The Future of Chapel Hill's Parks and Greenways

Erin Crouse's picture
Next Monday (February 18th), the Chapel Hill Town Council is holding a public hearing on two major planning documents for our town: the Parks and Greenways master plans. As chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, I can tell you that this day has been long in coming. Work on these plans began over two years ago, but staff was asked to wait until after the completion of the Chapel Hill 2020 visioning document to submit them for approval, so the plans could be as unified in their language as possible. When adopted, they will be considered part of the Town's comprehensive plan.

As Chapel Hill continues to grow (with a projected population of 70K by 2025), there is a need to conserve the open space the town has left, create better connectivity for non-vehicular transportation, and provide venues for citizens to engage in active, healthy lifestyles. Also, in most of the assessments that Town has done in the past few years, citizens have rated  trails and recreation opportunities as one of the Town's biggest needs. With these goals in mind, the two master plans recommend the following:

Parks master plan recommendations:
  • $12 million for immediate existing park improvements. Most of Chapel Hill's parks were built in the 1970s, and have major deferred maintenance issues.
  • $49 million in total for park improvements, land acquisition, and construction in the next ten years.
  • One new community park for the eastern part of town (possibly an expansion of Ephesus Park).
  • Two new neighborhood parks, with another two neighborhood parks needed by 2021.
  • Possible collaboration with Orange County in constructing a sport complex on Millhouse Road.
  • An additional outdoor swimming pool
  • Another community center by 2021.
  • Another dog park on the eastern side of town.
  • New administrative office and arts center.

The Greenways plan does not propose any new trails (outside of being updated to include language about the Campus to Campus connector), but it does set forward the following construction priorities:
  • Morgan Creek Phase II/Fan Branch Extension, which will connect those trails by  constructing a trail under Culbreth Road. Construction on this will begin in the next few weeks, and it will create the largest continuous paved greenway trail in Orange County.
  • Bolin Creek Phase III- this will connect the trail, which currently ends at MLK, to Umstead Park. It should begin construction in the next year or so. This project is currently funded, in large part, by the late Joe Herzenberg, who left his estate to the Friends of Chapel Hill Parks, Recreation, and Greenways for Bolin Creek greenway construction.
  • In addition to these projects, the Greenways plan offers six guiding principles for long-term construction prioritization: connection to existing parks and trails, transportation functionality, population proximity, school proximity, and connection to low-income areas with low car ownership rates, and regional connections.


Draft documents of this plan are available at the Town website. I hope that all of you will look through the plans and express your support for an active, walkable, and green (literally and figuratively) Chapel Hill.

 

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1 Comment

Community Gardens

I was happy to see that the new Parks plan acknowledges the need for community gardens, but disappointed that there wasn't any acknowledgement of the 2020 (Nurturing Our Community) goal to include food preparation as part of the programming around community gardens. Obviously, for the programming to be feasible, some type of community kitchen would need to be built.