Elkin receives funding to begin planning process for bicycle and pedestrian master plan

By Wendy Byerly Wood - wbyerly-wood@elkintribune.com

In the first of a three-step process, the town of Elkin has been awarded a $1,000 grant to solicit an engineering/consulting firm to develop a comprehensive bike and pedestrian plan for the town.

“We have all applied for multiple grants — Laura (Gaylord) for downtown, Adam (McComb) for the trails, and me and Robert Fuller for sidewalks,” said George Crater, Elkin planning director, who coordinated the application for the new grant awarded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Crater said the town has never applied for those grants with a whole package in hand, so the department leaders decided to apply for a grant to create a master plan. The first step of that process is being awarded the $1,000 grant through the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant initiative.

Elkin was one of 10 recipients of the first grant, with others being Archer Lodge, Hudson, Lowell, Pittsboro and Warrenton receiving bike and pedestrian grants; Beaufort County, Carrboro and Fayetteville receiving bike plan grants; and Wilson receiving a pedestrian plan grant. Twenty-three applications were submitted for the grants, according to a news release from NCDOT.

“Plans funded are not for one specific project, but represent a comprehensive strategy for expanding bicycle and pedestrian opportunities within a given municipality,” said the release. “These plans address facilities, programs, services and regulations that encourage safe walking and bicycling.”

Crater said the master plan, once a firm is selected to do the work, could cost as much as $35,000, with a second grant funding all but 10 percent of that amount. This leaves the town to foot the around $3,000 in matching funds.

“Once the big plan is in place, then we have a plan for projects A to Z and we score so much higher when applying for grants,” he explained.

“This is going to be a big group effort,” Crater said of the master plan.

The Northwest Regional Council of Governments will aid the town in writing the grant application and selecting the firm to assist with the work, he said.

This will be a chance to bring together work like linking existing and future trails, addressing sidewalk needs, working on cycling trails.

One project he mentioned is the need for sidewalks from where they end on North Bridge Street at West Highland Avenue north to CC Camp Road, and then farther north up North Bridge from CC Camp Road to the Oak Grove neighborhood.

“We’re excited about this grant,” Crater said. “It will allow us to put all our ideas together with the expertise of consultants who do this for a living.”

He expected the master plan process to include three or four community meetings allowing members of the public to share ideas and give feedback on what should or shouldn’t be in the master plan.

When those do occur, Crater said they will get the word out in a number of ways via print and online media, Explore Elkin, Elkin Valley Trails Association and other avenues.

“We want people to come out and give us ideas. We’ll never think of everything without help,” he said.

Now in its 15th year, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant program has awarded more than $5 million for 193 community plans.

By Wendy Byerly Wood