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A new 3.5-mile stretch of the Neuse River Greenway opened to walkers and bikers this month, and several other sections are set to open in the coming weeks as Raleigh wraps up construction on its longest trail yet.
The latest section traverses Raleigh’s eastern edge from Anderson Point Park, running under New Bern Avenue to the northern end of the Hedingham neighborhood. It includes a bridge that ties the city’s trail system to that of neighboring Knightdale.
“I think this particular trail does have some wonderful views of the river,” greenway planner Vic Lebsock said.
The section provides the first walking distance greenway access for the densely populated Hedingham along with neighborhoods along North Rogers Lane – creating new access to the Neuse. “This stunningly beautiful river has been hidden from the public,” said Sig Hutchinson, a greenways advocate who serves on several Raleigh committees. “The people who live in Hedingham did not even know there was a river.”
It will be months, though, before the trail connects to the existing Neuse River Greenway that opened in North Raleigh last year. When completed in 2013, the 28-mile paved trail will stretch from Falls Dam to the Johnston County line, connecting to another greenway to Clayton.
Many greenway users aren’t waiting until then to check out the trail. Here’s how to enjoy the latest 3.5-mile section in East Raleigh:
How to access it: The trail has two parking areas and trailheads. On the south end, park at the boat launch at Anderson Point Park off North Rogers Lane. A second parking area is located on Allen Drive, off Raleigh Beach Road north of New Bern Avenue. The northern end of the section won’t be accessible by car until another segment opens to the north. Walkers and bikers can also start at Knightdale’s Mingo Creek Greenway off Hodge Road and cross a new bridge onto the Raleigh side. Another bridge connects from the canoe launch area off Loch Raven Parkway near Old Milburnie Road.
What to look for: The section offers views of the old Milburnie Dam, which could soon be removed. It also provides a sneak peek at the land that will eventually become Milburnie Park. The park project, which remains unfunded, spans both sides of the river connected by a pedestrian bridge, which is already open as part of the greenway. North of the park, a bridge crosses Bridges Lake, a marshy area above the dam.
More trails coming soon
Lebsock said the next new section – from Poole Road to Auburn-Knightdale Road on Raleigh’s southeastern edge – is “probably just weeks away.” The three-mile stretch will be harder to reach at first as parking lots at each end remain under construction. It will eventually tie into the Walnut Creek Trail heading into the city, which will be constructed next year.
In January, the city expects to open two more sections. A seven-mile leg will run from Hedingham north to U.S. 401, where construction is wrapping up on one of the state’s first pedestrian suspension bridges. It will have trailheads and parking at Hedingham, the Buffaloe Road Athletic Park, the Buffaloe Road canoe launch and at U.S. 401. The 5.7-mile southern end to Johnston County likely will also open around this time.
The openings will leave just two short segments under construction – from Anderson Point to Poole Road and from U.S. 401 to the WRAL Soccer Complex on Perry Creek Road.
Hutchinson said he’s eagerly awaiting the day late next year when North Raleigh will tie into the new trail to the south.
“I like to call it ‘miles of smiles’ because no one is in a bad mood on a greenway,” he said. “I have been on greenways around the world and I have never seen anything as beautiful as that Neuse River Greenway.”