Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why greenways matter

UNCC student Jamie Prince and her dog, Tolstoy
I took a brisk walk today on the Ruth G. Shaw Trail along the Toby Creek Greenway through the UNC Charlotte campus. It was part of my job. Really. I was taking photos of the greenway for an article we'll be publishing, with luck this week. (Update: It's now posted here.)

It was warm-ish for January, and as I walked to where the trail intersects with the Mallard Creek Greenway I saw runners, bicyclers, one skateboarder, and a woman with a child in a stroller. Except for roller skates and hand-powered wheelchairs, I think I saw just about every non-motorized mode of transportation. Which makes the point: Greenways are a transportation venue as well as a recreation venue.  If I had had the time and inclination, I could have used the greenway to head south instead of north and I'd have arrived at N.C. 49, aka University City Boulevard, at a light where I could have crossed to get to the strip shopping center at Harris Boulevard which has many useful businesses: grocery, drug store, bank, restaurants, etc.

Greenways are good for exercise and recreation, and most of the people I saw today were using it that way. But they're also a good way to get from one place to another without using gasoline or creating carbon emissions. In the University City area and other suburban-developed places that lack sidewalks and pedestrian crossings and lights, greenways can provide essential, off-road walkways and bikeways.

But while the Mecklenburg County greenway system (sections of which are part of the larger Carolina Thread Trail) are welcome and much-needed, here's something that makes me sad. Most of the greenways run alongside creeks, on land that A) is difficult to develop anyway, and B) parallels the county sewer system's sewage lines. That leads to unpleasant sights such as this one:

Pipe crosses Mallard Creek near the Toby Creek Greenway
This is a sewer pipe that crosses Mallard Creek just below the spot where the Shaw trail intersects the Mallard Creek trail. It's not a pleasant sight, especially with the debris clogged against the column holding the pipe up. The many raised concrete cylinders holding manholes along the Shaw trail don't exactly make one's heart soar, either. It all makes me wish that the county and its taxpayers valued greenways enough to find the money to build more of them through places where our sewer system isn't quite so noticeable. Not that I'm not grateful for what we have ... just wishing.

(One more greenway note: In watching Showtime's series "Homeland," filmed in and around Charlotte, I noted that one key scene, in which one important character kills someone, appears to have been filmed in one of the spots along the new Little Sugar Creek Greenway near uptown, where the path goes through a concrete tunnel under a street. Given the nature of the scene, it's clear the spot was chosen for its eerie sense of being a concrete-flanked, urban no-mans'-land. I had to muse over the situation: We Charlotteans  are celebrating the arrival of our wonderful new uptown greenway, yet an out-of-town location scout has chosen a piece of it for a scene of creepy ugliness. Hmmm.) 


Anonymous said...

Do you mean "Carolina Thread Trail" instead of "part of the larger, regional Carolina Threat Trail network"?

Mary Newsom said...

Anonymous 3:19 - Thanks very much for that note. We've corrected that unfortunate typo. Spell-check is not much help when the typo creates another word.

Anonymous said...

Greenways are wonderful but it is time to update Park/Rec rules to allow *some* motorized vehicles, such as motorized wheelchairs and Segways.

Pantograph Trolleypole said...

I loved going to race at McAlpine Greenway Park during Thanksgiving for Footlocker South XC. The trees are always such amazing colors and the trails were well kept, even with a few hundred runners over the top!

Anonymous said...

Motorized wheelchairs are allowed on Mecklenburg County greenway trails if the person is physically disabled. Segues should never be allowed on greenway trails -- or on uptown sidewalks for that matter. There are few sights more distressing than seeing physically able people riding around on Segues.

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