Jacksonville East Coast Greenway Trail
Our area will soon attract more off-the-beaten-path visitors now that Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution on August 4 to designate part of the city’s trail system to be part of the East Coast Greenway.
The East Coast Greenway is a 3,000-mile multi-use trail that crosses the East Coast from Maine to Florida, connecting 15 states and 450 towns and villages. It is designed for walkers, runners, cyclists, wheelchair users, skaters and horse riders.
âIt will be a good thing for our region,â said Richard Woodruff, City Manager. âIt’s important for East Carolina to attract people to regional activities. “
Woodruff said the area has more to offer than its beaches. The Green Lane is a source of recreation and transport for its users and a good way to introduce more ecotourism.
âThis activity will help us attract people from across the state and from neighboring states,â said Woodruff.
The Greenway Trail connects Fayetteville with Raleigh and Durham. Jacksonville will be cordoned off on a free coastal road connecting Wilmington, Jacksonville, New Bern, Greenville and Elizabeth City.
Jacksonville is already home to over 19 miles of trails and greenways that connect parks, memorials, downtown, and waterfront landscapes.
âA lot of young people don’t want to commute. They want to live where they work and walk to work or cycle, âsaid Mark Sutherland, executive director of Jacksonville Onslow Economic Development.
Urban sprawl has had many consequences for the environment, our waistlines and our mental health. Retreating home at the end of the day to a gated community was once an oasis away from the noise and traffic jams of the city. Other realities emerged as cookie-cutter neighborhoods spilled over into the suburbs.
Sutherland said the cheap land made it easier to expand outward development after Camp Lejeune was built and the local economy was built around housing and entertainment for the military community.
People have become more dependent on cars than ever as neighborhoods have sprung up miles from schools, grocery stores, medical facilities and places of worship. The advent of dormitory communities fueled sedentary lifestyles and social isolation.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 24.8% of Jacksonville’s population was obese in 2016 and 13.8% were considered to have poor mental health. Staying physically active is at the top of the list for improving both outcomes.
Planners across the country are weaving multimodal pathways in their strategies to create healthier communities. The ability to walk is an asset that increases the value of homes and attracts residents who want parks, museums, shops and restaurants to be within walking distance.
Sutherland said Swansboro is a municipality of Onslow that is committed to creating a connected community.
âAs these neighborhoods build, they are connected for golf carts, bikes and pedestrians,â Sutherland said. âThis is part of their development policy which is essential for the new subdivision plans.
Being able to exist in a smaller bubble is a growing trend across all age groups.
âIn addition to millennial homebuyers, we need millennial developers,â Sutherland said. “They want to live in a village and be able to walk to a cafe or across the street to get their nails done or visit a neighborhood theater.”
Communities of active adults are also on the rise. Retirees enjoy a better quality of life through swimming, golf, tennis and nature trails in their backyards. Some of these communities are lavish with price tags to match. What they do is create a stress-free living environment and a sense of community.
Pursuing a healthy lifestyle has a way of bringing people together and this is something the East Coast Greenway can do more in Jacksonville.
âAnytime there’s a little more infrastructure like this, it’s a big plus,â said Shawn Kane, co-owner and general manager of the Bicycle Gallery.
Kane said the local trails draw cycling enthusiasts from areas like Cedar Point, Swansboro and Richlands for group rides. He considers the Greenway designation to be a major asset for his customers in order to have safer places to drive with less traffic.
âI think it’s become more important recently just because there are more distracted drivers than ever before,â Kane said.
Being wrapped up in the green lane will benefit the region in many ways. Best of all, it won’t cost the city a dime. Woodruff said any funding needed to create walking and cycling trails on the proposed route would come from state and federal grants.
The East Coast Greenway makes using the trail simple by offering travel ideas and interactive mapping tools on its website. Its presence will open up more avenues to attract visitors, alternative transportation and exercise.
âWhen I’m looking for places to live or buy a house, that definitely comes into play,â Kane said. âIt’s nice to be in a place where you have options. “