Nearly two decades in the making, a highly anticipated stretch of greenway in Huntersville is set to officially open in early September.
The Torrence Creek Tributary No. 2 greenway will be ready for public use after a grand opening ceremony Sept. 9. But officials said it began taking shape during the long-term work on Mecklenburg’s countywide greenway master plan, which was adopted before 1990.
Over the years, the project has gradually solidified as residential, road and school development has swelled along the north side of Gilead Road and west of Interstate 77; as funding has been secured from federal, state, county and town sources; as planning and designs have been completed; and as time-consuming regulatory reviews, studies and permit approvals have been cleared.
The new phase of the greenway begins about 0.3 mile east of Bradford Hill Lane, said Gwen Cook of Mecklenburg County Greenway Planning and Development Services.
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Nearly a mile long, it branches off the existing Torrence Creek greenway; runs northeast and crosses under Gilead Road near Ranson Road; and ends at Rosewood Meadow Lane.
The new portion of trail doesn’t have designated parking, but there is potential to expand and add some, Cook said.
Huntersville played a large role in the planning and fundraising years. But town officials deferred to the county’s greenway expertise in 2004, when the county agreed to take over the permitting and building of the trail, as well as maintenance once it was finished, officials said.
The total construction contract for the path was roughly $858,000. Of that, $400,000 came from the N.C. Department of Transportation; $200,000 from the town of Huntersville; and roughly $258,000 from the county, said Jay Higginbotham, Mecklenburg County senior project manager.
The county paid all design and construction monitoring fees associated with the project, Higginbotham said.
After being put out for bid, the project was awarded to Eagle Wood Inc., a general contractor based in Denver. Eagle Wood has worked with the county on numerous greenway projects, Cook said.
Construction on the greenway started in May 2013 and is on schedule to be complete before the Sept. 9 grand opening, she said.
Officials originally thought physical construction would take nine months or fewer to complete, Cook said. But an especially wet winter delayed the construction schedule, keeping crews from working for several months at a time.
“The weather always does (create challenges), especially when (working) down in the creek, which most of our greenways are,” she said.
Now that the path is near completion, officials expect it will be heavily used by both pedestrians and bicyclists.
Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain, one of the officials who will speak during the ceremony, said the new greenway will offer residents a way to improve their health and connect with areas of the town they couldn’t walk or bicycle to before.
“In the last couple of months, social media and email have been lighting up with people asking ‘When is it going to be open?’ ” Swain said.
“There are people already using portions of it, and (who) are truly excited about having a continuous route that connects residents in Cedarfield and Hunters Pointe to the Rosedale (shopping center,)” she said.
“I’m excited for the health-and-wellness aspect of it and will take advantage of that myself.”
Even thought it’s so close to completion, Cook asks that residents wait until the new trail officially opens before they begin to use it. Some of the final work needed includes sections of boardwalk, she said.
“They want (the new greenway) to be there so badly,” Cook said.
Cook said resident traffic on greenways that aren’t quite finished yet is always a problem.
“It’s not a safe thing to do, and we discourage it,” she said. “It’s nice to be loved, but safety comes first.”