Greenway connector plan coming together

By Tom Joyce

May 11, 2014

Plans to connect Mount Airy’s two greenways are moving right along, according to a city recreation official.

When any kind of public route is involved, whether it’s a highway or greenway, two of the most important factors are money and rights of way. Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander said both are shaping up for the project to join the Emily B. Taylor and Ararat River greenways located on opposite ends of town.

This includes $375,000 in extra grant assistance being secured so far for the connector from the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund, Alexander said in a recent update to the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners. The state fund aids projects of local governments and other entities which involve the protection of surface waters, with the greenway connector to include about one mile of stream restoration for the Ararat River.

That grant was secured by the Resource Institute Inc., a Winston-Salem non-profit organization that Mount Airy officials contracted with in 2011 to seek outside funding for the connector. The institute’s effort involves securing money needed to cover expenses exceeding a $2.2 million grant earlier awarded by the N.C. Department of Transportation and $430,000 in city funding allocated for the project that officials have said could cost up to $4.5 million.

The connector, to be finished in 2016, will be a 2.2-mile, asphalt trail that will link the two greenways at the southernmost ends of each, further enhancing multi-purpose uses including biking, walking and running. The route will go from the Ararat River Greenway at a point near B.H. Tharrington Primary School to the Ararat’s confluence with Lovills Creek and link to the extended Taylor greenway, which now ends at Worth Street near Mayflower Seafood.

“The city continues to pursue easements necessary for the project,” Alexander said of the rights of ways required from owners of property that are in the connector path. But only one easement has yet to be secured, the recreation official said during her update.

In response to a question from Commissioner Jon Cawley about how the connector route will circumvent existing roadways and other infrastructure in its path, Alexander mentioned that it will go under U.S. 601 (Rockford Street), Carter Street and U.S. 52 twice.

She described a tunneling approach that was employed along the Taylor greenway running from West Lebanon to Worth streets, mostly beside Lovills Creek.

The planning and design phase of the connector also is moving forward since city officials awarded a $299,995 contract to Michael Baker Engineering last July for that portion of the project.

Once the plans are finalized and submitted to the state DOT for approval, expected to be about a 10-month process, construction of the greenway connector will begin. It must be completed by the end of 2016, Alexander added.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.