While earth is being moved for a greenway connector in Mount Airy, city officials have taken a giant step toward expanding the local trail system even farther.
This latest “Phase 3” plan involves extending more greenway mileage north from the Ararat River Greenway’s present starting point to the White Sulphur Springs area.
The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners is excited about that plan, voting during a meeting Thursday afternoon to provide $75,000 per year in city funding for the project in each of the next four years. That will commence with the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
“We’re also working with the county to fund that portion that’s in the county,” Charles Anderson, executive director of The Resource Institute in Winston-Salem, told Mount Airy officials of the plans for the next greenway project.
Crews now are working on the greenway connector, a 2.2-mile segment that will link the existing Emily B. Taylor Greenway, which now meanders along Lovills Creek in western Mount Airy, with the Ararat River Greenway located on the east side.
An asphalt trail 10 feet wide, which now ends at Worth Street, is being extended downstream along Lovills Creek to its confluence with the Ararat River. The planned route then goes upstream along the Ararat and ends at Tharrington Park at the southern end of its greenway along the river.
When completed by the end of 2016, a paved trail of nearly seven continuous miles will be provided for walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
The new plan unveiled Thursday seeks to up that total by another 3.2 miles or so to provide a linked trail system of about 10 miles.
This involves taking the greenway all the way up to the bridge going into the White Sulphur Springs property off N.C. 104 (Riverside Drive).
As has been the case with previous greenway work, and that presently occurring in conjunction with the connector, riverbank restoration is to be a big part of the latest project announced along with supplying the pathway itself.
City moving forward
Mount Airy officials seemed enthusiastic about launching the next greenway leg and adding to an already abundant recreational resource they say attracts users from both near and far.
“It has been very positive for the city of Mount Airy,” City Manager Barbara Jones said at the meeting, when the commissioners wasted no time in setting aside municipal revenue toward the project.
“I’ll go ahead and make a motion to put it in the budget,” Commissioner Steve Yokeley said. That motion was seconded by the board’s Jon Cawley and led to a 4-0 vote earmarking the city allocation (with Commissioner Jim Armbrister absent).
The total estimated cost of the Phase 3 segment from Riverside Park to White Sulphur Springs is put at $5.7 million, to which the $300,000 in total municipal funding will be applied.
It is the expectation that much of the expense can be provided through outside grants, according to Anderson. His organization, the Resource Institute, is a non-profit organization with whom the city government contracts to seek such funding, which has been extremely successful with grants for greenway work up to now.
Anderson mentioned Thursday that one $400,000 grant already has been approved for the planning phase of the project, with another of the same sum being pursued to go toward the construction of the greenway and the river restoration.
One reason for his presentation to the board this week was to obtain the city commissioners’ approval so other grants can be sought which have application deadlines in the June time frame.
Getting the project completed could be about a four-year process, based on discussion at the meeting.
“I hope we can do this,” Mayor David Rowe said of the northerly greenway extension.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Anderson said of the recreational, tourism, environmental and other benefits it offers.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.