Wandering through Old Salem, from which Winston-Salem derives its second half, I was reminded that you needn’t drive deep into the country to enjoy fall color. I was reminded, too, that while the season is always better on foot — more time to linger and enjoy — you don’t necessarily need to walk an unpaved surface.
Tonight, proponents of the Falls Whitewater Park will go before the Raleigh City Council in hopes of adding the proposed park to an upcoming Raleigh parks bond referendum. The council should unanimously approve the request. A little background, then the “why?”
The effort to create a modest whitewater park at the base of Falls Lake dam began more than a decade ago. It was spurred in part by efforts to lure the headquarters of USA Canoe/Kayak, the governing body of Olympic paddling. (USA Canoe/Kayak ended up going to Charlotte, which had a shinier thing in the U.S. National Whitewater Center. In 2011, USA Canoe/Kayak abandoned Charlotte for Oklahoma City.)
Herein lies part of the beauty of the Falls Whitewater Park: unlike the 500-acre, $38 million National Whitewater Center, which offers everything from mountain biking trail to a climbing tower to whitewater paddling on a half-mile man-made river, the Falls Whitewater Park epitomizes simplicity. Utilizing the existing rock structure at the base of the dam with minor channeling tweaks, the Falls Whitewater Park could offer whitewater paddling on release from the dam near its minimum of 150 cubic feet per second; thus, nearly guaranteed recreation year-round. Approximately $345,000 has already been allocated by Raleigh and Wake County toward the project; the overall cost has not been determined, but the investment would be overshadowed by the ultimate return.
The Falls Whitewater Park would be at the heart of a rapidly-emerging outdoors playground; it’s addition could establish the area as a regional adventure destination. Consider:
Progress never comes fast enough.
That was evident at this morning’s Fourth Annual Triangle Bike and Pedestrian Workshop, where local transportation planners got together to talk about progress made in 2013 and share what’s on the drawing board for this year and beyond. Nothing like getting a look under the tree a year or more in advance.
Last Thursday on a trip down east was my first day on the water and it put me of a mind to spend more time paddling. The quiet, save for the birdsong and the occasional gal-lump of a turtle inelegantly abandoning sunny log for murky water. The wildlife, including an alligator that was even more distracted by the sun and warmth. The emergence of spring, with the pastel buds of green, white and crimson giving the world a soft focus field. The unique calm that only paddling flat water can offer.
A settlement reached earlier this week between Raleigh and the owners of a quarry along Crabtree Creek means the city can finally proceed with a 2- to 3-mile extension of the Crabtree Creek Trail into Umstead State Park. The extension will create a roughly 18-mile paved greenway along Crabtree Creek from Umstead to Raleigh’s 28-mile Neuse River Trail.
“It’s the last missing piece,” Vic Lebsock, Raleigh’s senior greenway designer, said this morning.
The Crabtree extension had been held hostage in a battle between the city and local homeowners and Hanson Aggregates, which owns the Crabtree Quarry. Local residents didn’t like the blasting required to mine the rock; Hanson had a lot more rock it wanted to mine. (Read more about the settlement here.)
The settlement ends a 20-year dispute and clears the way for design to begin on a trail that Lebsock says has its “difficult aspects.” Foremost among them: On the east end the trail will need to climb up from Crabtree Creek to avoid a stretch of land Hanson will be allowed to quarry for about another 40 years.
“We’ll need to design-in switchbacks and make the trail handicap accessible,” Lebsock says. The greenway will climb for about a quarter mile along Duraleigh Road, then follow a ridgeline across to Richland Creek, where switchbacks will again be employed to take the greenway down to Crabtree Creek. From there, the greenway will continue to Umstead.
There is currently no funding for the project, estimated to cost about $3.5 million. But that appears to be a temporary concern.
Lebsock says he’s currently pulling together “residual funds” from other greenway projects to fund the design element. He expects the design to begin by summer, with construction possibly beginning by summer 2015.
“That would be really aggressive,” says Lebsock. But if it happens, the trail could possibly be done by the end of next year.