A few years from now, more students might be able to walk to Mills Park Elementary and Mills Park Middle School in western Cary.
The town is designing a 1.5-mile trail that will extend westward from the Cameron Pond subdivision through Mills Park, where the schools are located, to Green Level Church Road.
The trail is the first phase of the 4.9-mile Panther Creek greenway that will someday connect N.C. 55 to the American Tobacco Trail.
Cary hopes to finish phase one of the trail by mid-2017 in conjunction with phase two of construction at Mills Park.
The park opened in 2010 off of Green Level Church Road with two multipurpose fields, a football field, a track, a picnic shelter and a basketball court. Cary plans to spend about $1 million to add a children’s playground, a disc golf course, another ball field and another picnic shelter as part of phase two.
The town unveiled preliminary designs for projects at a recent event and is seeking feedback from residents on everything from the trail path to the layout for phase two of the park.
“We’d like to have citizens look at our presentation on our layout options (for Mills Park) and let us know what they’d like to see,” said Sarah Alexander, a Cary landscape architect who’s working on the project.
Cary has 37 greenways that cover more than 70 miles – more than 28 of those miles are located west of N.C. 55, Alexander said.
The trail is expected to cost $1.4 million, which Cary will pay from a voter-approved bond issue in 2012.
Though funding is not available for the entire Panther Creek greenway, it is considered a top priority because it will connect to several neighborhoods besides Cameron Pond, Alexander said.
It also may alleviate traffic around the schools, which currently have enrollment caps due to overcrowding.
Meanwhile, the park expansion will give residents more access to desired amenities, Alexander said.
The town currently shares jurisdiction of Mills Park with the Wake County school system, so access to fields is sometimes limited. Phase two of Mills Park will be completely owned by the town, giving residents access from dawn until dusk, Alexander said.
Once complete, Mills Park would look similar to Middle Creek School Park, located at Middle Creek High School in Apex, she said.
Town staff plans to set up posters and seek feedback from residents at the Mills Park Middle School home football game on Sept. 24. The presentation will feature information that was presented at the middle school earlier this month.