Matthews pursues National Park Service grant

By Josh Whitener

As Matthews proceeds with plans to bring pedestrian connectivity throughout the town, staff could soon receive some vital technical assistance from the National Park Service.

Matthews commissioners voted Monday, July 29, to submit a grant application to the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. Commissioners endorsed and signed a letter to be sent along with the grant application Aug. 1.

The letter identified the planned Alexander Ridge Trail segment as the project the grant would be used for.

“The trail reinforces vision statements created for Matthews by its citizens, desiring a walkable and bike-able community, creation of an extensive park and open space system and maintenance of a healthy sustainable environment,” commissioners stated in the letter.

The Alexander Ridge Trail would include two definite destination points: the Royal Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center on Moore Road and the property controlled by the town near the intersection of Phillips and Matthews-Mint Hill roads, Corey King, the town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resource Department director, said. Additional connections along the trail could include Butler High School, as well as The Heathers, Windrow and Saddlebrook subdivisions, he said.

The multiple connection points along the Alexander Ridge Trail would allow Matthews residents to walk or bike to parks and school, as well as access sidewalks leading to nearby restaurants, shops and even the downtown area, commissioners said.

“The trail has potential to include many useful elements that would appeal to multiple age groups. Destination points along the trail incorporate activities for senior adults, teens, young adults and school-age youth,” commissioners stated in their grant application letter.

King said the National Park Service typically works with organizations on projects for up to two years as part of the grant program. Depending on the difficulty of project, the park service could also examine other trail projects within Matthews as part of the same grant award should timing permit, King said.

While the program would not provide financial assistance for the construction of trails, the grant would lend technical assistance including landscape architectural expertise for planning. The program also would help the town identify potential funding resources for projects and “other tasks designated to get the project as close to construction ready as possible,” King said.

“If awarded, there would be significant cost savings realized when the Alexander Ridge Trail is constructed. Design costs will be lowered, given the work performed by the National Park Service,” King said in a memo to commissioners.

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