RALEIGH — Work is under way on a 4.5-mile extension of the Walnut Creek Trail through Southeast Raleigh, a project that will complete a cross-city greenway link from Umstead State Park in West Raleigh to the Neuse River on the east side of town.
The Walnut Creek Trail now reaches from Lake Johnson Park to Rose Lane. A city of Raleigh contractor started work this month on the $4 million project, extending the trail farther east along the creek.
When it’s finished early next year, the Walnut Creek Trail will carry walkers and bicycle riders on new sidewalks and an asphalt path through Worthdale Park and the Walnut Creek Softball Complex, and through a tunnel beneath the I-440 Beltline. The trail will continue on a gravel path past Walnut Creek Amphitheater and across New Hope and Barwell roads, ending at the Neuse.
“Then there will be a trail that extends along the Walnut Creek watershed all the way across Raleigh that connects to the river,” said Vic Lebsock, the city’s greenway planner. “If you take the Rocky Branch segment of the trail north through Pullen Park and the NCSU campus, it will connect you all the way to the N.C. Museum of Art and Umstead Park.”
The Walnut gravel path outside the Beltline will be paved in a few years, Lebsock said, after the city completes a sewer line upgrade along the creek.
The city’s greenway efforts have been aided in recent years by the Triangle Greenways Council, a nonprofit volunteer organization that protects natural areas in greenway corridors. In January, the council secured the donation of 28 acres along Walnut Creek near Worthdale Park and the softball complex, just inside the southeast corner of the Beltline.
The newly donated land includes 10 acres that were graded in the 1990s for an unsuccessful subdivision development. The landowner took advantage of the state’s conservation tax credit for the donation.
Most of the donated land is wooded and includes marshes, beaver ponds and nesting areas for birds, reptiles and a variety of wildlife. The land has been designated by the state as a State Significant Natural Heritage Area.
“It was recognized as bottomland hardwood and wetland ecosystems that are certainly scarce in an urban area,” said Bill Flournoy of Raleigh, the greenways council president. “Most of them were previously drained or filled or otherwise disappeared to development.”
Siceloff: 919-829-4527 or blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown or twitter.com/Road_Worrier/