Clayton continues push to add greenway space

ndunn@newsobserver.comMay 12, 2014 

Standing by their slogan of harboring an active community, Clayton leaders this month proposed further expansion of the town’s greenway system.

A downtown connector would extend the existing Clayton River Walk along the Neuse River to N.C. 42 East and Front Street, a future major artery to downtown. The connector would also join with East Clayton Community Park, a 66-acre park near the Glen Laurel community.

The downtown connector and some ongoing projects represent the town’s continuing emphasis on adding recreational amenties for Clayton’s growing population.

Planning Director David DeYoung told Town Council members on May 5 that he will seek federal funding next fiscal year for the downtown connector.

Most of Clayton’s greenway projects fall under the Locally Administered Projects Program, or LAPP, which prioritizes regional highway, bicycle and pedestrian projects that will use federal funding. The program, coordinated by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, or CAMPO, awards funding that typically covers 80 percent of the cost of a project, with local government responsible for the rest.

Clayton will seek LAPP funding for the downtown connector and is relying on the program for close to $2.5 million in ongoing greenway projects. They include:

•  A 1.2-mile Clayton Community Center pedestrian connector, which will stretch from the community center at the intersection of Amelia Church and Shotwell roads to the corner of Lombard and Hamby streets in downtown. The design phase of the project is complete and cost about $125,000; construction is estimated at $1.04 million. The town qualifies for LAPP funding for the design and constrution phases.

•  A road crossing that will connect the existing Sam’s Branch phase 1 greenway with phase 2 of the project. Current plans call for a 10-foot tall by 14-foot wide reinforced concrete box culvert that will run under North O’Neil Street, where phase 1 of the greenway currently ends. The town qualified for LAPP funding for the design phase, which is estimated at $70,000, and will seek LAPP funding for $445,000 in projected construction costs.

•  Sam’s Branch phase 2, a 1.2-mile addition that will take the trail from North O’Neil Street to Legend Park at City Road. The project calls for $125,000 in design costs and $700,000 in construction. The town has qualified for LAPP funding for the design phase and will apply for assistance to offset construction costs.

If the town received LAPP funding for all of the ongoing projects, Clayton’s cost would total about $500,000.

Design of the North O’Neil Street crossing and phase 2 of Sam’s Branch greenway should wrap up in the next eight to 12 months, the town says. DeYoung said the town doesn’t know how much the proposed downtown connector will cost or how long the trail might be.

Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs said the town could not pay for the projects without the federal funding sources.

“We for several years have had a structured program of making Clayton a walkable community,” Biggs said. “As the concept of a walkable community has matured, the greenways have become much more relevant.”

‘Active Families’

At least part of the greenway push stems from community surveys, in which Clayton residents picked walking as a top activity. And for the last decade, the town has worked to brand itself as a “Premiere Community for Active Families,” the slogan found on Clayton’s website and government literature.

From 2000 to 2010, Clayton’s population grew from 7,000 residents to nearly 17,000. Latest estimates show the town’s population on tract to hit 20,000 by 2015. Biggs said greenways add to a quality-of-life factor that residents typically want.

“The total product of the recreation program is our best economic-development tool,” Biggs said. He said the town must continue to ensure water and sewer services are adequate, but “the thing that attracts residents and investors and retains employees at these places are recreation amenities – private and public.”

Connectivity and investment

Clayton dedicated the first phase of the Sam’s Branch greenway in 2012. The state Department of Transportation paid for the nearly $600,000 trail spur that connects to the Clayton River Walk on the Neuse, the longer Neuse River Greenway and the future Mountains-to-Sea Trail, an effort to link Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks.

“You can be as active as you want on those trails,” said Clayton Councilman Butch Lawter. “Whether it’s walking or riding a bike, there are a lot of things you can do on the greenway.”

Like Biggs, Lawter said the greenway space serves as an economic-development tool. He said during a recent trip on Sam’s Branch, he talked to several Raleigh bikers, who were looking for a local restaurant to eat at.

In recent years, other recreational investments include East Clayton Community Park, which the town dedicated last November. Money for the park came from a $4 million bond issue voters approved in 2008.

Also, the Town Council voted to pay $600,000 for 39 acres at the intersection of Loop and Covered Bridge roads. The land is part of a larger 120-acre tract that the town plans to use for an amphitheater, hiking trails, a rope course, dog park and kayak and canoe rentals.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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