Pender County is interested in becoming a part of the East Coast Greenway – a massive network of cycling and pedestrian trails spanning 3,000 miles from Maine to Florida that connects 450 cities and towns along the East Coast.
The aim is to provide a secure route for walkers and bikers, promoting wellness and enhancing connections in the nation’s most heavily populated region. With the rapid development throughout the Hampstead and Surf City communities in recent years though, the project could become complicated.
Complexities in a Rapidly Growing County
An aspect of the project that requires careful consideration involves the inclusion of preliminary routes through portions of existing community developments, including:
- Pecan Grove
- Dogwood Lakes
- Greenway Plantation
With the area rapidly growing in terms of residential housing, this aspect could complicate the establishment of routes for the project. Proper planning and communication with residents of these developments will be essential to ensure the success and community acceptance of the project.
A Proposed Network, Bridging Communities
The current proposal (based on a feasibility study shared by Cape Fear Council of Governments) envisions a 16-mile path that would provide a convenient and secure link between the Nelva Albury Park area of Surf City, NC, and the area near the intersection of Highway 17 and Country Club Road near the campuses of Topsail High School, Topsail Middle School, and Topsail Elementary School.
This proposed pathway, which carries a total project cost as high as $64 million, would be designed to cater to both cyclists and pedestrians, making commuting and recreational activities safer and more accessible.
A Fresh Approach to Health and Community
Although still in the proposal stage, the East Coast Greenway project would bring several benefits to the local community including the promotion of a healthier lifestyle.
The American Heart Association claims that cycling can lower the risk of coronary heart disease. Regular cycling can also serve as a safe and convenient way to stay physically active, which can help maintain a healthy weight and lower the risk of chronic disease when added to daily routines.
The safety of cyclists and pedestrians could also benefit. Throughout the United States, nearly 1,000 bicyclists die each year due to traffic-related accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Greenway project aims to drastically reduce this risk by offering a secure and dedicated pathway.
Project Partners and Enhancements
The project involves a collaborative effort from several partners including the Cape Fear Council of Governments, the State of North Carolina Department of Transportation, Pender County Government, the Town of Surf City, and the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The proposal for the 12-foot wide paved trails could include signage, lighting, and right-of-way access when intersecting with existing roadways throughout the area, ensuring that the Greenway paths meet the needs and expectations of the local community.
These amenities and needs have already been expressed by local residents taking part in previous calls for public input.