The city’s greenway system already covers more than 80 miles and traverses countless city parks, but planners now have their eyes on connecting Raleigh hikers and bikers to the biggest park in Wake County: Umstead State Park.
That’s the goal for the next extension of the Crabtree Creek Greenway. Last week, the city applied for $2.01 million in matching funds from the Wake County Open Space Partnership. If Raleigh wins the grant, the money will extend the Crabtree trail 1.4 miles west to the border of Umstead Park. The city would provide a $225,000 match.
The 15-mile Crabtree trail currently dead ends at Lindsay Drive, a residential street off Duraleigh Road in Northwest Raleigh. The proposed extension would follow Crabtree Creek west to Umstead’s eastern entrance on Ebenezer Church Road, providing access to the state park’s 5,500 acres of undisturbed nature and 20 miles of trails.
But the Crabtree trail extension also serves another strategic role for the Triangle’s greenways. Once the trail to Umstead is finished, only one link will remain unbuilt between Raleigh’s greenways and the American Tobacco Trail in Durham.
“It’s one of only two missing segments between Raleigh and the American Tobacco Trail,” said senior greenway planner Vic Lebsock. The other missing trail, he said, is being planned by Cary and Apex.
Here’s a few of the possible bike rides the new link would make possible: Cyclists could reach Umstead Park from N.C. State’s campus, the N.C. Museum of Art, North Raleigh’s Shelley Lake and even the Johnston County town of Clayton – all without venturing onto busy roads.
The bike ride to reach Umstead today isn’t so pleasant. Cyclists from Raleigh must wind their way through Cary to the Harrison Avenue entrance or brave Glenwood Avenue to the park’s northern gateway.
Raleigh will find out by early August whether it gets the grant money, which comes from a 2007 countywide bond issue. From there, it could take at least a year before trail construction can start. The city will have to secure property rights along the creek, and those negotiations could take time. It will also need to work with park officials to establish a bike-friendly trail inside the park at the greenway’s terminus.
For now, greenway users can look forward to the Crabtree Creek Trail’s eastern extension, which is already under construction. That new trail will connect the existing greenway near WakeMed hospital to the newly opened Neuse River Greenway at Anderson Point Park in East Raleigh.
That section is set to open to walkers and bikers next spring.