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Multiple hurricanes and perpetual rain have prolonged the initial phase of Wilson’s first greenway.
“We are building the first leg in the floodplain in the wettest fall we’ve had in 20 years,” said Dale Edmonds, Wilson Parks and Recreation parks manager. “The work started around Oct. 15, and they were hoping to finish in the fall, but then we had two hurricanes and rain every week.”
PLT Construction removed some trees and carved a path through Recreation Park, but weather has made putting down the stone and pavement problematic. Edmonds said more than likely, the work has finished for this year and will resume in the spring on the first leg from Ripley Road to the two footbridges in the park as well as building a parking lot at the trailhead.
“Our parks system needs some passive recreation opportunities, and greenways across the country are very, very popular with all age groups,” said Wilson Parks and Recreation Director David Lee. “We were behind, and we’ve done walking trails, but in terms of greenways and that experience, we had none.
“Now we have a good plan for the future and something to build on.”
Unlike a park trail, greenways focus on connectivity.
“It is about exposure to the scenery, but also about destinations,” Edmonds said. “You’ll be able to start at Rec Park, go to Williams Day Camp and play disc golf, then go back to a trailhead.”
Lee admits Wilson is behind the trend, but noted that Raleigh started planning for greenways in the ’70s and ’80s and didn’t start construction until the last decade or more. Wilson’s greenway serves a dual purpose: providing recreation opportunities as well as improving water quality and flooding along the impaired Hominy Creek. The plan is slated to clear out obstructions and add meanders to help slow the stream.
Edmonds said flooding concerns in and near Recreation Park are being incorporated into the project with a catch basin as well as added curbs. The construction also will add access to the shelters and trailhead parking lot for residents with disabilities.
“We have a road and we could have put the greenway right next to the road with a 30-foot swath without trees, but we put the path back a ways to make it more natural,” Edmonds said.
When crews started thinning out the trees, several nearby residents called to ask about the project, but overall feedback has been positive, Lee said.
“Everybody I talk to is excited that passive recreation is becoming an emphasis in our parks system,” he said. “This is another experience for the people of Wilson to enjoy, and I think it will be a great addition to our community.”