TO: Roger L. Stancil, Town Manager
FROM: Ray L. “Butch” Kisiah, Director of Parks and Recreation
Bill Webster, Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation
SUBJECT: Public Hearing: Concept Plan for the Dry Creek Greenway Trail
DATE: May 5, 2008
This Public Hearing presents the Council an opportunity to review the Concept Plan for the Dry Creek Greenway Trail and recommendations from citizens and a number of advisory boards. The attached resolution would refer the Council’s and citizens’ comments to the Greenways Commission and the Manager for further evaluation. The resolution would also schedule a continuation of the public hearing on June 9, 2008.
In 2003 Chapel Hill voters approved a $5,000,000 parks bond that the Council has designated for greenways purposes.
In January 2006, the Council adopted an updated version of the Chapel Hill Greenways Comprehensive Master Plan which recommended development of a paved bicycle and pedestrian multiple-use trail along Dry Creek from Perry Creek Road to Eastowne Road in the northeast area of Chapel Hill.
A public forum was held on September 26, 2007.
On November 19, 2007 the Council accepted the Concept Plan for the Dry Creek Greenway Trail and referred it to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, Greenways Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Transportation Board, and Town staff for comment and recommendations.
Project Description: The current Dry Creek Trail is a narrow natural surface path that begins on the campus of East Chapel Hill High School and runs parallel to Dry Creek. The path crosses San Juan Road, Silver Creek Trail, and Perry Creek Road. The trail crosses over a branch of Dry Creek on an existing trail bridge and enters a 34 acre tract of Town-owned open space. A series of trails have been constructed in this open space area.
The trail would cross Erwin Road by utilizing a pedestrian crossing and refugee. A pedestrian refugee is a type of raised median that would split traffic, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists an opportunity to cross Erwin Road one lane at a time. Preliminary feedback from NCDOT indicates that the pedestrian refugee idea would be acceptable.
Once on the east side of Erwin Road the trail would utilize a portion of the Duke Energy access road that leads to an electrical sub-station. This would allow us to avoid additional clearing and grading for about 800 feet. The trail would leave the sub-station road and meander through the woods to the edge of the extensive wetlands that border Dry Creek in this area.
The single most challenging element of the plan would involve a crossing of the 500 foot wide wetland area and braided channel of Dry Creek. This would require some sort of bridge and boardwalk structure that would have to be designed in an environmentally sensitive manner with the smallest possible footprint.
Once on the southeast side of Dry Creek the trail would continue to Providence Road in the Eastowne development.
Goals of the Concept Plan: The recommendations of the concept plan were developed utilizing the following goals for guidance:
The trail would remain outside of jurisdictional wetlands except for one perpendicular crossing to access Providence Road. During the design phase it would be critical to design a bridge/boardwalk structure that would have the smallest possible impact on the wetlands.
Flood modeling would be used to design a boardwalk/bridge crossing that would not significantly affect the calculated flood.
This standard would be met throughout the length of the trail wherever possible.
The existing trail, sewer easements, and power easements would be utilized to some extent. In forested areas the trail would be field-located in order to avoid notable trees.
This plan recommends a pedestrian refuge, traffic control signs, adequate sight distances, and proper speed controls. The plan would be dependent upon final NCDOT approval.
Appropriate buffer plantings and sensitive entrance plantings would minimize the impact of the trail near the few project neighbors.
The current plan would not affect utilities.
The extension of Dry Creek Trail to Erwin Road would be a major step toward future connections to the New Hope Creek corridor and the Durham County greenway system. A bridge widening at Erwin Road would be necessary for the safest crossing over I-40. In addition, some future bridge crossing of I-40 near Eastowne may be possible.
COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM ADVISORY BOARDS
Copies of the Concept Plan for the Dry Creek Greenway Trail were provided to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board, Greenways Commission, New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee, Parks and Recreation Commission, and Transportation Board. Presentations were made to all of the boards.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board
The Commission voted unanimously (8-0) to recommend that the Council adopt the concept plan.
The Commission voted unanimously (6-0) to recommend that the Council adopt the draft Dry Creek Trail Concept Plan. Commission members agreed to identify needed edits to the final document to improve clarity and readability.
Staff Comment: The Commission has identified a number of edits and areas that require some clarification. These issues are more editorial in nature and do not involve larger conceptual issues. We will make the appropriate changes in the final document.
New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee
The Committee voted unanimously to recommend that the Council adopt the draft concept plan for the Dry Creek Tail with the additional comment that the Committee would like to work with the Town of Chapel Hill and the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission on integrating the Dry Creek trails with present and planned trails in Durham City and County.
