With the adoption of a greenway master plan behind them, leaders from this town loaded up on a bus Thursday for a field trip to get a glimpse at what they can expect as Zebulon’s future trail system unfolds.
It was an opportunity for the town staff and board members to immerse themselves in the amenities they have talked about a lot lately.
“It made a real difference to go out there and see how they’re using the land, that is really almost unusable for anything else,” said Commissioner Beverly Clark. “It gives you an idea of how to plan and where to start. I almost wish I’d seen it before. I like the idea (of greenways) and think it’s wonderful, but that tour really gave me a whole new perspective of it.”
Morning stops included Forgotten Pond, the Sanford Creek Greenway and Crimson Clover Trail in the Heritage community in Wake Forest. In the afternoon, the group stopped by the Neuse River Trail access point at the Falls Lake dam and visited the Annie Louis Wilkerson, MD Nature Preserve Park before walking the Honeycutt Creek Greenway in North Raleigh.
Along the way, they saw the spectrum of trail types – asphalt, boardwalk, concrete, mulch and natural surfaces. The tour also showed how greenways can run close to neighborhood homes, or be tucked away in nature.
Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones visited the group at the Sanford Creek trailhead and discussed the greenways being realized in her town. She said Zebulon can expect some resistance to greenways in the early stages, but that people’s minds change once they begin to see something tangible.
“People love them once you get them built, and they want more, and more and more,” Jones said.
Wake Forest in 2014 passed a bond that, coupled with matching grants, supplied $9.4 million for greenways.
Clark was encouraged to hear how much Wake Forest was able to stretch its resources by winning grant funding.
“Of course, they did have a bond, and years down the road that may be something Zebulon does, but I think right now grants is what Zebulon is going to mostly have to work with,” Clark said. “I know we have to take it slow, but it will come.”
Restoring sense of community
Wake Forest is now in the process of making connections between trail segments. Jones explained to the group the way her town has been able to do that, in part, is through recreation impact fees.
“When subdivisions are built, they either have to put some money in for us to do things, or they have to donate land or build greenways, that kind of thing,” she said.
The Sanford Creek Greenway was built by the developer of the Heritage South subdivision as required by the town. Wake Forest is working to connect that span to the Smith Creek Greenway section to complete a 2.4-mile stretch that extends to Rolesville.
Joining Jones was Wake Forest Senior Planner Candace Davis, who spoke on the community benefits of the town’s greenways.
“We have adopt-a-trail programs, we have people wanting to construct trails – Boy Scout troops, Girl Scout troops, churches – they come to us all the time wanting to adopt various segments,” Davis said.
She said the greenways there also unite communities on different projects, like the annual mass planting of flowers.
“It’s just a wonderful community initiative,” Davis said. “It’s a free recreation and transportation benefit for your town.”
A word from ‘Mr. Greenway’
Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson caught up with the tour during its lunch break in Wake Forest.
Hutchinson, who is known for his interest in greenways, parks and open space, reminded the Zebulon leaders they don’t have to build out their greenway system for it to become part of the greater, regional network.
He talked about the potential to link Zebulon to Wendell Falls, Knightdale Station Park and from there to the Neuse River Trail for miles of connectivity.
“All you have to do is connect to the grid,” Hutchinson said. “It’s so important that you’re in this conversation because we are evolving as a community and we have to start thinking of the next 50 years and what we’re going to look like as a community.”
Hutchinson said greenways add to a quality of life that people are looking for when they chose where they want to call home.
“The legacy that you can leave by thinking about greenways and streetscapes and sidewalks and parks and place-making ultimately will allow Zebulon to continue to improve and be successful for generations to come,” he said.