Editorial: An important opportunity

December 13, 2013 

Lost in the excitement over last week’s opening of Wendell Falls Parkway was an important comment by Wendell Mayor Tim Hinnant.

He noted that the road was constructed in such a way as to allow for greenways to pass under the road. That opens up opportunities to connect Wendell to Knightdale’s greenway system, and from there to Raleigh’s system.

As a matter of practice, not too many people are likely to walk from Wendell to Raleigh, but for ardent walkers and nature lovers, it would, no doubt, be a pleasant excursion.

Except for one thing.

Wendell currently has no greenway system. The town’s only walking trail is a loop around Wendell Park. That 1.5-mile or so loop is well maintained by the town’s Parks and Recreation Department and other volunteer groups in town.

But there is currently nowhere to go from that loop. A broader greenway system could link that impressive facility to others and give Wendell residents new, options for getting their exercise and escaping the busy constraints of daily life. It could also connect walking enthusiasts to Lake Myra and the future Wake County park planned for that area.

Building a greenway system, however, is no cheap endeavour. Greenway systems are built over time and in phases.

Shortly after the first of the year, as the Wendell town staff and the town board begin to plan for next year’s budget, there will be much gnashing of teeth over the lack of money, the desire not to raise taxes and the question of whether or how much of a pay raise employees should get.

But commissioners should take a plunge into the world of greenway building.

As Hinnant said to the crowd at the opening of Wendell Falls Parkway, the town wants to portray itself as a walkable community. Building the start of a greenway system is a great way to put action to those words.

It’s easy enough to say the town should wait until it starts to receive tax revenue from the restarting of the Wendell Falls subdivision, but that’s simply not necessary. The town can take a reasonable bite out of the process this coming year and get the ball rolling. When tax revenues from development appreciably swell the town’s coffers, then the town can take on an even more ambitious effort to expand its greenway system.

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