New Raleigh greenway creates a strategic link

jprice@newsobserver.comSeptember 16, 2012 

— Now runners and cyclists can travel epic distances without leaving Raleigh’s greenway system.

A short but strategic new addition to the Capital Area Greenway System makes possible routes of more than 30 miles on the park-like trail network, and it links Raleigh’s north and south ends in a new way.

Cyclists and pedestrians can now get on the greenway as far away as north of Shelley Lake and take the trails south, use the new 2.9-mile House Creek connector trail, then cut west on the existing Reedy Creek Trail to reach the N.C. Museum of Art and Umstead State Park.

Commuters from North Raleigh can come in the same direction, but turn eastward to reach downtown Raleigh and N.C. State’s main and Centennial campuses.

The new House Creek trail begins near Ridgewood Shopping Center on Wade Avenue, and it parallels Interstate 440 northward to meet Crabtree Creek Trail near Glenwood Avenue.

Until now, most of over 70 miles of trails in Raleigh’s greenway system had been in two parallel but unconnected strips of trail.

The House Creek trail ties them together. It also closes one end of what will become a massive loop of perhaps 50 miles, after construction is complete on other segments in about a year and a half, said Vic Lebsock, the city greenway planner.

“This is a really important linkage, because it makes that tie-in between two of the major corridors in the system,” Lebsock said. “I personally expect there will be a very big increase in the number of cyclists because now they can do serious distance.”

Ripe for races

Road race organizers have taken notice of the double-digit distances now possible on the greenways.

It would be impossible to hold a mass start on the trails, which are only about 10 feet wide. But the greenway can work well for later stages of a race, when runners are strung out, Lebsock said.

Already, the City of Oaks Marathon organizers have gotten permission to use the House Creek connector and other stretches of the system for 15 miles of the course for their marathon, which will be held Nov. 4.

“Raleigh’s getting known for its awesome greenway system, and to be able to show it off to maybe some people from here who haven’t heard about it – and people from other places, too – will be neat,” said Jim Micheels, who heads the board of directors for the race.

Diverting runners onto the trails will be safer for them and make life easier for drivers that day, he said.

It also will save money for the organizers, who pay for uniformed police officers stationed at every traffic light on the course.

“If you think about an officer at every light for that many miles, that’s significant,” Micheels said. “And our proceeds go to charity, so that’s a good thing.”

Distance runners, bikers

For distance runners, the trails have a number of advantages. They are nearly flat from one side to the other, while roads have a pronounced crown to drain water quickly. The impact of each stride on a road is sharper for one leg than the other. Particularly for those who run a lot, that can cause problems.

The All-Star Bike Shop in Ridgewood Shopping Center tells new customers that the new bike path is a good route for traffic-free test rides .

And at Fleet Feet, a running shoe store at Ridgewood, they’re planning to use the trail frequently for their beginners’ 5K and half-marathon race training programs.

“It’s really great because now you can run long distances with peace of mind from not having to think about the traffic,” said Kerri Marchionni, a fit specialist and a coach for the half-marathon program. “It makes it less stressful, and you can really focus on training.”

The House Creek trail officially opens Sept. 24 but has been usable for weeks. And plenty of folks have been taking advantage, even in rain like that on Sunday afternoon.

Rosie Bowers, Richard Torrey and Cindy Bross of Raleigh were out for their weekly greenway walk, which they can now take from Ridgewood to Crabtree and back on the new trail.

Bowers said she often uses other segments of the greenway system to commute by bicycle to her administrative job at WakeMed hospital.

The trio pronounced themselves fans of the new connector.

“It’s pretty,” Bowers said. “They’ve done a great job with the landscaping.”

“It’s a safe environment for a walk,” Bross said. “And it’s just peaceful.”

Price: 919-829-4526

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