RALEIGH — The city’s longest stretch of greenway makes its official debut Thursday: more than 20 miles of paved trails connecting Northeast Raleigh to Johnston County.
The lower section of the Neuse River Greenway runs from the future Horseshoe Farm Park off U.S. 401 along the river, connecting at the county line to a five-mile greenway in Clayton.
“This is the first time the residents of Raleigh and Wake County will have the opportunity to see this stretch of the Neuse River up close,” said former Mayor Charles Meeker, who pushed for the trail plan back in 2007. “It’s a beautiful stretch near the river, and the individual pieces have been heavily used so far.”
The $30 million trail was funded by park bonds approved by Raleigh and Wake County voters in 2007.
While the dedication Thursday marks a big milestone, work continues on a one-mile connector to the northern portion of the trail. That section opened in 2011 from Falls Lake to the WRAL Soccer Center on Perry Creek Road.
When the connector opens early next year, greenway users will be able to make a 33-mile trek from Falls Lake to Clayton without setting foot on a single major road.
Here’s what to expect on the Neuse River Greenway:
Horseshoe Farm to Hedingham (7 miles): This segment connects a series of Raleigh parks, some of which haven’t yet been developed. It starts at Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve, where construction of walking trails and a picnic area will start this fall. It also passes through the Alvis Farm park property off Tarheel Club Road and a recently acquired tract in the planned 5401 North subdivision. The trail also traverses the Buffaloe Road Athletic Park.
The biggest highlight, however, is two pedestrian suspension bridges over the Neuse that bookend the section.
Hedingham to Anderson Point Park (3.5 miles): This section skirts the Hedingham neighborhood in East Raleigh. It passes through the future Milburnie Park, which spans the river at the old Milburnie Dam. South of that, another bridge connects to Knightdale’s Mingo Creek Greenway, which leads to Hodge Road and will be extended to the town’s parks.
Just north of the New Bern Avenue underpass, look above the trail for the ruins of a stone fireplace used by a long-gone barbecue restaurant on U.S. 64.
Anderson Point Park to Auburn-Knightdale Road (4.3 miles): From the canoe launch north of the East Raleigh park, the trail crosses the U.S. 264 bypass alongside the park’s access road and joins its existing loop trail. On the park’s south end, it crosses Crabtree Creek as it leaves the city limits toward a heavily wooded area along the river – home to a series of popular fishing holes. It emerges at the River Ridge golf community just southeast of Raleigh.
Auburn-Knightdale Road to Johnston County line (5.7 miles): The trailhead on Auburn-Knightdale is another future park, the Randleigh Farm property. From here, the trail veers away from the Neuse to bypass the city’s wastewater treatment plant. In the process, walkers and cyclists pass through farm fields and along two rural roads before rejoining the river near Mial Plantation Road, then hitting Clayton’s greenway at the county line.
Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter