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Tuesday, August 7, 2001

To Be Green

River trail should be just the beginning

It is a great relief to hear that construction will likely begin next spring on the Cape Fear River Trail. Fayetteville needs that beautiful “greenway,” probably more than most city officials know. It is one more essential piece of the city’s evolution into a modern, thriving metropolitan area.

The greenway will follow the banks of the Cape Fear River, from Methodist College to, eventually, the Cape Fear Botanical Garden. It will be a 10-foot-wide slice through magnificent woodlands and beautiful terrain that will be a pleasant surprise to all but a few dedicated local explorers. It will be paved, but not open to any motorized vehicles.

The first phase of the project, 2.5 miles from the college to Clark Park, is funded by a state transportation grant, plus smaller appropriations from the city and the North Carolina Parks and Recreation trust. Subsequent phases of the project still must secure funding.

Proponents of the trail offer a variety of reasons why it’s important. There’s the recreation value, of course, and the education in natural history that one stroll down the trail will provide. It exposes more of us to the Cape Fear River and, hence, to an understanding of the river’s importance, and potential importance, to our community. The trail may eventually become part of a greenway that runs the length of the East Coast, and the section that traverses Fayetteville will run all the way to Wilmington.

But here’s the most important part of all: Green isn’t just for tree-huggers. Green is for all of us. Green is essential. The greatest city designers and architects in history have understood that. Cities are made more livable and attractive by parks and greenbelts and greenways like the Cape Fear River Trail. Corridors of green break the concrete and asphalt and brick monotony and provide relief to the senses and the soul.

Fayetteville has shortchanged itself on accessible green space, and needs to develop far more of it if we’re going to be competitive in luring new residents, new businesses and new industries. It’s an integral part of the plan for the city’s future. There are plenty more golden-green opportunities in the city, and they should be pursued aggressively. After the Cape Fear project, the next obvious corridor for cultivation is Cross Creek, which flows altogether too anonymously through the city, save for rare lovely appearances.

A rousing cheer, please, for the Fayetteville residents and officials who have made the Cape Fear trail a reality. But no resting on laurels, no matter how green they may be. There are miles more work to be done, and it’s worth every bit of the effort.

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