Greenways for the 21st Century

This commentary, written my fellow OP editor Travis Crayton and myself, originally appeared in the Chapel Hill News on September 6, 2015.

Work on phase three of the Bolin Creek greenway began earlier this summer – and that’s great news for Chapel Hill residents. Phase three of the greenway is the first step in connecting where the current greenway ends at Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd below the police station to Tanyard Branch trail, the Northside neighborhood, and downtown Chapel Hill via Umstead Drive. The greenway extension will also serve as a vital link to the future trail systems planned by Carrboro and Orange County.

National Trails Day: Fan Branch & Morgan Creek Trail Connector Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

The public is invited to a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the trail project that connects the Fan Branch and Morgan Creek trails at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 7. The Town of Chapel Hill event coincides with National Trails Day.

The ceremony will take place at the new tunnel under Culbreth Road. The event will be led by Jim Orr, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, with Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Peter Calingaert, chair of the Morgan Creek Trail Concept Plan Committee, and Chris Berndt, chair of the Greenways Commission. A hike to Merritt's Pasture will follow the ceremony.

About the Trail Project

The Morgan Creek Trail Phase 2 project connects the existing Morgan Creek Trail on the north side of Morgan Creek to the existing 1.6 mile long Fan Branch Trail on the south side of Culbreth Road. The $1.5 million project creates the longest paved trail in Orange County at 2.4 miles.

The relatively short section of new trail has big impacts. It includes about 1,000 feet of trail, two bridges, and a pedestrian underpass of Culbreth Road. The southern end is located at the Dogwood Acres Drive parking lot in Southern Community Park, while the northern end is at a parking lot just east of Kingswood Apartments off of highway NC 54. A side trail provides access to the Merritt Pasture open space.

The total land area of Chapel Hill is 21.3 square miles, and about 11 percent is dedicated to parks and open space. The Town is working to complete more than 28 miles of greenways and trails that will allow pedestrians and bicyclists to access every part of town. The Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department provides numerous opportunities for self-enrichment, adventure, fellowship and quiet reflection.

View the Trail Map at

To Attend the Ribbon Cutting

Join the group at the Morgan Creek Trail parking lot off NC 54/Fordham Blvd. at 9:40 a.m. Saturday. The group will walk or bike about a half mile from the parking lot to the site of the ribbon cutting off Culbreth Road. Plan on a 15-minute walk to the ceremony site.

If the Morgan Creek Trail Parking Lot is filled, check for alternative parking in the gravel parking lot across the street from Merritt's Store on South Columbia Street (but please leave by 11:45 a.m. to accommodate their lunch rush) or use the street parking in Southern Village or park at Southern Community Park. If you are walking from the Southern Community Park, allow for about 25 minutes of travel time.

For more information or to receive special assistance, contact Bill Webster, assistant parks and recreation director, at 919-968-2819 or


Saturday, June 7, 2014 - 9:40am


Morgan Creek Trail parking lot off NC 54/Fordham Blvd

Public input on CH Greenways map

From the Town of Chapel Hill web site:

Give Us Your Input on the New Greenways and Cycling Map
Posted Date: 

Bike on Chapel Hill Greenway

Calling all bikers, hikers, and anyone who uses Chapel Hill’s trails and greenways. You’re invited to drop in and provide input for a new Greenways and Cycling Guide Map. A public meeting will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan.13, in the Chapel Hill Town Hall second floor training room.

The Town of Chapel Hill Planning and Parks and Recreation departments are working with Steve Spindler, a cartographer specializing in cycle facility and transit mapping for urban areas, to develop a community map aimed at facilitating and promoting bicycle and greenway usage. Spindler will give a short presentation at 6 p.m. about mapping projects he has worked on and how his work has been used and distributed in other cities.

During this event, Spindler and Town staff will be available to discuss the information that makes urban cycling and greenway trail maps most effective. The Town is seeking public input so this map will benefit visitors, cyclists, and trail users of all types for years to come.

For more information, contact Garrett Davis of the Chapel Hill Planning Department at gdavis2@townofchapelhill.orgor 919-969-5061. 


Thursday, January 13, 2011 - 12:30pm


Chapel Hill Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd

Advocates for Carrboro Greenways presentation to Carrboro Greenways Commission

The Advocates for Carrboro Greenways will be making a 10 minute presentation to the Carrboro Greenways Commission on the development of Greenways that will provide safe off-road transportation; traffic/CO2 mitigation in Carrboro; access to natural areas for all citizens; and preservation/restoration of degraded areas.



