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Reasons to get involved with Run 4 The Greenway

by Jordan Green

SHAMELESS PLUG

We live in an era of intense skepticism towards civic elites and public investment. Public projects such as the Downtown Greenway in Greensboro are suspected by some to be a redistribution of wealth to drive up market values for a favored few property owners. Maybe so, but this is a shameless plug for the greenway, Action Greensboro and the Run 4 the Greenway. Sign up to run or volunteer for the 1-mile run/walk or the 8K race at dowtowngreenway.org or call Judy Morton at 336.379.0821.

THE COURSE AND THE EVENT

The 8K course — almost five miles — will follow the detour route of the future 4-mile greenway around the center of Greensboro and include the one completed section through the Warnersville neighborhood on Sept. 11. The 1 mile walk/run begins at 5 p.m., and the 8K race follows at 5:30 p.m. You can look at a pretty awesome interactive map at downtowngreenway.org that displays each mile marker and provides visual images of some of the scenery. Before the race, Evan Olson and Dana will provide musical entertainment at Center City Park, along with something called “a bike game show” by the Elsewhere Artist Collaborative, temporary tattoos, balloon art and food. The $15- $30 registration fee for the two running and walking events goes to the maintenance endowment for the greenway.

GREENWAYS BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER

A foot race brings people together who may not share much more than a love of running, civic pride and the good feeling that comes from contributing to a cause. And part of the point is to create enthusiasm for the greenway so that people use it and make it successful. Greenways often reuse discontinued railroad tracks and underutilized industrial areas to create a common space that knits together separate neighborhoods. Getting out on a greenway with cyclists, runners, elderly walkers and young parents pushing baby strollers instills good feeling towards one’s neighbors and a sense of sharing a single fate as a community. A city with a vibrant pedestrian culture is more likely to allow for the kind of chance encounters that stimulate new professional collaborations and friendships.

A PEDESTRIAN HUB FOR THE CITY

Admittedly, this insight is courting controversy: The greenway is already disrupting the fabric of life in the city by causing the eviction of a homeless camp near Eugene Court, and will provide a walkable link between Greensboro College and Warnersville, many of whose elderly residents resent the encroachment by students. The greenway will likely breathe new life into neighborhoods and create opportunities for exercise. It will integrate downtown with Cumberland Courts, Fisher Park, the Aycock Historical District, Westerwood, the College Hill Historic District and Ole Asheboro, along with Warnersville. It will provide a hub for potential spokes to connect outlying neighborhoods to the city center. The recently opened Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway, which has recently extended southward from Country Park down to the Lawndale Crossing Shopping Center, is a stroke of municipalplanning genius: It creates a demand for further expansion to connect with the downtown loop and gives northwestern suburbanites a stake in the success of downtown.

RELIEVING THE TRANSPORTATION GRID

In addition to providing opportunities for exercise and recreation, the Downtown Greenway also has the potential to enhance the city’s transportation infrastructure by making it more convenient for people to commute to work by bicycle or foot. For example, Sustainable Greensboro founder Brian Higgins uses the Warnersville section of the greenway to travel from his home in Glenwood to work downtown. The more people use bicycles and walking to get to work, the more auto traffic is relieved, allowing people traveling downtown from the fringe to get around with more ease. Fewer cars on the road also improves air quality.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Action Greensboro, the major force behind the greenway, cites studies in Colorado and Ohio finding properties adjacent to a local greenway and trail were valued 22 percent and 12 percent, respectively, higher than properties farther away from those trails. Consider the service industries that cater to cyclists and walkers: bike sales and rentals, gift shops and cafés. Just to mention two tangible examples: Plans for the proposed downtown luxury hotel at its original site in Ole Asheboro mentioned that it would take advantage of the nearby Downtown Greenway. And the owner of the new Trek Bicycle Store on Battleground Avenue explicitly mentioned the future extension from the Downtown Greenway as one reason for locating in Greensboro.

A UNIQUE ASSET

Greensboro is already known for great parks. We don’t have quite the academic horsepower or musical cachet of the Triangle, not to mention state government, or the banking muscle of Charlotte, but we’ll be the only city in the state to have a downtown greenway, according to Chuck Flink, president of Greenways Inc. “Greensboro stands alone as the only North Carolina city that will have an urban trail that encircles downtown,” Flink said. “The Downtown Greenway will become a signature landscape within Greensboro in the years to come.”

PUBLIC ART

One feature of the greenway is public art. The Five Points Benches in Warnersville caused a bit of a stir when an upstart city council candidate exploited residents’ grievance with the perception that they attracted prostitution and dereliction as a cudgel against an incumbent. The benches have been relocated to the western end of the segment near the off-ramp of Freeman Mill Road. Other pieces in Warnersville include Juan Logan’s “Grounded Here,” which uses granite curbing from the former Ashe Street, and a bike rack made from used bike parts by Greensboro artist Erik Beerbower. Dabney Sanders with Action Greensboro says an anchor piece for the southwest corner by Rhode Island artist Brower Hatcher called “The Gateway of the Open Book” awaits installation. Greensboro artist Frank Russell created small items such as a birds, a sun and a compass from charcoal drawings made by Jones Elementary that are being embedded in the metal sculpture. And Sanders said Greensboro College is planning an outdoor performance space along the greenway between Friendly and Guilford avenues.

TOWN AND GOWN

Four colleges lie on or in close proximity to the greenway: Greensboro College, Bennett College, UNCG and NC A&T University.

Giving college students more ways to get downtown and develop a sense of belonging in Greensboro increases the likelihood that the whole city can benefit from their talents, energy and idealism. “It intersects three different parts of our campus, which allows me to get down to downtown easier, see my friends, we can get to the coffeehouse and go study,” Greensboro College student Matt Weddle says. “To have the greenway downtown is really an awesome thing; it shows that Greensboro is trying to be progressive.”

URBAN SIGHTSEEING

Sightseeing is a pleasure that comes from running and walking, whether it’s the future completed greenway or the 8K course on Sept. 11. Sitting in a metal box at a stoplight or viewing parking lots and storefronts through a window doesn’t quite compare.

On the 8K course, you’ll admire the stately bed and breakfasts lining Mendenhall Street, pass under the dank railroad overpass on Fulton Street and catch a glimpse of the bricked Rose’s Spa, once a police precinct house and then an infamous den exploiting captive sex workers (now, thankfully, out of business). You’ll hit the landscaped greenway through Warnersville, pass the meadow on Bragg Street that has hosted many a cookout and National Night Out event, soar through downtown, cruise through the sylvan stream bed of Fisher Park, and catch of view of the hoops and tennis courts at Latham Park. To borrow a marketing phrase from Durham: Love yourself, Greensboro.

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