Greenway plan adds 26 miles of trails

Runners and bikers, get ready. Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation plans to build or extend 20 greenway trails in the next five years.

A top project on its wish list: the first leg of Sugar Creek trail in western Mecklenburg.

The 2.3-mile trail would offer access to the public Renaissance Golf Course, Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and a 3-mile looping trail at City Park, a proposed mixed-use development at the Charlotte Coliseum site.

If voters approve a proposed $43.5 million in bonds for greenways in November, up to 26 miles of trails could be moved from paper to pavement.

“Bottom line, people like greenways,” said Julie Clark, Park and Recreation's greenway planning director.

According to a recent survey of 1,033 county residents, respondents most requested walking and biking trails. Park and Recreation's 10-year plan calls for an additional 64.8 miles of new greenway trails, for a master plan total of 107.6 new trail miles.

Additional bond money would be needed to begin those projects.

County commissioners earlier this month agreed to ask voters for up to $250 million for parks and recreation projects, which include the $43.5 million for greenways. Commissioners could lower the amount in the coming weeks and plan to hold a public hearing in September before deciding on a final bond size.

If bonds are approved, Park and Recreation plans to hire a design team in January for the Sugar Creek trail, which would begin near Billy Graham Parkway and continue to South Tryon Street. It could be completed in as little as four years.

Pope & Land is a development partner and will share the cost of building the trail's 3-mile centerpiece on the Coliseum site. The trail also would give pedestrians and cyclists access to Charlotte Regional Farmers Market, natural areas, mountain bike trails and a range of amenities at Renaissance Park.

The park has an 18-hole public golf course, five softball fields, 17 tennis courts, 10 sand volleyball courts, three soccer fields, a championship-level disc golf course and 6.5 miles of bike trails.

If connected to other trails, as the master plan calls for, the Sugar Creek project could then grow another 6 miles, stretching from West Boulevard to Arrowood Road.

In possibly 10 years, “it could rival anything out there,” Clark said.