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Thread Trail kicks off planning process with open houses

LANDIS — All 10 towns and cities in Rowan County are launching an effort to develop a countywide master plan for the Carolina Thread Trail.
They are designing a proposed trail to run throughout Rowan County, but they are doing it without the endorsement of Rowan County government. That makes the planning process more challenging, an organizer said.
Beginning Jan. 14, a series of public open houses will be held throughout Rowan to gather input and suggested routes for the Thread, a network of trails, greenways, blueways and conservation corridors linking 15 counties in North and South Carolina.
Rowan County commissioners rejected the project in May 2009, voicing concerns about the costs of maintenance and law enforcement. They also said they were worried about the potential use of eminent domain, or government seizure of private property.
Rowan is the only county in the 15-county region that has declined to participate.
“This is a new situation for us,” said Randi Gates, Carolina Thread Trail grants director and community coordinator. “It’s a little different for us.”
Typically in other communities, the county acts as the lead agency and receives the planning grant to design the Thread, Gates said.
In Rowan, the town of Landis has taken the lead and received the $54,500 planning grant on behalf of the county’s municipalities.
All municipalities pooled their resources to come up with the 10 percent matching grant, a total of about $5,400, she said.
Communities in Rowan County are excited about the Thread Trail, Gates said, and they should not have to suspend their plans because the county is not participating.
In other counties, the Thread runs through and between towns and cities, connecting all communities. But in Rowan, the proposed trail may appear on the map as a solid line inside town limits and a dotted line between towns, in the unincorporated areas, Gates said.
Organizers hope that one day, Rowan County will decide to participate and “connect the dots,” Gates said.
After the planning process, each community in Rowan will end up with a plan that could not only be used for the Carolina Thread Trail, but also to plan any local trails to connect destinations within a community, she said.
The Thread does not support using the power of eminent domain for this project, Gates said. She said the trail project would try to find property owners who will voluntarily offer use of their land to local governments.
If some land owners don’t want to participate, the project would either find a way to work around them or stall that piece of the trail.
During four public input sessions this month, Thread planners hope to come up with a general idea of where the trail would go in Rowan County.
“Nothing is set in stone,” Gates said. “At this level of the planning process, we are not talking to each land owner. We are just connecting point A to point B.”
Proposed routes will be a quarter-mile wide, allowing space and flexibility to find the best location and willing property owners if needed, she said.
The planning funds pay for mapping services and a consulting firm.
The Thread offers opportunities for biking, hiking, fishing, paddling and connecting with nature and exploring the culture and history of the region, Gates said.
The Thread is made up of segments that are designed, built and owned by the communities through which the trail network is woven. 
All Rowan residents are encouraged to participate in the planning process. The public is invited to participate through online and written surveys and at the drop-in open houses, which will include:
• Jan. 14 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Saleeby-Fisher YMCA, 790 Crescent Road in Rockwell
 • Jan. 16 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the N.C. Research Campus, Old Cabarrus Bank Building, 201 West Ave. in Kannapolis
• Jan. 21 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the N.C. Transportation Museum, Exhibit Hall Building C, 411 S. Salisbury Avenue in Spencer
• Jan. 23 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Town Hall, 302 E. Main St. in Cleveland
Participants will receive information and share input on the location of greenway trails within the communities of Rowan County and learn about the Carolina Thread Trail. The same information will be provided at each public open house.
The Thread will run in 11 counties in North Carolina, four counties in South Carolina and touch more than 2.3 million people once it is built out, Gates said.
Depending on the location, the routes could be paved trails, natural surface trails, sidewalks and bike lanes or paths alongside abandoned rail corridors. They would be used for non-motorized travel like hiking, bicycling and possibly horseback riding.
For more information about the open house sessions and the plan, visit the Carolina Thread Trail website www.carolinathreadtrail.org or contact Gates at 704-376-2556 x217 or randi@carolinathreadtrail.org.
A public survey will soon be available for citizen input.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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