Cross-City Trail nears completion as officials applaud latest phase

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Wilmington City Councilmembers and New Hanover County Commissioners joined Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo (second from right) and BCBSNC President and CEO Brad Wilson (sixth from left) in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail in Wade Park.
Wilmington City Councilmembers and New Hanover County Commissioners joined Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo (second from right) and BCBSNC President and CEO Brad Wilson (sixth from left) in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail in Wade Park.

Officials from the city of Wilmington, New Hanover County and other businesses were on hand for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Wade Park on Tuesday afternoon for the newly completed section of the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail.

Construction on the latest section of the 15-mile multi-use trail, known as Phase III, began in December 2013. In addition to a multi-use path on 17th Street from College Road to John D. Barry Drive, the project also included new sidewalks and bike lanes on Waltmoor and Bethel Roads as well as crosswalks and pedestrian signals at the intersections of 17th and College and 17th and John D. Barry Drive. Infrastructure work included drainage improvements and the installation of a new stormwater drainage pipe under Waltmoor Road. It opened to the public in September.

The $9 million project (the latest section cost $2.1 million) was funded using federal and state money as well as donations from the private sector. A portion of the trail section was funded by Blue Cross – Blue Shield of North Carolina’s “Get Outside North Carolina” initiative, which promotes healthy lifestyles through the development of outdoor spaces where people can be more active.

“We genuinely believe, as North Carolina’s hometown health insurer, that it’s more than just about doing business and providing health insurance and coverage and services for the people of the state,” said Brad Wilson, the president and chief executive officer of BCBSNC. “It’s incumbent upon us, and it’s our honor and privilege, to invest in those communities and to help build facilities like we are celebrating here today where people can enjoy the wonderful place that we all call home.”

BCBSNC gave $550,000 that went toward mile markers, five bicycle “fix-it” stations, a kiosk that will be installed at Wade Park and the paving of the trail itself.

Fourteen of the trail’s 15 miles are now complete, according to Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. While the recently completed section is the final major part of the trail, there are still two smaller unfinished sections. One is near the Wrightsville Beach drawbridge and should be completed in 2016. The other is at Kerr Avenue and Randall Parkway and will be completed in 2017 with the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Kerr Avenue road widening project.

“All in all, we’re very close to the completion of the Gary Shell Cross-City Trail,” said Saffo.

The trail is named after former City of Wilmington Director of Parks Recreation and former Deputy Director of Community Services Gary Shell, who was instrumental in the creation of the trail. Shell lost his battle to cancer on May 12, 2011.