Little River canoe trail on drawing board

amoody@newsobserver.comJune 17, 2014 

— Scenic trails along riverbanks are pretty common attractions these days. Less common is the notion of the river itself as a trail.

It may be an idea far out into the future but Zebulon officials have opened dialogue on a neat way to make recreation a possibility on one of the town’s main geographical features, the Little River.

Zebulon department heads each had a chance to share long-range visions for their respective branches at the town board’s annual retreat in February. Parks and Recreation Director Greg Johnson used part of his time in the spotlight speaking of greenways and working with other local towns to form a connected system of trails throughout eastern Wake County, a topic that has received much interest in recent years.

The other idea Johnson shared was one Mayor Bob Matheny brought to his attention years ago – to one day have a functioning canoe trail, a blueway, in Zebulon. That’s been a longtime dream of Matheny, who has rowed down the Little River before.

“I’ve done a lot of canoeing in my lifetime,” Matheny said. “My sons do it, my grandsons now do it. I just think it’s a great activity. It wouldn’t be a real long canoe trip, but it’s something that would add to the community.”

Johnson and Matheny say a local blueway is feasible. Zebulon owns Little River Park, which could serve as the northern access point, and, with Wendell, owns what could be a southern access point at Tarpley’s Mill where the river crosses under Mack Todd Road.

Members of the community would have to pitch in to prepare the stretch for routine boat traffic, according to Johnson.

“You’ve got to get the corridor clear and then keep it clear,” said Johnson, who believes a functioning blueway may be more than five years into the future. “You’d have to get some skilled people out there with boats and chainsaws.”

Matheny said prep work would likely also include constructing ramps at the access points and marking the trail. He noted there are a couple places where directional markers would be useful at times when the water level is high.

The town may have a role in the construction and maintenance, Johnson said, but beyond that the canoe trail would be open for the public to use as it pleases.

“If a lot of people were to come and say let’s do it, we could probably organize getting it done,” he said. “People would (access) it on their own, no different than a park or trail.”

Johnson has been on board with the idea ever since the mayor brought it to his attention.

“Not all trails are on asphalt,” he said. “Sometimes they’re on water, and we can have a trail right there on the Little River. Certainly it’s an idea for the future. It’d be nice to see it come to fruition.”

A blueway flows right in with the parks and recreation department’s efforts to get more people doing active things outdoors. Johnson said the canoe trail will likely be included in the master greenway plan the town is currently pursuing.

“It’s what we do is try to provide a diverse variety of recreational activities you want to learn or enjoy,” Johnson said. “We’ve got a river right here that runs through a park. We co-own some land with Wendell right there at the Tarpley’s Mill area. There’s too much there that we already have to ignore it.”


Moody: 919-829-4806; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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