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STEELE CREEK NEWS

Steele Creek Community Trail Questions and Answers

(February 4, 2006)

Steele Creek Community Trail
What is the Steele Creek Community Trail?

Itís a vision of a 50-mile network of trails that will connect neighborhoods, parks, schools, shopping areas, and employment centers throughout the Steele Creek Community. Trails will follow stream corridors, utility easements, roadways, and other routes. Some trails will be part of the Mecklenburg County park system and some will be maintained by neighborhood associations or other community groups. (Click HERE or on the map below to see a map of the Community Trail network.)

What is the history behind the trail?

In early 2003, community organizers saw an opportunity to pull together a number of trail-related initiatives. The Steele Creek and Walkers Branch Greenways became part of the Mecklenburg County Master Greenway Plan adopted in 1999. Three major developments (Palisades, Berewick and Sanctuary) had been announced, and all had trails as part of their communities. The area contains the McDowell Nature Preserve and the Thomas McAlister Winget District Park, and other parks are planned in the Berewick and Palisades neighborhoods.

It seemed to make sense to link up all these trails and parks with the planned town center at Highways 49 and 160, with the new library, and with schools in the area. Road congestion also was increasing and we thought it would be fabulous to be able to ride or walk to local establishments instead of having to drive our cars.

What is the vision for the Steele Creek Community Trail?

We would like Steele Creek to be known by its systems of walking trails and bikeways connecting people of all backgrounds to schools, shops, library, workplaces...and more importantly to each other.

What is the Steele Creek Community Trail Committee?

A group of interested residents began meeting in early 2003 to formulate a plan for the trail. In May 2004 the group was formally organized as a committee of the Steele Creek Residents Association. The committee meets monthly at 7:00 pm on the third Thursday at the Steele Creek Athletic Association meeting house at 13350 Choate Circle. All interested persons are welcome to attend.

What government agencies are involved?

Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department, Mecklenburg County Real Estate Services, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, North Carolina Department of Transportation, and Mecklenburg County Greenway Advisory Council.

What has been reaction from government, the public, and developers?

We have had tremendous support and encouragement from everyone. We feel that everyone, even though diverse in their missions, all see trails and greenways as a good way to protect our creeks and to foster a healthier lifestyle for our residents. Developers acknowledge that access to walkways and bikeways within and between neighborhoods are desired by potential homebuyers. The public has been very supportive of safe places to walk, jog, and ride bikes and have signed petitions and contact sheets.

What are the benefits of trails?

Trails are appealing because they promote environment benefits, improve air quality, lessen noise, maintain habitats for wildlife, provide safe places to walk, jog and ride, and connect people in our community.

What are the benefits to the environment?

Trails will make citizens aware of hidden creeks and runoff areas. The creeks have been used in the past for dumping of oil and paints and clippings, and appliances, and all kinds of trash. Getting people to walk and jog and ride along creeks will raise awareness of the need for cleaning up creeks. Mecklenburg County has done wonderful job of revitalizing creeks in our county, and fish, amphibians, birds, and other wildlife are now living along these rejuvenated waterways. We want to do the same along Steele Creek and Walkers Branch.

Will the trail be connected to a larger system in Mecklenburg and York Counties?

There is a regional trail that has been proposed by land conservationists in our area: the Catawba Regional Trail, which would follow natural corridors like creeks, rivers, natural areas. We envision that The Steele Creek Community Trail will link to other greenways in Mecklenburg County, the trails of Tega Cay, and the Nations Ford Greenway around Fort Mill.

What are the priorities?

Although the eventual goal is a 50-mile network of trails throughout the community, the initial emphasis is being placed on the Steele Creek and Walkers Branch Greenway Trails. These are on the Mecklenburg County Master Greenway Plan. The Steele Creek Greenway Trail will follow Steele Creek from Brown-Grier Road south to the South Carolina state line. The Walkers Branch Greenway Trail meets the Steele Creek Trail at the state line and runs north along Walkers Branch to Steele Creek Road and possibly further. These would be the first greenway trails built in Southwest Mecklenburg County!

