RALEIGH -- William B. Umstead State Park will launch a series of projects this week to improve access to recreation areas near its U.S. 70 entrance and provide additional parking for hikers, runners, bicyclists and equestrians, according to the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation.
The projects at the state park in Raleigh include creation of a new parking area near the visitor center, a reconfiguration of the Sycamore Bike and Bridle Trailhead and improvement of the gravel road that leads to the trailhead. Starting about mid-October, the Sycamore Trailhead and the single-lane entrance to its parking area will be closed to all visitors. Other trail sections and facilities could be temporarily closed on short notice.
?These projects ultimately will improve traffic flow and get visitors more quickly and safely to this popular trailhead and other destinations in the eastern area of the park,? said Scott Letchworth, the park?s superintendent. ?Umstead is a very busy state park year-round, and any temporary closures will certainly be inconvenient, but the end result will provide long-term benefits to park users.?
The improvements are in line with the state park?s long-range general management plan, but the timing was prompted, in part, by visitors? desire for better access to the park?s multi-use trail system from the Graylyn Drive/Ebenezer Church Road area. Although pedestrian access from that area is invited, state parks system planners rejected an alternative for a third park vehicle entrance, citing concerns about security, increased traffic in adjacent neighborhoods and a larger development footprint that would threaten the park?s natural character.
Initial construction will create a new parking area for at least 50 vehicles near the visitor center on an unused roadbed. At the Sycamore Bike and Bridle Trailhead, 18 equestrian parking spaces will be separated from a 46-space parking area for other users, and a one-way loop will be eliminated by widening the entrance road. The trailhead will be linked to the multiuse trail system by a new, 1,000-foot trail section, and the mile-long gravel road leading to the trailhead will be upgraded with a smoother surface. The combined cost of the projects is estimated at $370,000.
With an annual attendance in 2010 of more than 800,000 visitors, the state park is especially attractive to runners and bicyclists in mornings and late afternoons. In 2008, the park began opening its U.S. 70 entrance an hour earlier at 7 a.m. to accommodate those visitors. The park continues to work closely with the city of Raleigh to explore ways to improve greenway access. Construction is expected to be completed in late December. Visitors can learn about temporary closings on the William B. Umstead State Park page on the website www.ncparks.gov.
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