Three bicyclists on the Ararat River Greenway in Mount Airy reached the end of the line at Tharrington Park Tuesday, requiring them to turn around and go back the way they came to continue their morning ride.
But soon, work will begin on a project that will allow such greenway users to keep on going — all the way to the opposite end of town if they desire.
That will be possible through the construction of a link to connect the city’s two greenways, the Ararat River and Emily B. Taylor, resulting in a continuous trail system of more than six paved miles for cyclists, walkers and joggers.
After years of planning and preparation, work on the connector by contractor Smith-Rowe, LLC, will begin in a matter of weeks, according to Catrina Alexander, city parks and recreation director.
“It’s my understanding that the contractor (Smith-Rowe) is looking at late August or early September to start, last I heard,” Alexander added earlier this week. “We would like to plan some type of groundbreaking or something along those lines.”
Darren Lewis, assistant parks and recreation director, said Tuesday that the connector construction will begin at the point where the Ararat River Greenway now ends at Tharrington Park, which is behind the school of the same name. It will proceed to the southern end of the Emily B. Taylor Greenway near the former Mayflower Seafood location.
When the connector is completed, the full route will extend south from Riverside Park along the river to the point where that waterway converges with Lovills Creek. Then it will loop in a northerly direction to join the existing Taylor greenway that ends at Veterans Memorial Park on West Lebanon Street.
Streambank restoration along the route was undertaken earlier.
The spark for the 2.2-mile greenway link was the awarding of a $2.2 million grant to Mount Airy by the N.C. Department of Transportation in 2011. The municipality is supplying $430,000 for the project that is expected to enhance local tourism offerings while also increasing recreational opportunities for area residents.
Smith-Rowe, a Mount Airy-based company, was awarded the $1,591,088 greenway construction contract by the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners in January.
In June, one last bureaucratic hurdle was cleared when the commissioners approved a contract with Stewart Inc. to provide construction engineering inspection services for the project.
After that, a pre-construction meeting was held among the affected parties in anticipation of the work beginning this summer.
The timetable calls for the connector to be completed in mid-2016.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.