What will the Steele Creek and Walkers Branch trails look like?

The trails likely will be natural to start out with: dirt, woodchips, gravel...whatever we can get donated. Much of the trailsí routes are already cleared for the sanitary lines that parallel the creeks, so all we need to do is bush hog and then keep it mowed. Ultimately we want the trail to be paved. The current standard for Charlotte-Mecklenburg greenways is a 10-foot wide asphalt path This will allow a more diverse group to use the amenity.

The existing natural path is very serene and quiet and earthy. Itís hard to believe that youíre so close to roads and business parks.

How do roadways figure in the trail?

We are behind the ball on getting passage under or over roadways. It would be great to have tunnels and overpasses like other cities but in the meantime we could certainly use help from the Department of Transportation to incorporate sidewalks in design plans for new projects and to install pedestrian crosswalks and signals at creeks other trail crossings.

What is the cost of these trails?

We are trying to get the land or easements for the Steele Creek and Walkers Branch Greenway Trails donated from landowners along the creeks. After we have cleared some brush and built a path along the creeks, we can start using the trail for walking. Our plan is to open up some small sections first so that people can see how nice the trial will be for getting about.

The Mecklenburg County park planner estimates that it would cost about $100,000 per mile for a 10-foot wide asphalt trail to accommodate all residents and safety vehicles. The total length of the Steele Creek and Walkers Branch Greenways is about 7 miles, so it will take about $700,000 to complete those.

Are you seeking donations?

Yes, we are seeking donations.

The initial need is for land along Steele Creek and Walkers Branch. Several landowners have indicated a willingness to donate either land outright or easements, but the process takes time. (See Progress is being Made to Acquire Land for Steele Creek Greenways (8/20/2005)).

We also need money to promote, build, and maintain the trails. Contributions are being accepted through a non-profit group called Partners for Parks, which supports park programs and projects in Mecklenburg and surrounding counties. Individuals can donate anything...money, a park bench, signageÖand take a tax write-off.

What are other potential sources of funding?

Most of the construction cost for the Steele Creek and Walkers Branch Greenway Trails will be covered by public funds, but current bond money has been allocated to other projects. Although some funds may be available from park bond money or operating budgets, most of the cost will be covered by future park bonds.

However, much of the trail system will not be part of the county park system, and other funding will be needed. Several national and state organizations offer grants for trail building, and the committee is pursuing those. Many of these organizations reward communities that foster active lifestyles and connectivity.

What is the timeframe for the trail to be available?

We hope to have sections available for walking and jogging and maybe biking within a year, but it depends on donations from landowners and individuals and businesses.

Besides following streams, where could other trail sections be located?

Utility easements (water/sewer lines and power lines) are prime locations for trails. Committee members also have talked to the North Carolina Department of Transportation about incorporating trails into road improvements. Traditional sidewalks are not suitable for bicycles, and 10-foot wide asphalt paths along new roads would be preferable for bicyclists. The Palisades, Berewick, and Sanctuary residential developments will have trails, and the committee hopes to achieve connectivity with these.

W
hat is the urgency?

Steele Creek is developing rapidly. If trails arenít incorporated into plans now, land might not be available later. Some opportunities have already been lost, such as the inclusion of tunnels or bridges crossing I-485.

Building a trail system will take a long time, but it wonít happen if we donít start the ground work now.

How can the public help?

The public can enlist their homeowner associations to support the trail by granting access along common areas so that their children can safely bike to libraries, schools, ball fields, parks and other neighborhood friends. We will always accept donations of money or goods through Partner for Parks. Residents will also be needed for helping to build sections of the trail and to petition elected officials of the need for funds for our trail.

Where can I get more information?

Visit the trail web site at www.steelecreektrail.org, or email questions to CommunityTrail@steelecreekresidents.org.

 

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