Starting this week, concert-goers headed to the Walnut Creek Amphitheatre will have a new way to bypass traffic: A new greenway connection will make the venue accessible to bicyclists and pedestrians.
A 1.6-mile extension of the Walnut Creek Greenway officially opened Tuesday, connecting the concert venue and adjacent softball complex to the city greenway system.
Until now, the Walnut Creek trail has run from Lake Johnson Park in Southwest Raleigh and stopped at Rose Lane in Southeast Raleigh. The new section is the first phase of 4.5-mile eastern extension that will eventually tie into the Neuse River Greenway just south of Poole Road.
The second phase is under construction now and should be finished some time early next year, greenway planner Vic Lebsock said. The entire extension is expected to cost around $3.3 million.
The trail that opened Tuesday looks a little different than the city’s standard paved greenway. For the short term, Raleigh officials opted for a crushed-stone path.
“Public utilities has a planned project to improve the sewer line” next to the trail, Lebsock said. “They’ll be coming in and digging up a lot of this in two to three years.”
From Rose Lane, the trail runs parallel to Little John Road for a few blocks before heading into Worthdale Park. It then crosses Sunnybrook Road to the Walnut Creek softball complex before passing under the Beltline to the amphitheater property.
The new extension isn’t the only improvement for the Walnut Creek Greenway, much of which first opened in the early 1990s.
Trail users have often griped that the tunnels running under major roads were dark and scary. The parks department recently spent $70,000 on lighting in the tunnels under South Saunders Street and Hammond Road.
“Both were required because they’re really dark,” Lebsock said. “We’ve been working a long time to accomplish this, but we ran into some code restrictions that we had to navigate through.”
Lebsock says the goal is to light more tunnels on the greenway network, including one on the Mine Creek Trail that runs under North Hills Drive near Shelley Lake.
“At this point we are waiting to see if we have some balance of funds from other projects,” he said.
The parks department has several other new greenways currently under construction. Work recently began on the Crabtree Creek Greenway extension from Milburnie Road to the Neuse River at Anderson Point Park. That should open by August, Lebsock said.
And in North Raleigh, the Honeycutt Creek Greenway is being extended north to Raven Ridge Road near the Wilkerson Nature Preserve – a trail that should be complete next summer.