| Wilmington StarNews
A plan to transform a vacant rail corridor in Wilmington to a community bike and pedestrian trail needs your review.
Next week the public will have a chance to comment on a draft plan for the Wilmington Rail Trail project, which aims to provide “a critical connection” from the Northside neighborhood to downtown Wilmington and other parts of the city, according to Abby Lorenzo, deputy director of the Wilmington Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization. The WMPO kicked off the ongoing plan development in January with the city, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the Friends of the Wilmington Rail Trail group.
“The rail trail will attract residents and visitors alike, whether utilizing it as a non-motorized connection or for recreation,” she said of the rail corridor between 3rd Street and McRae Street, noting how the project is part of an effort to continue expanding the city’s trail network.
The plan will be adjusted based on the public’s comments and then a final draft will be presented to the city council, Wilmington Urban Metropolitan Planning Organization board and Friends of the Wilmington Rail Trail group, Lorenzo said. After this, the next step will be identifying funding sources.
More: Wilmington Rail Trail gets first funding
The development of the plan has included an assessment of the corridor’s existing conditions, stakeholder interviews, consultation with design experts, preliminary cost estimates and community feedback, Lorenzo said.
On Oct. 9, a survey calling for community input on the project concluded, garnering 1,900 survey responses.
Though the responses are currently being reviewed to incorporate in the draft plan, Lorenzo said the responses “speaks loudly for what the public thinks of this project.”
A majority of those who responded said they’d use the trail for walking biking and running, Lorenzo said. And respondents also said the top three benefits of the trail would be providing an improved and safer place to walk and bike, enhancing access to downtown and Northside destinations and increasing opportunity for health and wellness.
The plans to revitalize the vacant rail corridor is not only part of an effort to implement a pedestrian trail and a future passenger rail service, it’s also to foster arts-driven economic development and honor the city’s local history and culture, according to the project website.
Rhonda Bellamy, executive director of the Arts Council for Wilmington and New Hanover County and member of the Friends of the Wilmington Rail Trail, said she envisions sculptures and murals spread throughout the landscape.
“We are talking about a large tract of land that’s been under developed for years and years ever since the rail road left,” she said. “The opportunity to enrich residents lives through recreational and cultural amenities is a great use of that space.”
The plan will be available to review at the planning organization’s website and paper copies will be made available at their office, located at 305 Chestunut St. in Wilmington. Comments can also be submitted by email to [email protected]