Hello! Mel here. I hate public speaking and get warm and sweaty and shaky when I speak, but I overcame those horrible sensations to deliver public comments at tonight’s Carrboro Town Council meeting on behalf of people who support the creekside alignment for the greenway. You can learn more about the greenway engagement process here. (And if you know of a way for a 38-year-old woman to overcome her lifelong fear of speaking, please email me!) These comments are a little longer than what I said, because we were limited to 3 minutes and I edited on the fly. Below are my unedited remarks.

Hello my name is Mel Kramer, and I live in Carrboro with my family. This is my second time speaking at a meeting, and I’m still a little nervous.

I’m here tonight on behalf of people of all ages and mobility levels who want to advance the decades-long discussion around expanding and connecting an accessible creekside greenway that connects Carrboro. I’m also here tonight on behalf of a bunch of people who are putting kids to bed, working, and unable to come on a weeknight. If you check your YouTube livestream right now, the audience is quite large. Smash that like button, Carrboro!

Sign up for the Carrboro Linear Parks Project mailing list to get updates on building out Carrboro’s greenway network. Visit the Carrboro Linear Parks Project website for more information. There’s also a helpful FAQ with answers to many questions.

Update: We support the creekside alignment for the reasons detailed here.

Instead of having a lot of people speak tonight, we decided in advance that Dave Otto, Tim Turner, and I would speak on behalf of everyone supporting the creekside alignment. I’m holding the short straw in my hand. (Just kidding)

I’m coming here tonight for two reasons: First, I want to take a moment and thank Cat Lazorko, Trish McGuire, Richard White, and everyone on town staff who contributed to the launch of the engagement process for the Which Way for the Greenway project.

We also trust that staff will use a wide variety of factors beyond public input to guide this process. Thinking about the future of Carrboro – and what works for the future of Carrboro, in line with the Carrboro Connects plan – means considering input from greenway experts, major landowners like UNC, the freight rail way, the long-term transportation plan that has no plans to give up that freight railway, future residents, residents who don’t often participate in public engagement, and kids.

We also want to thank Town staff and let them know how much we appreciate their professional expertise. They are really good at their jobs, and they don’t always get publicly acknowledged for that – and I know that they deal with a lot behind the scenes. Thank you.

Finally, I want to thank the Town Council members who voted to go forward with this public engagement process in February. We can have hard conversations and consider tradeoffs as a town when we start with facts and primary source documents, and we appreciate Council’s efforts to share meaningful and factual information.

The second point I want to make is to voice our strong support for the greenway and the creekside alignment. There are so many reasons to be excited about the creekside alignment in particular.

It is environmentally sound:

  • The creekside alignment will be built in an existing 30-foot-wide sewage easement that has already been cleared of trees, so it will not involve additional extensive tree removal.  
  • It has the potential to improve environmental conditions via reducing erosion alongside the existing path, as observed in a memo from the Town of Carrboro

It is inclusive:

  • The Creekside alignment maximizes opportunities for connections across Carrboro, including people who live in The Landings at Winmore, the Bolinwood Condominiums, Estes Park Apartments, the Oakwood complex, and Craig-Gomains housing complex

It is by far the most logistically feasible and has already been studied:

  • It is the preferred route of UNC, the largest landowner.
  • Doesn’t involve getting permission from a freight rail line that has no plans to stop owning or using the rail line like the Upland Route.
  • Doesn’t require a lot of trees to come down, like the Upland Route does.
  • It would be allowed under the Jordan Lake Rules, as State water quality officials told town staff during a site visit
  • It would not be in conflict with other existing trails that would affect mountain bikers and trail runners, like the Upland Route. (This was a major point raised during Phase 2, and we’re certain it will come up again if it’s selected.)

It will make our community more connected and less car-dependent, in ways that all residents can benefit from:

  • It Will Connect our schools so middle schoolers and high schoolers will be able to safely bike or walk to schools without cars or traffic.
  • It could help alleviate traffic backups and idling car lines at our schools, as some people switch to biking and walking.
  • Will deliver access that meets ADA standards to nature and park space for all
  • Will reduce traffic on our roads as people switch to walking and biking for quick 1-3 mile trips.

And it Connects the largest number of neighborhoods across Carrboro. 

  • Connect us to Chapel Hill, which just got 1$ million to further build out their greenway network
  • Connect to existing parking lots (Wilson Park, Chapel Hill High School (weekends)) according to the Master Plan
  • And lastly, would make it possible families like mine – with younger kids – to walk to the Chapel Hill Public Library, where we go several times a week, and to bike safely to high school. Even reducing the car line at Chapel Hill High by 25% would majorly decrease our carbon emissions as a community when you consider how much people are idling. It’s the way we change systematic behavior for climate change at the local level.

We are so excited to see this project move forward, we’re thrilled that the town survey is open, we’re grateful for the work you’re all doing, and we encourage all residents to learn more at Carrborolinearparksproject.org 

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Melody Kramer is a Peabody-award winning journalist whose work has appeared on NPR and member stations around the country, as well as in publications ranging from National Geographic to Esquire Magazine....