Riding an unfinished Greensboro-High Point connector

by Jordan Green

The concept of regional bicycle transportation linking Greensboro and High Point intrigued me. The Bicentennial Greenway is not exactly that. The page devoted to it on the Greensboro Parks and Recreation Department website makes clear that the trailway is part asphalt and part gravel.

Still I wondered: How feasible would it be to commute by bicycle from Greensboro to High Point? With three hours of daylight left on Sunday I set out to find out.

According to Greensboro’s parks and recreation website, the first sections of the Bicentennial Greenway appeared in 1989. About five miles are completed in Greensboro near Lake Brandt, if you count a section that doubles as the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway. High Point’s share of the greenway is more impressive, from what I’ve been told with about seven miles of trail completed from the Piedmont Environmental Center near Jamestown up to the line of demarcation near the two cities near South Chimney Rock Road. When complete, the greenway is supposed to cover 20 miles. If you do the math, you’ll quickly realize that leaves a significant chunk incomplete, including a couple miles of two-lane roadway on Horse Pen Creek Road whose key features are dusk-time auto traffic on steroids and broken to nonexistent shoulder. Also included is a stretch of New Garden Road stacked with a Harris Teeter, Tripp’s and the stillborn New Garden Square mixed-use retail and housing project, which chased my friends Ogi and Janet Overman out of the neighborhood and was scheduled to begin construction in January 2009.

Guilford College lies in the path of the nascent greenway, as does an industrialized stretch of West Market Street. The city of Greensboro’s waste transfer station isn’t far off.

Compared with the modestly hyped Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway, which caused a minor stir when it opened earlier this year because of its state-ofthe-art tunnel under Cone Boulevard, the Bicentennial Greenway is a hidden jewel.

The Bicentennial Greenway officially begins near the Lewis Recreation Center on Forest Lawn Drive, but considering that that segment has been cobbled onto the Atlantic & Yadkin, I like to think the greenway actually begins at the point where Horse Pen Creek flows under Old Battleground Road. The only indication the trail is about to start is a smallish square sign featuring a visual display of two evergreen trees, a waterway and path coupled with an arrow. The nearest landmark is Carolina Estate, advertised as “gracious retirement living.” The kudzu-draped landscape features a powerline clear cut and a broad swath of protected watershed.

It took me about and hour riding in a northwesterly direction from Westerwood to get there. Of course, the utility of any transportation corridor is defined by where you live and work in relation to it. If you live in or near the suburban enclaves of Brandt Trace Farms or Saddle Creek, this one might take you somewhere.

That said, once you get to the greenway, it’s more than worthwhile. The asphalt trail shoots southward through undeveloped woodlands. The sylvan backside of apartments and single-family houses provides a nice change of pace from the chain-link fence, car lots and trash and recycling receptacles that line the Atlantic & Yadkin. One caution: Several years of rivulets freezing and expanding under the path have create ridges that require slow going if you care anything for your rims.

A thin coating of leaves covered the path when I came down the Bicentennial Greenway and dappled sunlight played across the ground. A traffic signal affords passage across Battleground Avenue’s four or five lanes. From there, the greenway comprises a sidewalk following Drawbridge Parkway. Near the grand entrance of Well Spring Retirement Community, the greenway drops away from the street and turns to gravel.

I walked my bicycle to prevent the gravel from puncturing my tires, but it was a real treat.

The path winds through sheltering stands of hardwoods, and were it not for the distant whir of automobiles, it would be easy to forget I was in a city. A marsh meanders around the narrow stream of Horse Pen Creek. In the most interesting part of this segment, the decks of two houses rise above the path, which occupies a tight space between the creek and a staggered terrace.

Near the end of the Greensboro segment of the greenway, the path turns to grass. At its terminus near the entrance of the Quaker Run at Horsepen Creek subdivision, there is no signage to indicate a public pathway much less a greenway connecting Greensboro and High Point.

By the time I reached Guilford County, I had about enough time to get back home before dark.

The High Point segment of the greenway is next on my list.