The Town of Chapel Hill has planned a grand celebration on Saturday, June 4, National Trails Day, with the opening of the Morgan Creek Trail. Shuttles start at 10 a.m. from Frank Porter Graham School on Smith Level Road, and the event begins at 11 a.m.
The new trail provides access to open space to the south and west of Fordham Boulevard, a woodland corridor that James Taylor called “Copperline.” Chapel Hill is creating a network of more than 38 miles of linear open space. The total land area of Chapel Hill is 21.3 square miles, and about 11 percent of this is dedicated to parks and open space. There are about 1,200 acres of park, open space, and greenway easements totaling 12 miles of trails.
The ribbon cutting event will include speakers Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Greenways Commission Chair Christine Berndt, Johnny Randall of the Botanical Garden Foundation and Public Arts Commission Chair Gerald D. Bolas. After the ribbon cutting, participants will be invited on a hike of the trail and Merritt’s Pasture. Watch the Chapel Hill VID to learn more about this project.
Morgan Creek Trail is located on the north side of Morgan Creek, from Merritt Pasture to a new parking lot east of Kingswood Apartments. The Town of Chapel Hill was awarded $347,000 in federal stimulus funding to complete the $1.2 million project. Funds also came from the Federal Highway Administration allotted through the Metropolitan Planning Organization ($640,000), and 2003 Town bond funds ($220,000).
The celebration marks the completion of the first phase of the project, which features a .85 mile concrete trail that includes two new bridges, a section of boardwalk, and an underpass of the James Taylor Bridge (Hwy 15-501). Residents of the Southbridge neighborhood can access the new trail by using an informal path on Town open space property.
Hikers can follow the main trail along the north side of the creek, eastward to the edge of Merritt’s Pasture. From the end of the paved trail, walkers can continue hiking along a natural surface path that circles the Pasture. Bicycles are not allowed in Merritt’s Pasture. All dogs must be on a leash. There is no public access downstream (east) of Merritt’s Pasture, along Morgan Creek.
Phase Two of the project is expected to begin in 2012. This will connect Phase One of the Morgan Creek Trail with the existing Fan Branch Trail. The combined trails will be about three miles long and will connect Southern Community Park, Southern Village, Scroggs School, Merritt’s Pasture, and open space along Morgan Creek. Phase Two will likely be completed in late 2012 or early 2013.
Currently, there is limited public access to the Morgan Creek area, which is protected by a conservation easement. The 92-acre nature preserve stretches along Morgan Creek from Merritt Pasture to the Chapel Hill town limit at Smith Level Road. The land is bounded by Merritt Pasture on the east, the Carrboro Town line on the west, Culbreth Road to the south, and Fordham Boulevard to the north. The open space was amassed in a series of acquisitions that were finalized in March 2007.
For more information about the ribbon cutting event or access to this new trail, contact Bill Webster, assistant director of Parks and Recreation, at 919-968-2819 or firstname.lastname@example.org.