities. Roughly 15 years later, the Triangle has more than 180 miles of greenway comprising a system — a true system — where it will soon be possible to, for instance, ride a bike from Clayton in Johnston County to Raleigh, to Umstead State Park, to Cary, to Chatham County and on to downtown Durham. Amazing what a little focus can accomplish.

In 2005, the Charlotte area found itself where the Triangle was 15 years earlier, with a mile or so of greenway here and there. Wouldn’t it be great, 40 or so regional leaders brought together by the Foundation For The Carolinas thought, if we could have an extensive network of trails — paved, natural surface, wet — linking communities in 15 counties representing 2.3 million people? A “green interstate system,” as it were? Two years later, in 2007, the Charlotte area’s version of Circle the Triangle was launched.

The Carolina Thread Trail, “rooted in a region with a rich heritage of weaving fabric,” is the region’s carrot for developing a secondary, non-motorized transportation network. It’s an aggressive effort that has since raised $16.8 million in cash donations, $3.77 million in land donations and $17.8 million in committed public funds. It’s goal: blaze at least 1,200 miles of trail to link its communities. (“At least” 1,200 miles, says Amanda Anderson, CTC’s grants and volunteer coordinator, because that’s how many miles are covered in the trail master plans approved by 12 of the 15 Thread counties. The total will grow when the remaining three counties adopt their master plans.)

Most of those 1,200-plus miles of trail will be built by local municipalities, counties, parks & recs — the various public agencies that typically do such things. The Carolina Thread Trail brings two crucial elements to the table.  One, that most crucial of elements, money to build the trails. To complete the Thread Trail will require an estimated $150 million. By serving as coordinator/cheerleader, the CTT has been able to attract significant financial support: chipping in $1 million or more are The Bank of America Foundation, C. D. Spangler Foundation  Duke Energy The Duke Energy Foundation, Foundation For The Carolinas, John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, Turner Family Foundation, The Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund.

One goal of the Carolina Thread Trail: Increase the need for directional signs on a growing greenway network.

Significantly, too, the Carolina Thread Trail brings a sense of unified vision to trail efforts in the 15 member counties. In the Triangle in the mid-1990s, Circle The Triangle prompted local greenway and trail planners to take note of what their neighbors were doing. That  focused efforts that helped one municipality’s 5-mile trail become part of a much larger network. In Raleigh, for example, where it is now possible to hop on a greenway in the southeast part of town, ride up through the N.C. State and Meredith College campuses, continue on to Umstead State Park, ride through the park to Cary’s Black Creek Greenway, which hooks up with the town’s White Oak Creek Greenway, which — with a brief road connection — links to the American Tobacco Trail into Chatham County and Durham — a roughly 50-mile ride through six jurisdictions.

“We have two community coordinators who work with the counties to keep track of what’s going on,” says Anderson of the CTT’s effort to make similar connections. “They know each county and what’s expected to come on line in the near future.”

Anderson says the Carolina Thread Trail plans to launch construction of 2 miles of trail at Long Creek in October, and that the entire network should grow by 10 to 12 miles by February, putting it near the 90-mile mark.

A backhanded positive of this growth: No printed trail map exists for the Carolina Thread Trail.

“By the time we’d put one out,” says Anderson, “it would be out-of-date.”

For now, you can find a quick rundown — including name, location, length and suitable recreational activities — of the 26 trails in the Carolina Thread Trail network below. You can find additional details on each property at the Carolina Thread Trail site.

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Current members of the Carolina Thread Trail

Baxter Village Trail
Fort Mill, S.C.
2.25 miles
Natural surface
Mountain biking, running, walking

Bakers Creek Greenway
Kannapolis
2.0 miles
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding

Blue Star Trail
Fort Mill, S.C.
1.0 miles
Natural surface/gravel
Hiking, walking

Broad River Greenway
Shelby
3.0 miles (adjoining 17 additional miles)
Natural surface
Walking, running, biking, horseback riding, fishing, canoeing

Catawba Creek Greenway
Gastonia
1.8 miles
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface biking, skateboarding

Catawba River Greenway at Tuckaseege Park
Mt. Holly
1.0 mile
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding, fishing

Highland Rail Trail
Gastonia
1.5 miles
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding

Irwin Creek/Stewart Creek Greenway
Charlotte
2.1 miles
Paved/gravel mix
Walking, jogging, biking

Kings Mountain Gateway Trail
Kings Mountain
2.26 miles
Paved/gravel mix
Walking, running, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding

Landsford Canal
Chester, S.C.
0.75 miles
Crush-and-run gravel
Paddling, running, walking

Little Sugar Creek Greenway
Charlotte

— Cordelia Park to Alexander Street Park
0.7 miles
Asphalt/sidewalk
Walking, running, biking

— Freedom Park (Morehead Street to Brandywine/Westfield Road)
2.6 miles
Paved
Skateboarding, running

— Huntingtowne Park
0.8 miles
Paved
Skateboarding, running

— Morehead Street to Brandywine/Westfield Road
2.2 miles
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface bicycling, rollerblading, skateboarding

Lower McAlpine Creek/Campbell Creek
Charlotte
4.1 miles
Paved
Walking, running, biking
Detailed information also at GetGoingNC.com

Mallard Creek/Toby Creek Greenway
Charlotte
8.5 miles
Paved
Walking, running, paved bicycling, skateboarding
Detailed information also at GetGoingNC.com

Manchester Meadows Trail
Rock Hill, S.C.
1.1 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, biking

Marcia H. Cloninger Rail-Trail
Lincolnton
1.1 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface biking

McDowell Creek Greenway
Huntersville
1.5 mi.
Paved
Walking, jogging, biking

McEachern Greenway
Concord
1.42 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, biking, dog walking
Rollerblading, skateboarding

Nation Ford Greenway /Springfield Section
Fort Mill/York, S.C.
2.1 mi.
Natural surface single track
Mountain biking, running, walking

Riverside Greenway
Cramerton
1.2 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface bicycling, paddling, fishing

Rocky Creek Trail
Great Falls, S.C.
2.4 mi.
Natural/gravel
Walking, running, biking, paddling

Southeast Greenway
Davidson
2.3 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, biking, skateboarding, rollerblading

Spencer Mountain/R.Y. McAden blueway
Spencer Mountain
5.5 mi.
River
Paddling

Torrence Creek Greenway
Huntersville
0.8 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, biking,

Wylie Walking and Biking Trail
Chester, S.C.
1.0 mi.
Paved
Walking, running, paved surface bicycling

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