Staff Comment: We agree with the recommendation that further discussions should be made with representatives of the Durham trails program to coordinate trail efforts. Language will be added to the concept plan describing the need for greater intergovernmental efforts to coordinate the trails programs.
Parks & Recreation Commission
The Commission voted unanimously (10-0) to recommend that the Council adopt the draft concept plan for the Dry Creek Tail with two changes:
1. The number of parking spaces for the Erwin Road parking lot should be clearly indicated in the text.
Staff Comment: We agree with the recommendation and will make the change.
2. The plan should more clearly indicate the intention of providing sidewalks along Erwin Road.
Staff Comment: We agree with the Commission and will include a section detailing plans to add sidewalks along Erwin Road.
Transportation Board Comments and Recommendations: The Commission voted unanimously (5-0) to recommend that the Council adopt the concept plan.
COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM CITIZENS
We informed all residents living within 1,500 feet of the trail corridor that the project planning phase was underway. A public forum was held on September 26, 2007. We have been in close contact with the neighbors living closest to the trail in order to discuss their concerns. We have also built an email distribution list of people interested in the project. We provide email updates at least once per month. The comments we have received so far can be summarized as follows:
1. Participants agreed that it was their desire to make the parking area more than a typical parking lot. It should reflect the nature of the project and be a positive amenity on the site.
Staff Comment: Because of the proposed location adjacent to heavily traveled Erwin Road, we agree that the parking lot should be designed with great care and with a view to aesthetics.
2. Participants agreed that the crossing of Erwin Road would be a key component of the plan. The proposed solution is a pedestrian refuge. Participants agreed that if the refuge crossing is selected it should be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. It was also agreed that NCDOT should be contacted to see if a pedestrian activated cross walk light might be installed.
Staff Comment: Because of the proposed location in the center of heavily traveled Erwin Road, we agree that the pedestrian refugee should be designed with great care and with a view to aesthetics. We will add language to the concept plan addressing the potential for adding a pedestrian activated cross walk.
3. The question of the boardwalk/bridge crossing was discussed. It was agreed that the bridge structure must have the smallest possible footprint in the wetland area. It should also avoid any know locations of rare plants.
Staff Comment: We agree that the crossing must be designed in such a manner as to minimize its impact on the wetlands and rare plants and animals.
4. The plans should provide an emphasis toward preservation of trees.
Staff Comment: We agree with this recommendation. We will add tree preservation as a goal of the Master Plan.
5. Visual protection of neighbors should be provided.
Staff Comment: We agree with this recommendation. The current plan contains a goal of preservation of neighboring properties.
6. Provide a play area near Perry Creek Road.
Staff Comment: We agree with this recommendation. The plan contains a discussion of how this goal might be accomplished.
Budget: Following is the current and planned budget, utilizing both Town and NCDOT funds. At this time we have enough funding to meet the schematic level cost estimates prepared by our design team. However, we believe that additional funds may be required at the construction phase. We will have more accurate cost estimates prepared once detailed construction plans are complete. A possible source of additional construction funds, if needed, might be from the 2003 Parks bond.
Town Parks Bond (already allocated) 275,000
Town Parks Bond (scheduled) 140,000
NCDOT MPO-DA Funds (already allocated) 1 64,000
NCDOT MPO-DA Funds (scheduled) 2 560,000
Total Preliminary Budget 1,039,000
1 The Town is currently using design funds from NCDOT Metropolitan Planning Organization Direct Allocation funds.
2 The Town is currently scheduled to receive construction funds from NCDOT Metropolitan Planning Organization Direct Allocation funds for construction.
Phasing Plan: We believe that the Dry Creek Trail would likely be built in at least 2 phases, due to the high construction costs we anticipate in this eastern portion of the site. We recommend that once a concept plan is adopted, the initial detailed design be limited to the portion of the project from Perry Creek Road to Erwin Road, including the parking lot and pedestrian refugee if funds allow.
Proposed Schedule: We propose the following preliminary schedule be followed:
Continue Public Hearing/Possible Adoption of Plan June 9, 2008
Sale of Parks bonds Fall of 2008
Detailed Design November 2008 – August 2009
Permitting Summer/Fall 2009
Start Construction of Phase I Winter 2010
Complete Project Fall 2010
The schedule is speculative and is contingent upon early success in dealing with flood and stream regulatory agencies. If problems arise related to permits related to the floodway or stream encroachments, the process might take considerably longer.
That the Council adopt the attached resolution which would refer the Council’s and citizens’ comments to the Greenways Commission and the Manager. The resolution would also authorize the Manager to reschedule a continuation of the public hearing on June 9, 2008.