SOUTHEAST N.C. — The longest connected walking and biking route in the United States could be coming right through the Cape Fear region with miles of trails through both Pender and Brunswick County if approved.
The East Coast Greenway (ECG) currently consists of more than 1,000-miles of trail, but at its completion will total more than 3,000-miles.
With portions of the ECG already complete in Wilmington, both Pender County and Brunswick County Commissioners are prepared to pass supporting resolutions for the completion of trails through their counties and applications for the USDOT BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) grant.
According to the resolution submitted to the Pender County Board of Commissioners, “(t)he Cape Fear RPO [regional planning organization] is requesting support through adopted resolutions of member jurisdictions in preparation of applying for the FY 2018 USDOT BUILD grant and is requesting Pender County to consider the resolution titled: ‘Resolution Supporting a Detailed Planning Study of the East Coast Greenway Through Rural North Carolina.'”
The trail spans 15 states from Maine to Florida, starting near the Canadian border and ending in Key West.
“While the most distinguishing feature of the ECG is its incredible length, it is also notable for its focus on providing opportunities for both bicyclists and pedestrians, its ambitious goal of being located entirely on dedicated facilities and not on roadways, and for the significant portions of the Greenway that have already been completed or are in the process of being completed,” according to documents submitted to the Pender County Board of Commissioners.
As planned the ECG consists of 372 miles for its North Carolina Spine Route that include portions of both counties, there is also a second route known as the Historic Coastal Route.
The main route (known as the “Spine Route”) enters Pender County from New Hanover County along the US 421 corridor, before branching off along Blueberry Road to the Currie community. At Currie, the ECG Spine Route follows NC 210 past Moores Creek National Battlefield and onward to Bladen County, Fayetteville, the Research Triangle, and north to Virginia. At Currie, the Spine Route also intersects the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, according to Planning Director Kyle Breuer in the documents to the commissioners.
“Eastern Pender County is home to the Historic Coastal Route of the ECG, which splits from the Spine Route in Wilmington and travels through Hampstead along the US 17 corridor to NC 210 and across the bridge to Surf City, along with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The route continues through many major communities in eastern North Carolina and onward to Virginia, before rejoining the Spine Route in Richmond,” he concluded.
Aside from providing new infrastructure and recreational areas, the ECG also provides economic benefits to the communities it intersects.
A 2017 study commissioned by the East Coast Greenway Alliance found that the ECG generates more than $90 million in total benefits annually in the Research Triangle region. The Research Triangle is home to nearly all of the completed off-road segments of the ECG in North Carolina. These benefits were found in health and environment improvements, transportation, and access benefits, increased property values along the route, and other economic gains,” according to Breuer.
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