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Programming Public Involvement for the Little Sugar Creek Master Plan

Charlotte, North Carolina, faces the classic problem of a neglected stream corridor and works to include community input into the trail and greenway plan for Little Sugar Creek.

From Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

Map of North Carolina GOALS and OBJECTIVES

In order to determine how the greenway could best serve the needs of the residents of Mecklenburg County, project direction exercises were incorporated into several public workshops during the planning process. A list of community preferences was drawn up and ranked in order of importance. This list was used as a guiding factor in determining the particular components for each reach.


Greenway Safety

Concern was expressed over the possibility of increased crime along the greenway. In fact, statistics show that greenways do not bring increased crime. Members of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department attended each public meeting and explained how citizens can participate in ensuring safety along the greenway. They discussed precautions such as neighborhood watches and similar 'eyes on the greenway' programs, daylight operating hours for parks, and a lack of lighting along the greenway to discourage nighttime use except in high use and urban areas to benefit greenway users and nearby residents.

Multiple Use Trail and Trail Sharing

The greenway will be shared by walkers, wheelchair users, runners, bicyclists, and inline skaters, but will not be available for use by those on motorized vehicles or horseback. The key concern expressed by the public was the issue of safety, both with trail sharing between bicyclists and pedestrians, and with conflicts between greenway users and vehicular traffic. Suggestions to decrease multi-use conflicts included separate trails for bicycles and pedestrians, striping the path to separate users, and promoting good greenway trail etiquette.

Experience from precedent greenways shows that some of the most effective ways to increase multi-use trail safety are providing adequate mileage to make users feel less crowded, providing adequate width on multi-use trails, and publicizing proper trail etiquette.

The greenway will be approximately 15 miles long, with secondary trails and informal trails adding to the length and greenway options;and finally, proper trail etiquette will be promoted via signage. An ideal width for a multi-use trail is 14 feet. In urban areas where the use will be higher, the greenway will be 15 feet wide.

Separating and striping the trail were decided against for several reasons. Separate trails will create a larger negative impact on sensitive areas because they require more clearing and more impervious area in the floodplain; striping is visually unattractive for both an urban trail and a nature greenway. Trail Etiquette should address users passing each other, user expectations and preparedness, and reckless and irresponsible behavior. Signage will convey these rules for behavior.


Promoting community by establishing an exemplary Greenway along Little Sugar Creek connecting people and neighborhoods through culture, history, education, the environment, and recreation.


Prepare a greenway master plan that protects floodplain lands and encourages the restoration of the natural hydrologic section and biodiversity of the creek to promote improved water quality.


Provide a continuous trail system with multiple destinations including multi-modal and regional connections that provide a safe and attractive experience, and create opportunities for social interaction.

Neighborhoods and Community Building

Where possible and desirable, provide connections from the greenway for adjoining neighborhoods and civic areas such as schools, churches, and other community facilities. Reinforce the identity of neighborhoods through greenway design by incorporating public art, recognizing local history, and creating landmark open spaces.


Encourage the greenway edge as a setting for investment. Existing and newly developing land uses-residential, commercial, and civic should benefit from adjacency to the greenway 's aesthetic, recreational, and cultural benefits.


Promote the long-term involvement and participation of citizens in the planning, design, implementation, and management of the greenway. Encourage the understanding of natural systems related to the creek, the history, and cultural resources.


Implement the greenway master plan within ten years by encouraging public /private partnerships and community participation.


examples of how the Little Sugar Creek greenway will benefit the community were developed based on the goals for the greenway

Environmental Benefits

  • protection for environmentally important areas
  • improved water quality
  • improved wildlife and aquatic habitat
  • increased plant biodiversity
  • connections and resting places for migrating wildlife, reducing conflicts with humans
  • natural flood control
  • opportunities for environmental education
  • greenways promote cooler temperatures


  • a variety of recreation opportunities close to home
  • open spaces for field sports
  • paved paths for wheel chairs, walking, running, roller blading, biking, hiking and dog walking
  • nature paths for study and observation
  • in turn, decreased rates obesity, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and cancer by increasing physical activity levels of residents
  • improvements in mental health through recreational opportunities in and along the trail network

Community Building

Other than increased opportunities for family activities, creating connectivity between neighborhoods and attractions, the greenway will:

  • create an overall community image of Charlotte as healthy and environmentally conscious
  • connect 12 parks &5 recreation centers
  • connect 9 elementary schools, 2 middle schools, 1 high school, and 4 college or university campuses
  • connect over 20 neighborhoods
  • there are over 13,000 households and businesses within 12 mile of Little Sugar Creek
  • connect Carolinas Medical Center, CPC Cedar Spring Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Central Piedmont Community College, the Nature Museum, the James K. Polk Museum and several other amenities
  • connect retail and commercial areas such as Midtown, Kings Drive, Park Road Shopping Center, Carolina Pavilion, and Carolina Place Mall.

Economic Benefits

  • increased livability of Charlotte
  • potential to create jobs
  • increased property values
  • opportunity to expand and promote local businesses
  • attractiveness to new or relocating businesses
  • encouragement of capital gain to area
  • increased local tax revenues
  • opportunities for grants
  • promotion of tourism
  • decrease in local government expenditures
  • promotion of local community
  • cost recovery in three years

  • Estimated amount a three-mile greenbelt near the center of Oakland, California, adds to the value of surrounding properties:$41 million

  • Estimated value of economic activity supported by open space in New Hampshire: $8 billion

  • Annual reduction in water treatment costs after the city of Gastonia, North Carolina, relocated its drinking water intake to a lake without surrounding development:$250,000

  • Estimated annual value of urban trees to improving the air quality of Atlanta, Georgia: $15 million

  • Amount generated for California 's economy by people watching wildlife in 1996, according to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service: $1.5 billion

Educational Benefits

  • community involvement in research and monitoring
  • demonstration and experimental displays
  • interpretive and educational opportunities (ecological, historical and cultural)
  • awareness of physical fitness
  • increased awareness of natural processes

Access and Circulation Benefits

  • transportation routes for non-- motorized vehicles between work, home, school, recreation opportunities, cultural attractions, and shops
  • creation of neighborhood identities while allowing linkages that promote connectivity
  • alternatives to vehicle based transportation

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