Wednesday, September 26, 2012

When planners gather ...

WILMINGTON – As soon as I get my sandwich at Pender's Cafe on Front Street I'll be heading to the large new-ish Wilmington Convention Center for a session on greenway planning at the annual convention of the N.C. Chapter of the American Planning Association. I'll be here until mid-day Thursday, blogging from some of the sessions. So check back in during the next two days.

For now, must chow down and then rush back to the center.

Greenways: Lessons from other cities (2:35 p.m.):

I'm now listening to planners from Wilmington describe their city's cross city trail - which will be 15 miles when complete, from downtown Wilmington east to Wrightsville Beach.  It's the only greenway in the city now, although a greenway plan is under way now to plan for more.

Wilmington greenway planners traveled to Greenville, S.C., to study that city's Swamp Rabbit trail, which when complete will run 17.5 miles from Greenville to Travellers Rest. Now it's about 13.5 miles. They found community advocacy was key in making that greenway happen. A regional advocacy group, Upstate Forever, pushed for trail acquisition and helped provide volunteers for cleaning up the abandoned rail bed the trail runs on.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail is sponsored in part by the Greenville Hospital, which dedicated $100,000 a year for 10 years, considering it a way to improve community health.

Some of the trail's innovative marketing ideas: Organizers now sell coordinates along the trail. If something special happened on the trail, you can buy a sponsorship for that spot. And when trail officials realized that restrooms and parking along the trail were sometimes hard to find, they partnered with businesses and institutions and now the interactive trail maps show where you can use a restroom or find a parking place.

Another tidbit: In North Carolina, a state law protects property owners along greenway trails from liability.