Eastern Wake: Opinion

Editorial: Loving the idea of greenways

It would be an understatement to say we are excited by the possibility that Zebulon may soon be getting into the greenway game.

Of course, it’s still early in the process. So far, commissioners have only reviewed an initial study that comments on what a greenway might look like in Zebulon and what people in the community say they want in their greenways.

The really difficult decisions will come when the town is asked to commit funding. Building a greenway is more expensive than you might think. The first, most significant cost is purchasing the land – or at least purchasing right of ways to cross someone else’s land with a greenway. Even if the sellers are willing to sell, land’s not cheap. And, to be sure, someone will be unwilling to sell which could drive the cost up even more and, depending on how far those negotiations have to go, they could even generate some ill-will amongst the populace.

In Zebulon’s case, the town already owns some land and that eases the burden somewhat. Depending on where the greenway is located, the town could be working with other governmental agencies, which could make it a little easier to bargain with landowners.

Once the land issue is addressed, the town must still construct the greenways. That can be more or less expensive depending on what route the town takes. If the town were to pour asphalt along the entire length of a greenway, the cost goes up. If the town does little more than clear a walking path, then it’s obviously less expensive. But as we’ve seen in the burgeoning world of greenways, most new greenways are considerably more than a footpath wallowed out from between the trees.

That commissioners are still interested in the idea of constructing greenways after they received the initial report from a planner, is a good sign. Here’s another thought we hope commissioners and town staff will consider as they continue down this path:

Any greenway the town constructs should be built in such a way as to connect to other greenways, making essentially a highway system for walkers. The routes now onder consideration would serve walkers well, as far as they go. There are already plans in place to extend Knightdale greenways toward Wendell Falls in Wendell, bringing connectivity that much closer. We would love to see Zebulon reach its first greenway tentacle in that direction in an effort to make Zebulon part of a larger network.

The town of Knightdale has taken just such a strategic step by connecting to Raleigh’s Neuse River Trail. That trail, incidently connects to the Mountains to Sea Trail, which will eventually, as the name implies, reach from one end of the state to the other.

We can’t wait to see Zebulon get in that game.