Since it was initiated five years ago, the Carolina Thread Trail has come a long way – 100 miles, to be exact.
An event celebrating the 100th mile and five years of hard work will be held Nov. 17 in Davidson. A special commemorative 100th mile marker will be unveiled, and the public will get the chance to experience free nature hikes.
The Thread, as it’s often called, was publicly announced in November 2007. The project will work to create 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.
Carol Buie-Jackson, a Matthews resident and owner of Birdhouse on the Greenway in south Charlotte, is excited.
“When they first started, I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, this is gonna be 85 years (until they’re finished).’ To already be celebrating their 100th mile, I think, is amazing,” she said. “Given all the different municipalities and the different governments and counties and the states – there are two different states that they’re dealing with – the fact that they’ve already done 100 miles is amazing.”
Buie-Jackson has served as a liaison between the Town of Matthews and the Thread, advocating for the trail among citizens and government.
“Being an outdoors person, I’ve always been very supportive of anything that encourages people to get outside and connect with nature,” she said.
Matthews is one step closer toward housing the Carolina Thread Trail as the town recently completed its own greenway. Part of the Thread would connect with Matthews’ Four-Mile Creek Greenway, and town officials and representatives from the Carolina Thread Trail are working together to plan public meetings to educate citizens about the Thread and get feedback.
Studies also are being conducted to ensure the feasibility of where the Thread is planned to run and connect.
“With funding from a Carolina Thread Trail grant, the Town of Matthews completed a focused corridor study this spring to look at options for connecting the popular Four Mile Creek Greenway in Matthews to Idlewild Road Regional Park, approximately a seven-mile corridor,” Ann Browning, project director for the Carolina Thread Trail, said in an email. “The Town, working with Mecklenburg Park and Recreation, is evaluating priority projects in that corridor and pursuing funding.”
Plans to add connectors in the Hampton Green subdivision and near Butler High School have been ready for months, as representatives from the Carolina Thread Trail introduced plans for the two Matthews connectors to Matthews residents earlier this year. 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 the Matthews Athletic Recreation Association’s 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.
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 U.S. Highway 74.
Representatives from the trail recently told residents during a community meeting the opportunities for exercise, exploring nature and an increase of business to the Matthews area generated from Thread travelers all were benefits of having the Thread come to the town.
But not all residents were on board.
Ever since the plans were announced, citizens have voiced concerns about the safety of the Thread and its connectors – particularly those that would have travelers cross busy roads – as well as the risk of home values dropping in houses located adjacent to the Thread.
But Buie-Jackson doesn’t believe all these concerns are valid.
“I never really understood that,” she said. “I lived in Denver, Colo., for eight years and they have a phenomenal greenway system there. People clamored to get houses on the greenway. It helps property values. I just hope that the success of the first 100 miles makes it easier to get the rest of it done. It would be such a unique and wonderful thing for this area.”