Growing our Greenways is an initiative to highlight the many benefits of greenways and to amplify the voices of Mecklenburg County residents and organizations advocating for equitable and expedited construction of our county greenway network.
Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Commission members, Sustain Charlotte, Partners for Parks, and Carolina Thread Trail are working together to organize and advance this initiative. Each of our organizations is committed to sustainable urban development and improved and equitable access to greenways and public open space for all. We invite and actively encourage individuals and groups within the community to join us in supporting this effort.
What are we advocating for?
Accelerate land acquisition for greenways, parks, and nature preserves before prices rise further and land becomes unavailable, as recommended by the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Commission. The Commission’s recommendations include:
- Budgeting at least $35 million per year to buy land initially;
- Considering a mechanism to provide access to a pool of land acquisition funding for opportunistic purchases;
- Aggressively promoting opportunities to sell or donate land to the County Park and Recreation Department or appropriate partners to accelerate the acquisition of land for parks, greenways, and open spaces; and
- Providing for an appropriate increase in real estate staffing and/or partners to accomplish land acquisition goals.
- Invest with equity by prioritizing communities that have historically been under-invested in and prioritize segments that will close gaps in the network to increase connectivity and access as recommended in the Meck Playbook.
- Attain the goal set in 2019 of constructing 30 new miles of greenways by the end of 2023.
- Allocate sufficient resources in the next Capital Improvement Program and enhance organizational support and processes to enable completion of at least 50 additional miles of greenways by end of fiscal year 2028.
- Determine and provide the resources needed to substantially complete the Greenway Master Plan by 2035.
Why act now?
- Our greenway network has not grown fast enough to keep up with the needs of current residents. Residents have consistently shown desire for more greenways, yet we have fallen behind on achieving past goals set by Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation for growing the greenway network.
- Now is the time to buy land for future greenways. As a result of continued population growth and land development, available land for greenways is shrinking and becoming more expensive. It’s important for Mecklenburg County to purchase land for future greenways while it’s still available and less expensive.
- Financial conditions are in our favor. Mecklenburg County is likely to have as much as $400 million in excess funds by the end of June 2022 and has $215 million in current COVID relief funds. At the state level, there’s a $6 billion budget excess. At the same time, bond interest rates are low. The combination of available funds and low interest rates creates favorable conditions to act on building out our greenway system now.
- Investment decisions are currently being made. Capitalizing on excess general funds requires strategic advocacy during the annual and capital budgeting processes, which are underway now. The Capital Budget will impact investments through 2028. The economic benefits of investing in greenways exceeds the cost of investment and some greenway projects have generated $10 for every $1 invested. Here’s a report on the economic benefits of the park and recreation system of Mecklenburg County.
- Our community mobility and sustainability depend on it. A Harvard economic mobility study indicates that commute time is a significant predictor of improved economic mobility. Investing in greenways greatly enhances not just accessibility for more residents, but also mental and physical health, low-cost and carbon-free transportation choices, sustainable development, opportunities for environmental tourism, and increased property values and tax bases.
- Public open space is a critical component of public infrastructure. Greenways are long and linear, offering access to many people. Those who have access to greenways have safer, more vibrant neighborhoods and feel a stronger connection to their community.
How can you help?
- Add your voice. Sign this call-to-action to let us and your Mecklenburg County leaders know you support these recommendations. Our goal is 1,000 signatures.
- Spread the word. Share this page with your network and encourage them to sign the call-to-action too.
- Invite your friends. Bring folks in your circle to Growing our Greenways events and share information with them about why now is the time for action. These will be posted at sustaincharlotte.org/events.
- Donate. Offer your financial support to local groups that are advocating for this work, including Sustain Charlotte, Partners for Parks, and Carolina Thread Trail.
Contact Lauren Sawyers for more information.