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Neighbors express concerns about proposed Winterville greenway

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The Cedar Ridge neighborhood is shown in Winterville. During a public input session last week, 45 residents — many from Cedar Ridge subdivision — came to voice their opposition to building a greenway behind their homes.

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By ANGELA HARNE
The Times-Leader

Thursday, February 7, 2019

WINTERVILLE — A greenway proposed for Winterville has sparked objections from residents of a nearby neighborhood.

During a public input session last week, 45 residents — many from Cedar Ridge subdivision — came to voice their opposition to building a greenway behind their homes.

The Winterville Town Council is gauging interest and the financial feasibility of constructing a greenway in town through a 50-50 matching Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant.

The idea has been in the works for several years. In July 2016, Winterville Parks and Recreation completed a recreation comprehensive master plan. A survey, conducted August 2015 to June 2016, resulted in 792 “responses related to a greenway,” according to Winterville’s parks and recreation director Evan Johnston.

“We are always looking for new opportunities (in recreation),” said Ben Williams, Winterville’s assistant town manager.

The development of a greenway was ranked No. 2 after a swimming pool in the 2015 survey.

The town owns property by the Fork Swamp Canal, which is “why we targeted this area,” Williams said.

A long-term goal, if approved by the Winterville Town Council, is to construct a greenway loop from Cedar Ridge to Old Tar Road to East Main Street continuing northward to a spur to Boyd Lee Park, he said. The greenway would also head north, along Fork Swamp Canal, back to the land now owned by the town to Cedar Ridge.

Most greenways take seven years to develop. Winterville is entering year three of the project and is still determining feasibility, Williams said.

“We are looking at environmental restraints, like wetland limitations,” he said. “We want to improve our recreational offerings.”

Many who attended the public input session have lived in the Cedar Ridge subdivision for more than 15 years. They voiced concerns about people walking in their backyard, having to invest in blinds for the rear of their homes and constructing taller fences for privacy.

They also raised concerns about crime, drug dealers, littering and “riffraff.”

Others voiced concerns about the environment — citing issues such as trees being cut down for the project and wetlands being disturbed.

One resident expressed concerns about water drainage.

“There is flooding near my home,” she said. “Water collects even when it rains. Putting pavement beyond my house will affect the drainage system behind my house. There is no way it couldn’t.”

Brandon Guy of Kimley-Horn, the firm working with the town to develop the Fork Swamp Canal greenway, said such issues would be considered in the project’s design.

Development of greenways must adhere to strict guidelines set by the state, which study floodplains, floodways and water tables, Guy said.

A stormwater control system will be incorporated in the design plans, along with proposed bridges and walkways over the swamp areas, Williams said.

Several residents questioned the validity of the 2015-16 survey. Winterville has a population of 10,000. Only 344 surveys were completed.

“This total represented approximately 792 individuals,” Johnson said. “It should be noted that some respondents failed to provide an answer to the question related to household size meaning the total number of individuals represented may be larger, but not smaller.”

Winterville has an approximate overall population of 10,000 with an average household size of 2.68 persons per household, equating to approximately 3,730 households, Johnson said.

Many pointed out the survey response still represents less than 10 percent of the population.

“I am disappointed in the numbers. If you’re going to use the numbers, they need to be relevant,” one man said.

Cyclist Dave Chester asked town staff why they did not focus their efforts on building a greenway from downtown and W.H. Robinson Elementary School to Boyd Lee Park.

“I don’t think there would be objections because it doesn’t affect their property,” Chester said, adding as a cyclist that area makes “more sense” for a greenway.

Chester said he understands the town does not own this property, but pointed out the future road construction in this area will clear a path for a greenway.

The Old Tar Road corridor will look “completely different in six years,” Williams said, adding sidewalks and bike lanes are part of this project, which in the future could link into a town greenway system.

Returning to their concerns, one Cedar Ridge resident asked how the greenway would be secured at night. He asked if a barrier could be built.

“Most of us feel (a greenway in our backyards) will happen. How do we make it not happen?” one attendee asked.

Winterville Manager Terri Parker noted that no final decision has been made on the project.

She pointed out that several elected officials were in attendance at the input meeting, including Winterville Mayor Doug Jackson, along with council members Mayor Pro-tem Mark Smith, Ricky Hines, Veronica Roberson and Johnny Moye.

Town staff encouraged attendees to fill out comment cards if they did not wish to speak.

“Your input is important in the process,” Johnston said.

Design documents for the portion of the Fork Swamp greenway may be available in June, according to the schedule provided by Guy.

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