The speaker list was a tad long for Friday’s dedication of the River Walk on the Neuse trail in Clayton, but that was right and proper. Every level of government made a significant contribution to the trail project that has been formally accepted as a link in the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail.
The trail that Clayton began planning more than 10 years ago was created with a mix of town, state and federal expertise and funds, and involved the town’s recreation department, the state parks system and the state DOT.
“The example you are setting is statewide and national. Everybody that could and would, did,” U.S. Rep. Mike McIntyre said minutes before a ribbon of natural vine was cut on four-miles of paved greenway alongside the river. At one point the trail crosses the Neuse on a 70-foot, steel-span bridge.
Clayton bought the land for the trailhead a few years ago, using a $300,000 grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund as seed money and built a parking area and other infrastructure on Old Covered Bridge Road. The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation secured a key, 329-acre tract four miles north at the Wake-Johnston county line with funding from the Parks and Recreation and Clean Water Management trust funds. That property, with its 1.6 miles of river frontage, will be managed by Clayton under a unique lease agreement. The state DOT arranged for engineering and much of the construction of the bridge and the trail itself, using federal funding.
Clayton’s trail segment will very soon connect with Raleigh’s contribution to the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail – a greenway stretching from the Wake-Johnston line north to the Falls Lake Dam. Within a few years, the greater trail will be complete from Clayton northwest to Hillsborough, a distance of about 100 miles.
Brad Ives, assistant secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said contributions from towns
such as Clayton become part of a much larger vision for North Carolina – the 1,000-mile cross-state trail launched in 1977 by Howard Lee, former head of the environmental agency.
Ives told the crowd, “Thank you for being here so we can see part of the realization of Howard Lee’s dream and vision, and thank you for being part of that.”
Slightly more than half of the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail has been built as dedicated walking/biking path, and much of that is on federal or state conservation lands including state parks. The remainder is routed along rural roads.
Lewis Ledford, state parks director, said, “These state parks and these trails, we find, are economic engines in the communities where they’re located. We can make this trail happen; let’s make sure we make this happen.”