For years, Raleigh’s Neuse River Greenway consisted of a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of dirt trail from Old Milburnie Road just above U.S. 64 downstream to Anderson Point. Raleigh’s greenway master plan called for paved greenway running from just below the Falls Lake dam to the Johnston County line, and the topic would occasionally come up in greenway discussions, but it wasn’t a priority with the city.
In 2008, though, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker decided it should be. And, he said, we should get it done in four years — an ambitious deadline for a 28-mile, $30 million greenway project that would require seven pedestrian bridges crossing the Neuse River and numerous more over smaller tributaries. This summer, says Raleigh Senior Greenway Planner Vic Lebsock, the first 8-mile stretch of the Neuse River Greenway should open.
“It should open late June or early July,” says Lebsock of the northernmost stretch of the greenway, which will run from the Falls Lake dam downstream to the WRAL Soccer Complex near Louisburg Road.
This stretch — 7.9 miles in length, actually — will require seven bridges, none over the Neuse. It will be the longest stretch of single greenway ever opened at one time in the Triangle. The project is being funded, in part, by federal stimulus money.
Additionally, Lebsock says, the city expects to award bids in about 60 days for another 20 miles of the greenway, from just below the WRAL Soccer Complex and Horseshoe Farm Park to the Johnston County line. Portions of that stretch could open by mid 2012; the entire 20 miles could be done by early 2013. That would leave a three-quarter-mile stretch of the greenway, at Horseshoe Farm Park. Lebsock says they had to tinker with the design of that stretch, but that it should go out to bid this year and be completed in 2013. That’s a little past Meeker’s 2012 goal.
Significant as the 28-mile Neuse Greenway is in its own right, it becomes more so considering another stretch of Raleigh greenway scheduled to be bid this fall. Currently, the Crabtree Creek Trail Greenway runs 11.7 miles, from near Duraleigh Road not far from Umstead State Park down Crabtree Creek to Milburnie Road. The 4-mile stretch of greenway going to bid this fall would continue Crabtree Creek Trail downstream to the Neuse River — connecting into the 28-mile Neuse River Greenway.
Quick math — the 11.7-mile Crabtree Trail plus the 28-mile Neuse River Greenway — would suggest that’s 39.7 miles of connected greenway. But that’s not including the six miles of greenway the heads north from Crabtree Trail past Shelley Lake. And if you were here yesterday, you learned that that stretch will be extended another six miles north, to Falls Lake, next year with construction of the Honeycutt Creek Greenway (that gets us up to 45 miles). And, again had you been here yesterday, you would have discovered that the 2.9-mile House Creek Greenway is now under construction and should open by year’s end (48.6 miles). That greenway will link the Crabtree Creek Trail with the Reedy Creek Greenway, which is part of an additional 24 miles of Raleigh greenway (72.6 miles). Reedy Creek also connects with the 5-mile bike & bridle trail in Umstead State Park (77.6 miles), which connects with the 6-mile — and growing — Black Creek Greenway in Cary.
By my cyphering, that’s a total of 83.6 miles of connected greenway. To keep my head from exploding I’ll forgo, for right now, mentioning that Cary is in the process of finishing a link of the Black Creek Greenway, which runs into Fred Bond Park where it connects with the White Oak Creek Greenway, which will eventually connect with the 22-mile American Tobacco Trail.
In short, in two years, the Triangle should have more than 100 miles of interconnected greenway.
Photo: In the beginning (and at present), the Neuse River Greenway consisted of a 3.5-mile stretch of natural surface path running upstream from Anderson Point.