Raleigh residents and tourists can now travel farther on a key greenway link near downtown.
Last week city parks officials unveiled the Little Rock Greenway Trail, a paved, half-mile extension of Little Rock Greenway that follows Little Rock Branch creek from Chavis Park to McMakin Street in Southeast Raleigh.
The trail makes its connection between Bragg and McMakin streets, continues south to Peterson Street and leads to the Lower Walnut Creek Greenway next to the Walnut Creek Urban Wetlands Education Center.
Mayor Charles Meeker called the newest greenway addition an important milestone that further sets Raleigh apart as the home of the East Coast's biggest greenway system.
Raleigh's Capital Area Greenway is a system of linear parks mostly along rivers, creeks and streams. They're intended as public recreation and commuting trails that conserve natural landscapes and connect residents and tourists to local parks, attractions and each other.
The Little Rock trail connects 251/2 miles of greenway and is critical to the overall system, linking downtown to Worthdale Park, Pullen Park, N.C. State University, Meredith College, the N.C. Museum of Art and Umstead State Park. Ultimately it will extend to the Neuse River.
Eugene Weeks, chairman of Raleigh's parks board, promised to continue work toward the city's vision until all greenways connect so "we can all enjoy all there is to see."
The Little Rock trail is Raleigh's eighth park dedication in as many months, director Diane Sauer said, also noting a ground-breaking during that period.
Norman Camp is a former parks board leader who spearheaded the Wetlands Center project, the centerpiece of more than 50 acres of natural wetlands. He said the new trail not only provides greater access to the center, but also connects downtown to Southeast Raleigh - and its history. It is the third trail that connects to the area, he said.
Ajuba Joy lives in the area and plans to bike the trail and others like it.
"We all need to get out here," she said. "We need to walk the greenway or bike it. We've paid for it with our tax dollars; we need to utilize it. Plus, it's a good way to exercise and slow your pace a little bit."
Joy's sentiment is perfectly aligned with the Wetlands Center's goal of connecting neighborhoods and promoting environmental awareness, said Tiffany Frost, the program director at the Wetlands Center.
"It's even better now that you can walk or ride your bike instead of use your vehicle," Frost said.
Another consideration, Frost said, is a visit to the center, where you can park and travel the trails on foot or by bike. "It becomes a hub and a destination; a start and end point," she said.
Frances Carmichael, who lives nearby and works weekends at the center, anticipates that more people will follow the trail and end some of the mystery about the Wetlands Center and surrounding greenways.
"Once you actually come in, it's very inviting," she said.