Updates: Forest Ridge Park, Neuse Greenway and a parking lot

You ask questions, I try to answer them. Among your recent inquiries:

Forest Ridge Park, Raleigh

Lance was noodling around on the site, discovered an old post about Forest Ridge Park-to-be in North Raleigh and wondered “if there is any news there. It looks to me like things are moving toward construction starting next spring … .”

Things are, in fact, finally moving along with the 586-acre park along Falls Lake, hugging the shore between NC 98 and the Falls Lake dam. The park was announced by the City of Raleigh in 2003, the master plan unveiled in 2006 and since then … nothing. Or at least nothing outside the bureaucratic realm that can swamp a project for, well, five years. But last week, a significant hurdle was cleared when the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land, signed off on the Forest Ridge Environmental Assessment.

That’s a big deal, says David Berra, a landscape architect with Raleigh Parks & Rec. who is riding herd on the project. “In their professional opinion, it meets their standards,” Berra said Wednesday.

Which isn’t to say Raleigh can go ahead and start carving out a park. Not just yet.

“Now they have to send it out to a long list of public agencies, federal, state, local … ,” Berra said. Roughly 100 agencies, Berra estimated. Those agencies have 30 days to get back to the Army Corps with comments. Berra said it shouldn’t be more than 60 days before any concerns arising from that review, if there are any, are addressed.

Then can Raleigh fire up the bulldozers?

Almost. Berra said the city will still need to tinker a little with its plans for the park. They also need to drill test wells for a potable water source, sign the lease for the property, maybe do one or two other little things before the project can go out to bid. Interested contractors will then have 30 days to bid on the project, then a contractor will be chosen. If all goes well, Berra said construction could begin next summer.

“We estimate construction should take about 14 months,” said Berra, meaning the park could open as soon as late summer 2013.

That’s for Phase I of the project, which includes a nature center, parking, two playgrounds, two restrooms, drinking water, utilities, trails, an overlook, and a high ropes course with a zipline. (The park has an adventure theme, with additional plans for a climbing wall, group camping, non-motorized boating, horseback riding and rowing/sculling, among other activities.)

Those trails in Phase 1 are of particular interest. There’s 22 miles in all, most of which will be natural surface, some of which will be open for mountain biking. Raleigh recently received a $75,000 grant from the state for trail development in the park. Optimistically, the local mountain bike community stands to add one of its biggest mountain biking destinations in less than two years.

For a look at the Forest Ridge master plan, go here.

* * *

Pedestrian bridge over the Neuse River near Clayton.

Neuse River Greenway, Johnston County/Clayton

Troy writes: “Was wondering if you had any updates on the bridge that crosses over the Neuse River on the Clayton Greenway and when it might be scheduled for completion?”

Troy is referring to a greenway project under construction along the Neuse River in Johnston County. Overall, the trail will run roughly 5 miles, from Clayton upstream to the the Wake County line, where it will meet with Raleigh’s 28-mile Neuse River Trail, the first 6.5 miles of which recently opened.

The bridge itself is in place, Troy (see photo). The wooden structures leading up to it on both sides are in mid-construction. And the rest of the project

Sam's Branch Greenway in Clayton, which connects with the Neuse greenway in Johnston County.

could be completed as soon as year’s end, according to Corey McLamb, an engineer with the N.C. Department of Transportation, which is overseeing the greenway.

At present, the greenway is completed downstream from the bridge to where it meets with Clayton’s 1.2-mile Sam’s Branch Greenway, which originates at North O’Neil Street (and will eventually run to Clayton’s Legend Park). Total distance to the bridge is about 1.8 miles. The greenway is also paved north of Covered Bridge Road to the Riverwood subdivision. McLamb says the trail ties in there with existing trail in the subdivision, then will continue upstream to the Wake County line. There, it will connect with the 28-mile Neuse River Trail, which will run from Falls dam south to the Johnston County line. That greenway is expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

The stars will have to align for the Johnston County greenway to be done by the end of this year, says McLamb. “If everything goes well, if we have no issues with the weather, it could be done,” he says. Otherwise, it could be early spring before the trail opens.

“In winter, we typically have wetter, shorter workdays,” says McLamb. “The cold weather also affects our ability to lay asphalt. The ground surface temperature, the atmospheric temperature, it can all make a difference.”

* * *

Bikers have various options off Old Reedy Creek Road at Lake Crabtree.

Lake Crabtree/Umstead/Black Creek trailhead parking

Finally, Erik wrote wondering if I could tell him where he’d first seen something about “construction bids” for a long-talked about parking lot on Old Reedy Creek Road at Lake Crabtree. Before I could respond, he found it. But I was curious, so I check it out, then made an inquiry.

The lot in question would serve trailheads for Lake Crabtree, Cary’s Black Creek Greenway, Umstead State Park and assorted under-the-radar trails in the area. The area is especially popular with runners and mountain bikers: Early weekday mornings it’s not unusual to see 20 or more cars parked along the road; Saturday mornings that number can exceed 50. While a parking lot would be welcome, there’s also concern that with it roadside parking might be banned.

That concern arises from what happened on the other side of Umstead State Park three years ago when the N.C. Department of Transportation suddenly paved a short gravel stretch of Graylyn Road, which at the time was a popular neighborhood entrance to Umstead. Paving was quickly followed by no parking signs, which effectively closed the entrance. DOT has been making noise about paving Old Reedy Creek Road as well, heightening fears that they would also ban roadside parking there — a ban they might feel more justified decreeing with a formal parking lot at the trailheads.

How big will the lot be? Where will it be located? And could it prompt DOT to act on roadside parking along Old Reedy Creek? Those questions will have to wait, says Paul Kuhn with the Town of Cary, pending results of what is actually a pre-construction assessment.

“The project is a feasibility study to determine the answer to those questions,” says Kuhn. “So at this point we don’t have answers to those questions. Once a consultant is selected their job will be to answer these questions.”

That selection could happen as soon as Nov. 17.

Got a question? I’ll try to find you an answer. Either ask your question below in the comment space or drop me a line at joe@getgoingnc.com.

5 thoughts on “Updates: Forest Ridge Park, Neuse Greenway and a parking lot”

  1. Joe,

    Could you please tell me where I could schedule a noodling trip (guided of course) for catfish? I can’t seem to find any links to any guided trips except in OK and I really dont wanna go that far.

    Thank you for any info you could provide.


    1. Noodling, for the uninitiated, is fishing for catfish with your bare hands. (Read about it here.) A quick search turned up nothing, Sandy, but let me check around. There’s got to be someone in North Carolina who would be glad to take you noodling.

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