Monday, September 20, 2010 - 2:00pm


Carrboro Town Hall, Alderman Meeting room

SEHSR Mtg in Raleigh Monday 7/26/2010

There will be a public meeting Monday evening in Raleigh on the Raleigh to Richmond section of the high speed rail + Greenway.
Meeting Details:

Comments also accepted online:

The trains will probably be hybrid (NOT all-electric).  They will make 4 roundtrips daily Charlotte⇄Raleigh (via Hillsborogh & Durham), plus 4 roundtrips daily Charlotte⇄Washington DC (via Hillsborogh, Durham & Raleigh).

Between Raleigh & Charlotte, the SEHSR and any associated greenway will closely follow the current Amtrak NCRR route, with slight realignments to widen curves.  The DEIS states, "the greenway will typically follow the old, unused rail right of way when the rail alignment is on new location."

Between Raleigh & Richmond, the plan takes a more direct route, following US-1 through Wake Forest, Youngsville, Franklinton, Henderson, and Norlina (instead of Rocky Mount).

The trail creates tourism opportunities in all communities along the route, even those unserved by the train.

Paralleling the rail corridor makes a lot of sense for trail users as it provides a route with minimal cross-traffic and connecting to highly desirable destinations.

Section 2.4 "Multiuse Greenway Concept" states:

In December 2006, Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation
(DCR), and representatives of Dinwiddie, Brunswick, and Mecklenburg counties
voiced their support for a multiuse Greenway Concept associated with
the SEHSR corridor and its inclusion in the SEHSR Tier II DEIS. The
North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)
also voiced its support for an extension of the Greenway Concept south
into North Carolina and terminating at the Neuse River, north of
Raleigh, NC. The advantage of including the Greenway Concept in the
SEHSR study is that the potential environmental impacts, both human
and natural, that would result from the proposed greenway can be
determined at an earlier stage in the process. This would allow the
necessary environmental documentation for the greenway to be prepared
so that local municipalities could pursue the construction of the
greenway in their jurisdictions.

The exact location of the Greenway Concept will not be determined
until the preferred alternative for the SEHSR project is selected because the impacts
associated with the Greenway Concept would be too minor to have a bearing on the selection
of a preferred alternative. The potential impacts associated with the Greenway
Concept will be documented document (e.g., Finding of No Significant
Impact) will be prepared for the Greenway Concept.

If construction of the greenway is undertaken by local municipalities,
guidance from the US Department of Transportation will be used and FRA
will be consulted.
For purposes of impact evaluation, the greenway is proposed to have a
30 foot trail “footprint” on a 60 foot ROW. The greenway ROW will be
adjacent to but separate from the rail ROW. The 60 feet should provide
enough room for the greenway cut/fill slopes not to interfere with the
proposed SEHSR construction limits as well as allow for necessary
design adjustments for the greenway. The trail itself will be
approximately 10 feet wide. Problem areas will be identified where
additional ROW may be needed (contained within the current SEHSR study
corridor), and impacts will be calculated for those areas. It is
anticipated that in municipal areas, trail traffic would be redirected
to existing city street ROW and sidewalks or other trail networks as
determined by each municipality. In addition, the trail will utilize
portions of the existing inactive rail ROW not needed for the new rail

The Greenway Concept design will conform to the American Association
of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the
Planning, Design, and Operation of Pedestrian Facilities (2004) and
the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (1999), as
well as the NCDOT adopted "Design Guidelines for Bicycle Facilities,"
where possible and practicable.

The SEHSR Greenway Concept has potential to be an important feature of
the state-wide trail networks that are being developed by the states
of Virginia and North Carolina in conjunction with local governments.
Additionally, the SEHSR Greenway Concept may be incorporated into the
East Coast Greenway (ECG), an urban version of the Appalachian Trail
for walkers, cyclists, and other non-motorized trail users. Founded in
1991, the East Coast Greenway Alliance is a non-profit organization
aimed at connecting cities and towns along the East Coast with a
continuous, 3,000 mile long, traffic-free path from Maine to Florida
(Figure 2-7). The ECG is a combination of paved greenways, crushed
gravel paths, urban streets, and rural bike routes. Approximately 21
percent of the ECG was been completed as of December 2008. As stated
on the Alliance’s website, the “Alliance will not own or directly
manage any portion of this trail. Rather, it will be owned and managed
by municipal, county and state agencies. The Alliance works to ensure
continuity and a consistent quality of route” (ECG Alliance, 2008).

The route and ownership of the ECG is determined by each state,
municipality, locality, and community through which it passes.
Therefore, each section of trail is independently
managed and representative of the needs of its respective region.

Comments also accepted online:





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