The long-anticipated Matthews Four Mile Creek Greenway will celebrate its grand opening April 9, and residents of Matthews and south Charlotte are excited.
The $1.6 million joint project between the town of Matthews and Mecklenburg County has been under construction for nearly a year and a half.
The greenway, the first within the town limits, will offer more than two miles of paved trails, pedestrian bridges, a boardwalk and entrances from surrounding neighborhoods.
Mecklenburg County constructed the greenway from East John Street to Brenham Lane and from Squirrel Lake Park to the former Matthews Public Works Facility. The town constructed a connector path from the former public works facility to South Trade Street.
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The new greenway will connect a number of neighborhoods, as well as Squirrel Lake Park, Matthews Elementary School and Matthews Community Center. It will also provide alternate access to downtown Matthews.
Matthews Four Mile Creek Greenway doesn't connect to the Four Mile Creek Greenway along Rea Road, but it's part of the Carolina Thread Trail, a regional network of greenways and trails that reaches 15 counties and 2.3 million citizens in North and South Carolina. The ultimate goal would be for the area greenways to connect, but that's not in the works right now, said Lee Tillery, director for the Matthews Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resource Department.
Although the celebration is April 9, the greenway is open to the public, and a number of locals are already flocking to it.
Longtime residents of Matthews Ray and Lois Fowler walk four to five miles a day usually along the streets and main roads. But now that there's an entrance to the Four Mile Creek Greenway from their neighborhood, Country Place, they're walking the greenway every day.
"When you have something like this, the miles go by and you wouldn't even know it," said Ray Fowler, 66. "I don't mind paying taxes for things like this."
Technical director for Matthews Playhouse Evan Kinsley, 22, spends much of his time building the sets for the shows out at the former Matthews Public Works Facility, right beside a portion of the greenway. He said the greenway has transformed the area for the better.
"This whole area has just gotten a facelift," he said. "It used to be a big gravel lot with a chain link fence. Very industrial. Then they started planting grass and all these shrubs. It's a nice space they've created."
On the weekends, hundreds of people pass him on their way to the greenway.
"This is a capstone for what Matthews is," said Kinsley. "This area is so alive. There are so many people enjoying the outdoors and enjoying time with each other. That's really something special."
The Matthews greenway also will likely attract locals who want a change of scenery.
Joe Dietrich, 66, who lives in Matthews near the Weddington border, enjoys riding his bike at the Four Mile Creek Greenway on Rea Road once a week, with his 10-year-old bichon frisé, Blanca, sitting in the bicycle basket.
"It's nice," said Dietrich. "There are a lot of people out here walking, women pushing their baby carriages, people walking with their little kids, strolling."
Dietrich said he'll be excited to have another option closer to his home.
"(Right now) I have to drive 12 miles to bike 12 miles," he said.
There's been talk of a greenway in Matthews for years.
"In our citizen surveys people were wanting more walking trails and parks," said Annette Privette-Keller, communications director for the town of Matthews.
So after working with Mecklenburg County to draw up plans, construction on the Matthews Four Mile Creek Greenway started in November 2009.
The greenway project was slated to take a year, but the rainy spring and fall in 2010 delayed development.
The grand opening festivities are 10 a.m.-1 p.m., and open to the public.
There will be a short dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. at the former Matthews Public Works Facility, less than a quarter-mile from the Trade Street entrance. After the ceremony, there will be entertainment for the whole family along the greenway.
Matthews police officers will hold a bicycle-safety rodeo for children in the parking lot behind Matthews Elementary School.
Mecklenburg County is still in the process of putting up signs for the greenway, and the town is working on a brochure with a detailed map they hope to give out at the ceremony.
Trail A goes from East John Street to Brenham Lane and is accessible from the following neighborhood entrances: Brenham Lane, Woody Creek Road, Privette Street, Rockwell View Drive and East John Street. Trail B goes from South Trade Street to near Squirrel Lake Park. Both trails are about two miles long.
Currently, there is greenway parking at the Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell Street. There will be additional parking at Squirrel Lake Park on Pleasant Plains Road, but the park is undergoing renovations and will not reopen until mid-July. Additional parking for the greenway will be available when the park reopens. Privette-Keller said she's asking greenway visitors not to park along the roads in neighborhoods, but to park elsewhere and walk to the trails.
Walking and biking on the greenway are permitted but motorized transportation is not allowed. Pets must be on a leash. The trails will be open from dawn to dusk.