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W/Salem: Fans of greenways create a coalition

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From the 2/22 W/S Journal:

Fans of greenways create a coalition

Trails growth slow, organizer says

By Jim Sparks


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Greenway supporters have formed a group to promote use of local greenways and keep after elected officials to follow through on plans to expand the area's trail system.

Forsyth Greenways Connection was organized in large part by Dan Besse, a city council member and an advocate of bike and walking trails and alternative transportation.

Besse said that although he has pushed for greenway development the past several years, progress has been "astonishingly slow," primarily because of tight city budgets. Having a group focused on gathering support for greenways by teaching people about the health, safety and environmental benefits is expected to help speed up the process, he said.

"In a financial environment that's so competitive with all the projects that people want done, it's important to have an active base of community support," Besse said. "The more people saying they care about greenways, the more interested elected officials will be in seeing them funded."

The new group is intended to be a coalition of people interested in greenway development, Besse said.

There have been four meetings so far, with about 15 people attending each.

Most of those who have attended the meetings are representatives of community organizations, and come from fields such as health, the environment, recreation, business and neighborhood advocacy.

The idea is to reach out to the public through the network of active groups already in place, Besse said.

"By involving them, you involve the communities, neighborhoods and people they represent," Besse said.

Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have 17 miles of greenway trails, with plans in place to add 34 more miles to the greenway system by 2015.

Those plans, however, could easily be put off without people pushing to see them through, Besse said.

"You get lots of plans like that adopted, but they just gather dust if there's not active community support," Besse said.

He also said that although he expects most of the support to come from people who see the need for safe places for families to ride bikes and walk, green space has other tangible benefits.

"Greenways are environmentally valuable as waterway buffers and wildlife corridors," Besse said. "Anyone concerned about supporting a place for nature in the urban environment should support greenways too."

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Looks like this issue is headed to the backburner. 15 or so at a meeting? The downtown rebirth efforts have had a stronger showing so, at least for now, I assume that will get more attention than the greeways...assuming that I understand how city policy works.

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I hate that, because I use the Greenways (from Downtown to the lake and back) almost daily in the warmer months. But in all honesty, with the little funding we have now, I'd rather the city focus of the major problems and projects such as the width of US 52 through the CBD, 311 Connector, and the Urban loop/I-74 first and foremost. The infrastructure is vital for future business development. Winston has great recreational services for a city of 190K (if approved by the State Supreme Court, 220K according to the WS Journal after annexation of 2004).

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