Local residents got a preview last week of what the area might look like if the planned Carolina Thread Trail becomes a reality.
About two dozen community members attended a meeting at the Matthews Community Center Thursday, June 21, to view a presentation on the goals of the Carolina Thread Trail and ask questions and voice opinions about the trail and the newly formed Four Mile Creek Greenway in Matthews.
If created, the Carolina Thread Trail would be a web of preserved natural areas linking together 15 counties, more than 40 destinations – including stops in Matthews and Mint Hill – and 7,300 square miles in the piedmont of North and South Carolina. Part of the trail would connect with Matthews’ greenway, and plans to add connectors in the Hampton Green subdivision and near Butler High School are already underway.
The Hampton Green connector plans include a proposed greenway leading from Bubbling Well Road southeast across Fullwood Lane, around the ACTS retirement community and north up South Trade Street toward Main Street. The proposal also includes a boardwalk leading from the greenway on the west side of Fullwood Lane to Goodwin Park and additional greenways surrounding the park.
The Butler connector includes a proposed greenway leading east from near Chambers Drive, passing by the school campus and continuing to O’Toole Drive. The greenway would have two pedestrian bridges, both east of the school.
But Curtis Bridges, bicycle and pedestrian transportation planner for Stewart Engineering, said the complex plans are only in the beginning stages and are subject to change.
“This is just our idea of the type of thing we’d like to see,” Bridges said.
The meeting began with a video informing citizens of the goals of the Carolina Thread Trail and the perks of creating the trail.
Iona Thomas, greenway design group manager for Stewart Engineering, also explained how the Carolina Thread Trail would benefit the economy.
“Folks inside of Charlotte start looking around to see where the Carolina Thread Trail goes and where they can make those day trips, and it becomes a viable economic stimulant for your economy,” she said.
Thomas explained that the Carolina Thread Trail, which is a nonprofit with no governmental power, stresses the philosophy of working only with willing property owners, and not taking land by eminent domain.
“There are a lot of property owners who are interested in conservation easement, in having access to the networks directly, so there’s lots of opportunity to partner, we’re finding,” Thomas said.
But although the trail’s position is clear, the decision on whether to take land by force is ultimately left up to the towns.
“Different municipalities have different policies on that,” Thomas said.
Citizens had the opportunity to view maps of the preliminary plans of the Hampton Green and Butler connectors. But some citizens were concerned with the safety of the connector trails, especially those that would require travelers to cross busy roads.
Hampton Green resident Danielle Burnham has already experienced difficulty crossing Trade Street when traveling to the closest greenway trailhead and is concerned the dangers may outweigh the benefits if the intersections aren’t carefully designed.
“I love the greenway and it’s going to come right through my backyard and I’ll be the biggest proponent, but don’t ask me to cross a street with my children on their bikes and seriously take our lives into our hands,” Burnham said. “It’s not fair.”
Lee Tillery, director of Matthews’ Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department, said officials plan to give the same presentation to Matthews commissioners in a few months, but wanted to give the citizens first peek at the plans.
“Right now, it’s just finishing this process of kind of doing it parcel by parcel,” Tillery said. “The process gives us an opportunity to look at the parcels, hear the community and then kind of take a step back and make some decisions as we move forward.”
The Carolina Thread Trail plans also have the trail passing through Mint Hill. According to the plans, the trail would lead from Union County, near the Hemby Bridge area, northwest toward Highway 218, crossing Highway 51, looping around Mint Hill and leading southwest back toward Matthews across Highway 74.
But Mint Hill Town Planner John Hoard said these plans are preliminary and could change as the project develops.
“They’ve not gone out and talked to property owners or looked at which properties they’d have to use,” Hoard said. “There’s just (a map) showing where the possible route could be.”
Want to know more?
For more information on the Carolina Thread Trail, visit www.carolinathreadtrail.org.