The Morgan creek trail has been in place and heavily used by residents of Chapel Hill for some time. The paths popularity is in spite of being isolated and lacking any connectivity at the ends. Most people, wanting to enjoy this fine path must drive on a highway, and then park their cars in a lot that is often overflowing on weekends. Families, living only a couple hundred yards away on either end, have no safe way to reach the greenway other than to drive there in a car.
Town counter data backs up how popular this trail really is. A counter, installed on the path last year, recorded an average of 307 trips per day on the trail over the last 329 days. A total of 101,297 trips in all. Most users of the trail pass the counter twice as they head in and out from the lot, so that is over 50 thousand trips in less than a year.
When I have run past the lot for this trail, and seen bikes loaded up on cars, I wondered why the town cannot make it fully accessible to the thousands that use it. My feelings were this situation is a failure in urban planning to have a recreational facility that requires a majority of the people to drive there to access *
The town of Chapel Hill is working to correct access and connectivity. There are three very reasonable expansion options being proposed for this trail facility. They all offer to extend connectivity, permitting people in the neighborhoods near the trail to reach the entire network and also Merrits Pasture, without the need of a car or car parking. However, there are some neighbors who live near these proposed paths who oppose this. Their opposition stems from some un substantiated fears these paths will bring crime, noise and litter to their neighborhoods.
In fact, a greenway actually improves every aspect of a community that surrounds it. A recent NC State, North Carolina Rails Trails study revealed that crime on the American Tobacco Trail was significantly less than crime reported in the surrounding neighborhoods.
A study made by the University of Nebraska, and co sponsored by the National Park service, concluded that three trails that were built in neighborhoods had a positive impact on property values and
63.8% home buyers indicated that the trail positively influenced their purchase decision of a home served by the trail.
The land that will be used by the town to extend this path is all public right of way. It is time to complete this trail, and offer alternatives for people living near by to be able to access the trail network without a car. It is time to allow people living near the trail to be able to reach near by destinations by foot, or visit friends only 100 yards away, without always resorting to cars. It is very likely the neighbors opposing this path do not use the existing network. Because if they did, and saw how clean and well kept the trails are, it would at least demonstrate to them how this beautiful resource will do nothing more than allow their neighbors to enjoy all that Chapel Hill has to offer in greenery and walking options, even if they choose to continue to pass on it.
There will be likely be additional public meetings to show the options, and to invite public comment. If you are interested in greenways that are actually connected, and permit alternate ways of reaching destinations, I urge you to attend the upcoming sessions, or to contact the town here