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NEXT unveils Carrboro Linear Parks Project to create low-impact, equitable transportation

A woman walks down a path in Umstead Park by the Bolin Creek Trail on Monday, April 4, 2022.

On Sept. 24, NEXT, a local nonprofit that advocates for equity, diversity and affordability, launched the Carrboro Linear Parks Project.

The project aims to connect Carrboro from north to south through a network of greenways, parks and open spaces, using some existing plans. The parks are a means of creating low-impact public access to environmentally sensitive areas. Bolin Creek Greenway and Morgan Creek Greenway would act as the main connectors in the network.

Through the project, NEXT hopes to promote equitable access to open green spaces in Carrboro, NEXT member Ryan Byars said.

“It's a really needed effort to bring Chapel Hill and Carrboro kind of up to par with some peer cities," UNC senior and NEXT member Simon Palmore said.

Linear parks are public lands that run along public right-of-ways. They can be green spaces and pathways next to roads, former railways or waterways. 

Palmore said the project would support climate goals and improve transportation equity by creating a network of pathways in Carrboro. 

According to Palmore, the issue is worst in southern Carrboro. He said southern Carrboro has some of the most affordable housing in the area, but those who live off of N.C. 54 do not have access to bike lanes or sidewalks.

Residents are left with the choice of having to buy a car, wait for unreliable buses or walk on an unsafe road, Palmore said. 

"I'm thinking of all those folks in Carrboro that deserve access to a safe direct route from where they live to downtown Carrboro, to UNC, to Chapel Hill,” Palmore said. “That's a necessity and that's something that does not exist right now.

NEXT member Alyson West said, when looking at the Town's history, there has been a desire to have linear parks in Carrboro. West also said surveys and public input show that people want the parks, but a lack of organized response to the issue has left some plans to stagnate.

“This talk has been going on since the '80s, at least, and so the plans are all there,” West said.

Current Town projects include extending the Morgan Creek Greenway and building the Jones Creek Greenway. West and Byars agreed that the next key step is the Bolin Creek Greenway.

Byars said that Carrboro's history with issues like linear parks has been contentious.

"There are loud voices who oppose this sort of thing," he said.

In 2010, advocacy group Save Bolin Creek created a petition opposing the proposed development of a paved greenway beside Bolin Creek. The petition, which cites environmental concerns, has since collected 1,500 signatures. 

Julie McClintock, a member of leadership for Chapel Hill Alliance for a Livable Town and president of the Friends of Bolin Creek said Carrboro ultimately shelved the idea because of the controversy. 

"These linear parks can work but the devil’s in the details,” said McClintock.

McClintock said she has many environmental concerns with a project like the proposed Bolin Creek greenway as it is detrimental to the area's air quality and overall creek health. She also said that the project is detrimental to the Climate Action Plan, a 2009 initiative that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Carrboro.

Director of Conservation Programs at the North Carolina Botanical Garden Johnny Randall said many of the environmental concerns are unfounded. Randall said there is a strong argument for paving a greenway path, as it decreases runoff.

Randall said that it is important for Carrboro and Chapel Hill to keep wildlife corridors in mind when planning these developments.

West said NEXT hopes to start the conversation around linear parks again and give a voice to those who want these facilities.

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Carrboro Planning Director Trish McGuire said in an email that the Town has just seen NEXT's project pages and does not yet have information on the alignment of the project in Carrboro.

@DTHCityState |