by Sam Hieb
Mecklenburg County is falling behind on its projected 129 miles of greenway that would be built by this year. So what went wrong?
The short answer: slow recovery from the deep recession that began in late 2007. County staff was cut, and most of the $250 million in parks bonds that voters approved in 2008 were never sold.
The county is playing catch-up now, adding a dozen greenway projects to its 2019-23 capital budget after outrage last year over a proposal to invest more than $100 million in a new stadium for a hoped-for Major League Soccer franchise. The plan later collapsed.
The other question is whether or not residents really want more greenway:
At-large county commissioner Pat Cotham, however, said she more often hears pleas for local amenities — skate parks, basketball courts or air conditioning for a gym. Community surveys, she said, might not accurately reflect the views of low-income, elderly or young people with different priorities.
“Not all parts of Mecklenburg County seem to have great interest in this,” she said. “I hear (support for greenways), but I don’t hear that repeated when I go other places. They’re more interested in recreation centers.”
With all this in mind, Greenways for Mecklenburg’s goal of a 200-mile network by 2035—a mere 17 years away–seems quite ambitious.