T H E G A R Y S H E L L C R O S S - C I T Y T R A I L
a pleasant commute
By Peter Viele Illustrations by Will Jones
As Wilmington traffic continues to writhe its way toward
critical mass, the thought of biking or walking to a destina-tion
in the cool respite of shady trees and tranquil pathways
becomes all the more appealing.
It’s been a long time coming but, since February this
year, runners, walkers and cyclists can hop on the Gary
Shell Cross-City Trail at the Heide Trask Drawbridge and
get just about anywhere across town. After a $35 million
Parks and Greenspace Bond passed in 2006, due in part to
the work and vision of former City of Wilmington Parks
& Recreation Director Gary Shell, construction began to
link the community together with a series of pedestrian and
Inspired by the Appalachian Trail, Shell was a longtime
advocate for a cross-city trail. He was instrumental in plan-ning
the now 15-mile greenway, which connects Wilming-ton’s
parks and green spaces. More pathways are planned.
“They are deceivingly complex projects,” says Amy Be-atty,
the city’s director of Community Services. “We often
joke that they are stormwater projects with a path on top.
Here on the coast, since we’re so flat, we are having to in-corporate
drainage designs and consider stormwater runoff.
I think we’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of
time. We were very inclusive of the public and that lever-aged
strong support to get the projects done. We’re pleased
to have support from the public and the landowners; we’ve
been very fortunate.”
Traversing town without a car presents a
new, dynamic opportunity for Wilmington
commuters as congested roadways swell.
“I’ve really noticed the number of users
increase quite a bit lately,” Parks Supervisor
Philip Pope says. “I’ve seen a lot more people jogging,
walking dogs, and riding bikes on the trail. And that’s what
we want to see — people using it to the full potential. The
Audubon section connecting Empie Park to Audubon
Boulevard was just finished and there were already a lot
of people coming by, using it and excited about this new
Pope’s team maintains the trail.
“We try to do proactive inspections once or twice a
month to catch anything that needs attention. And citizens
are great about letting us know if there is an issue that needs
addressing,” he says.
With Halyburton, McCrary and Empie parks all offering
access, parking and restrooms, the cross-city trail has begun
to proliferate throughout central Wilmington, providing new
entry and exit points. The River to the Sea Bikeway even
connects with the trail, intersecting at Empie Park, providing
cyclists with an alternate route to get all the way downtown.
As additional extensions of the trail near completion,
further plans are in development. They include making the
trail a part of the East Coast Greenway system, which will
stretch from Florida to Maine.
“There are several trail projects from the 2014 bond
in varying stages of completion, though the Gary Shell
Cross-City Trail is now complete, which serves as the
spine of New Hanover County’s Greenway,” Beatty says.
“Each new greenway added will have its
Shell died after a battle with cancer in
2011, but his namesake and vision will
continue to grow and thrive in the years