I wanted to start a thread discussing Durham's trails and greenways. Compared to Wake County, our system is underdeveloped and lacks connections to many places people live, work, and recreate. The American Tobacco Trail is a North to South gem, but there is minimal connection to points East and West. As someone who has lived both down the 70 corridor and off of 15-501, there is a dearth of walkable trails or routes. I would love to see more connections into (or even toward) downtown from Chapel Hill, from East Durham, and the RDU/70 far east portion of the city/county.
The two major plans that may or may not happen are:
-Durham Belt Line trail -Triangle bikeway These are both exciting and needed projects, with numerous hurdles (financial, bridging the gap from ATC to the beltline, or crossing major highways and intersections for the bikeway).
Even if these are completed, there is still a huge gap in our greenways and trails. I would love to see more of an effort to link schools and parks together with spurs to local neighborhoods, shopping centers and points of interest. This is sorely lacking for anyone who lives outside of downtown or without the ATT in their backyard. Trails and greenways would get more variety of use than bike lanes because they are more pedestrian (and child) friendly.
Where or how would you like to see our greenways/trails system grow or improve?
Some time ago I took the time to watch a City Council work session which contained an update on the Belt Line Trail (now called the Rail Trail evidently). Here were my thoughts then:
“ Yikes, well I just actually watched the city council work session recording where the Belt Line update was presented. The city has $5.5MM in committed funding against a “base” cost of up to $11MM for the transportation components of the trail. So basically just the bike and pedestrian lanes without the greenery, dividers, plazas, etc. The full design put forth by the master plan would have a total cost of up to $30MM. It would be really shameful and wasteful to spend $20MM (land + construction) to end up with something akin to the Ellerbe Creek trail. To their collective credit, the council members were adamant that we need to find a way to maximize this opportunity given the potential for this to be a tremendous asset for the city.”
This is a really critical piece of the future of downtown Durham IMO. Would really hate to settle for the bare minimum given the potential to connect different communities and create a really interesting greenway experience.
The Belt Line Trail is happening. Community engagement sessions are kicking off soon, and while I can't comment on funding/how realistic it is for the intended scope in the masterplan to be executed, the engagement sessions will certainly focus on wider opportunities related to the trail's development, including public art, wayfinding, development/zoning opportunities, and neighborhood connections.
David Price inserted an earmark for $7.7 million for the Duke Beltline Trail in the federal transportation bill. I presume that is part of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that is being held in the House pending a deal on the larger human infrastructure bill.
I would personally like to see a much greater emphasis on building multipurpose bike/ped trails along existing roads. Rather than the seemingly extensive engineering needed for curb & gutter and sidewalks, build paved multipurpose trails wherever the existing road right of way will allow it - especially on major and minor thoroughfares in areas that are almost totally free of sidewalks.
If you want to eyeball how wide the ROW is, look at where water meters and power poles are located - they are generally located at the edge of the ROW. There are lots of places where a multipurpose trail that rises and falls with the land could be built in the existing right of way.
the engagement sessions will certainly focus on wider opportunities related to the trail's development, including public art, wayfinding, development/zoning opportunities, and neighborhood connections.
So there is still a possibility that areas around the trail will be allowed to build dense residential and commercial with direct access on to the trail? I will be on the lookout for that community engagement because that is exactly how this could be a huge asset and not an expensive greenway.
I think this would be a great solution especially because a number of connections identified in the 2011 Trails & Greenways Master Plan never came to fruition and there are many gaps in our sidewalks. Use the failed DLORT land for a basic paved bike/pedestrian trial unless/until there is a better transportation use for it.
In reply to this post by Dave @ Building Bull City
Our firm is just facilitating the public engagement sessions but is not involved in the design. All I know is that our workshop materials include prompts to discuss precisely these issues, including future use of surrounding city-owned land... I am not sure what is currently planned for/in the current design, but it does seem like it is being thought about and considered. I'll keep you posted about specific meeting dates when I hear about them.
Does anyone know of an update on the Belt Line Trail? Presumably all the plans were settled in the years prior to the most recent funding, but nothing much seems to be happening. Indeed, if anything, with the lack of maintenance since Durham City purchased the land, it has become so overgrown that the neighborhoods on either side of the rail line are more segregated than ever. Even if they have no intention of building the trail soon, it would be nice to clear out the walking paths neighbors had cut.
They previously said that they planned to start work on it next year although updates have been pretty limited. There were some community engagement sessions earlier this year. Anyone attend one? I assume there would be much more messaging and publicity to the broader community once the design is finalized and they have a more definite timeframe (hopefully?).
It's so maddening the way certain areas of Durham are prioritized over others. I've lived in Durham since the early 80's and have seen trails conceived of after the Belt Line Trail was proposed, and finished before this one has even begun. Third Fork Creek Trail has been open about 12 years now, and its three times as big. I just looked it up and apparently there will be a Phase II built soon, and probably completed before this one has started. The only reason it seems Durham has decided to fund the Belt Line trail now is because new condos will be near parts of it. Apartment dwellers and old home owners from Avondale to Old North Durham have been trying to get a simple off road trail built for decades just to have a pedestrian friendly way to link neighborhoods and downtown. Otherwise it is just about the least walkable area within the city from Avondale to, say Central Park, even though the distance isn't far. But something like Third Fork trail gets built because it served Hope Valley and Woodcroft, which were suburbs.
I was riding my bike on the Third Fork Creek Trail yesterday and saw a huge swath of woods being razed adjacent to Southern Boundaries Park. My best guess is that they're already clearing land for the second phase. (Does anyone know for sure?) My understanding is it will eventually connect to the American Tobacco Trail.
Rail Trail construction now beginning *no sooner than early 2025* according to a document I saw someone post on Twitter. This is another year+ delay from the most recently stated timeline with no explanation whatsoever. I have no clue why the planning/design phase is going to take the next 2 full years when the purchase of the land was completed and master plan adopted in 2018. Understand that’s not the same as having a detailed design and construction plan but this is a 2 mile long multi-use trail. No updates on the website. At a minimum city leadership should provide a more substantive update on the status and specific next steps. Very frustrating.
The delayed YMCA project is annoying. North Gate is frustrating. The police station project is baffling.
But the rail trail is just a whole other level. Is this the future of our city? 3 decades from idea to finished product? 1 decade from land acquisition to finished product on something as simple as turning an abandoned rail right of way into a simple bike and walking path?