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New Hanover County’s Comprehensive Greenway Plan is en route to adoption—after planners wrap on the public’s final chance to workshop it tonight.
From 4 to 7 p.m., staffers with the City of Wilmington, the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and New Hanover County will display information about the greenway vision at Ogden Elementary School, 3637 Middle Sound Loop Road, and close out the last round of in-person sessions that have given residents the chance to learn about and shape the process.
Jason Reyes, a Durham-based associate with Alta Greenways, a consultant in the project, said the comprehensive plan’s next step will be endorsement this fall from the county’s municipalities, like Carolina Beach, which hosted Wednesday’s edition of the drop-in workshop.
Reyes told residents in attendance—there were roughly 10 of them by 5 p.m.—that the vision is a countywide network of mostly asphalt or concrete paths that would link bicyclists and pedestrians with various destinations like shopping malls, schools, parks and workplaces. The comprehensive plan would serve as the framework for the project’s partners to follow.
Anyone familiar with the greenways of Asheville and Greensboro will have a loose idea of what this project’s collaborators have in mind, Reyes said, adding officials from Wilmington and the county visited those cities to learn about their respective greenways’ implementations.
“They didn’t want to make the same mistakes that people made in other places but also capitalize on their knowledge and expertise,” Reyes said.
Currently the project has no solid cost estimate as planning remains and full implementation would spread over 20 years. Wilmington’s Gary Shell Cross-City Trail, a $6.83 million project funded mostly by stimulus dollars, is one component of the overall greenway.
But according to the more than 3,600 comment forms recorded so far on the effort, support is vast, officials said. Almost 80 percent identified the project as “very important,” while 95 percent indicated they’d use the greenway paths near them.
Reyes said planners have also surveyed individual businesses for support. One conducted with the employees of the large GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy plant, at the northern end of the county, returned demand for a greenway path in the vicinity as many of the employees live near the facility and would be interested in non-motor commutes.
From a health and wellness standpoint, Blue Cross Blue Shield also committed support in the form of $555,000 given to finish the last link of the cross-city trail.
Not everyone has embraced the plan, as indicated by a pair of residents from Carolina Beach’s Alabama Avenue who told planners at Wednesday’s workshop they didn’t want the greenway to touch their street. Their concerns included an increase in bicyclists and pedestrians passing their home and the percentage of them who might be strangers up to no good in their neighborhood.
Mike Kozlosky, executive director of the MPO, said he appreciated the comments, but, he noted, “We’ve had experiences and studies from across the country that demonstrate the positive impacts that these facilities have had across their communities.”
More information on the plan is available at http://www.wilmingtongreenway.com.