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The outdoorsy crowd in Wake Forest can now bike safely from their town into Raleigh – sort of.
The mayors of both cities will dedicate a new greenway link Wednesday. The Upper Neuse Connector is a 558-foot bridge that ties Wake Forest’s Smith Creek Greenway to the longer Neuse River Greenway in Raleigh.
“This is just a continuation of the creation of a world-class greenway,” said Sig Hutchinson, a greenways advocate who will speak at the dedication Wednesday. “This is now the longest pedestrian bridge in North Carolina.”
Want to go?
What: “Function at the Junction” Raleigh-Wake Forest greenway dedication
When: 2 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Upper Neuse Connector greenway bridge; for directions, go to wakeforestnc.gov/function-at-the-junction.aspx
Where does the trail go?
The Upper Neuse Connector ties Wake Forest’s Smith Creek Greenway to Raleigh’s Neuse River Greenway. Here are some possible destinations on the trail and how far they are from the Wake Forest trailhead on Burlington Mills Road:
WRAL Soccer Park: 2.8 miles
Bedford at Falls River neighborhood: 4.3 miles
Falls Dam: 6 miles
Durant Nature Park: 6.8 miles
And here are possible destinations once the entire Neuse River Greenway is completed next year:
Buffaloe Road Athletic Park: 8.2 miles
New Bern Avenue: 12 miles
Anderson Point Park: 14.2 miles
Clayton: 26 miles
While the new bridge gives Wake Forest a link to Raleigh’s longest stretch of greenway, the dream of biking from downtown Wake Forest to downtown Raleigh is still years away. For now, the Smith Creek Greenway in Wake Forest is a 1.1-mile segment that dead-ends at Burlington Mills Road on the south end of town. Plans to extend the trail farther north haven’t yet been funded.
On the Raleigh side, a longer greenway is just around the corner. The rest of the Neuse River Greenway trail is set to open next year, creating a 28-mile paved trail from Falls Dam to the Johnston County line. From there, another greenway runs into the town of Clayton.
The project is being built in segments, with staggered openings throughout the coming months. An official dedication is planned for spring. Within a few weeks, the first 3.5-mile section will connect Anderson Point Park to Milburnie East and West parks in East Raleigh.
The rest of the trail – with the exception of a short segment between WRAL Soccer Park and Louisburg Road – should be open by February, according to Raleigh greenway planner Vic Lebsock. The Louisburg Road connection was held up by permitting issues but will wrap up next summer, he said.
Hutchinson said he has high hopes for the Neuse River trail and the $1.4 million bridge to Wake Forest. He expects tourists could stay in Wake Forest and bike into Raleigh or even Clayton.
“In a very short period of time, you’re going to start seeing articles in travel magazines,” he said. “I believe it is the most beautiful greenway in our system and the most beautiful greenway on the East Coast.”