Reader questions greenway extension

To the Editor,

I am not a city resident but just want to see if I understand this right. The city commissioners had a work session this past Tuesday and the northern extension of the Ararat River Greenway was discussed, and they also reviewed the latest annual audit results which The News reported as “boiling down to a funding crunch”. Then on Thursday evening the commissioners (except Shirley Brinkely) voted to approve the Greenway project. This leaves me with a question, “Who’s kissing who around here?”

I invite you to look at the original Ararat River Greenway Master Plan. Yes, a northern extension was mentioned, but a link of the two greenways via the old railroad right of way was mentioned first. Ask yourself, which would potentially be the least expensive, disrupt fewer property owners, and provide a natural loop for those using the greenway? I think the railway link would come out on top.

I read in the article in the News that a benefit of the northern extension would be stream bank restoration. If it improves the stream bank the way it has at Riverside Park, it will be laughable. Pictures included in the Greenway Master Plan show the banks of the Ararat at the park before the project. They were mowed neatly to the edge of the river providing a nice picnic spot and easy access for fishing. Look at it now, over grown with river birch and weeds blocking practically all access. In addition this growth has at times trapped so much debris at the northern end of the soccer field that it had to be removed. Wasn’t the restoration project supposed to allow better flow to decrease flooding chances? If the city can’t maintain property two blocks from downtown, how are they going to do it two miles upriver? They have also neglected the canoe access at Tharrington School, a seriously eroding bank across from Mount Airy Middle School that potentially threatens the trail, and trees that at times have fallen and blocked the river changing its’ course of flow! Look at the mowing performed along the banks of the Emily Taylor Greenway and you’ll see the difference.

Then, there is the policing of this stretch. Sightings of police officers and game wardens are few and far between on the current greenway system but it is by no fault of their own. They are limited by budget appropriations. I personally am sickened by the instances of trout poaching, speeding bikers, and pooping dogs that I have witnessed.

I also wonder if the commissioners have given any thought to the old train trestle across the river. There are tons of log debris backed up behind the trestle creating a sieve. This has allowed erosion of the trestle supports on the Mount Airy Granite side of the river. If the intent is to have canoe access upstream then this will have to dealt with. Plus, what about accidents from people falling from the trestle since they will be able to walk right by it. Removal will be the only option here.

Take a look at the Surry County GIS mapping system and identify the landowners along both sides of the river along the path of this project. Some of the larger tracts are owned by City of Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina Granite, Renfro, MMG Properties, Millenium Education Foundation, and WSSMA LLC. I applaud homeowner Jason Pflug and John Pritchard for speaking out about this plan.

So what is the impetus behind this extension? Maybe a paraphrase of a line in an old radio show is apt, “Who knows what secrets lurk in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

Rodney Harris

Mount Airy

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