Thursday, June 30, 2022

Burgaw dusts off plans for West Side Trail, will increase pedestrian connectivity

The Burgaw Board of Commissioners is allocating $350,000 in Covid-19 relief funds to expand Osgood Canal Greenway and Urban Trail.

BURGAW — The Town of Burgaw is revisiting a shelved plan to expand its Osgood Canal Greenway and Urban Trail, making it easier for residents to traverse the town on foot. The second phase of this walking trail, developed from community feedback in the town’s master plans, will bridge the west and east sides of town.

“The whole rationale for the west side trail is connectivity,” Cody Suggs, parks and recreation director, said. “The idea is being able to connect residents in that portion of town to destination points — parks, the downtown corridor or the school system.”

The town first identified the goal to provide alternative modes of transportation per walking and biking in 2013’s Burgaw 2030 Comprehensive Land Use Plan, then addressed it again in 2015’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan. Community surveys indicated an overwhelming response for walking trails and connectivity.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved a resolution to move forward with the trail expansion after six years.

“Like most things, we had a rollover of staff, so [the plan] collected some dust but the board wanted to bring it back out and back to life to get this project going,” Suggs said.

Burgaw is unique in that the 3.5-mile town can easily be traversed by foot. Since 2000, the town has focused on improving its infrastructure —  with a focus on sidewalks and streets —  to accommodate more pedestrian traffic. Through its past plans, the town identified walking paths as having an increased benefit on health and wellness, accessibility to jobs and services, a decrease in air pollution, alleviating traffic and in general, improving quality of life.

Since Covid-19 forced residents to socially distance and spend more time outdoors, Burgaw citizens have been utilizing more than ever the Osgood Canal Greenway, built about a decade ago. Towns can utilize American Rescue Plan funds to create recreational amenities where there may not be any, so the board of commissioners allotted $350,000 of ARP funds for this expansion.

“As of now, we have not pursued any quotes or anything, so there is no set price on this,” Suggs explained.

He is pursuing a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund (PARTF) grant, which awards a maximum of $500,000 to each applicant, to cover additional costs.

“Once we apply for the grant, we will have adequate money to fund the trail, as well as be able to add recreational amenities, such as fitness equipment and benches along the route,” Suggs said.

An action plan, executive summary and environmental review still will need to be created. Suggs wants to have a finalized proposal for the board’s approval at its Feb. 8 meeting. 

“Most of the trail will be going through rights-of-way in residential neighborhoods,” he told the commissioners Tuesday. “There are some wetlands, floodways on the west side of town and some of the hiccups we’ve been looking at are the density of the area and making sure sidewalks and paths fit.”

The route’s exact design is still a work-in-progress, but Suggs estimates it will add roughly 3 to 4 miles to the current 2.2-mile trail. Residents can walk the entire loop or enter and exit at various spots along the way. The current walking trail follows the Osgood Canal and connects to eight town parks. It also offers various entry points, allowing for flexibility of travel.

Burgaw considers its town divided east and west by the railroad right of way. The tie-in to the existing trail would be at Dickerson Street and will connect Burgaw Middle School to Pender Memorial Park.

Community input is encouraged for the future development of the trail expansion. The parks and recreation department will hold public engagement meetings on Jan. 20 with two sessions: 10 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. It will hold a second meeting Feb. 24,5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The meetings are a requirement for the town to receive a PARTF grant; it must submit recorded minutes of the community’s support or opposition.

Suggs said he will also create focus groups to gather additional input from stakeholders in the community, civic organizations and residents.

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