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Greenways in the City of Huntsville go a lot of places. Now, well, they’re stopping somewhere. 

Most greenways about which residents are familiar tend toward leisurely bike and pedestrian paths that meander through neighborhoods and take advantage of places blessed by Mother Nature. 

However, connectivity is an integral part of the city’s master plan, and that’s being accomplished as work begins on the Dry Creek Greenway in the Providence community. 

It’s designed to help pedestrians and bikers reach destinations, specifically the vibrant center of Providence.  

“It’s exciting in part because when you look at our network as a whole, there’s not a lot of exposure to commercial properties along our greenways,” says Dennis Madsen, Manager of Urban and Long Range Planning for the City of Huntsville. “If you want to get off the greenways and have a pizza or grab a beer or eat some ice cream, most of our greenways are currently fairly isolated. 

“When you look at other places where they’re installed, you want to take advantage of the commercial properties, even if it’s just a trailhead where people can finish their rides and sit down.” 

Where is it going exactly?

The half-mile stretch connects with the Indian Creek Greenway to the west, then crosses Gates Mill Road via an existing sidewalk, follows alongside Indian Creek toward its confluence with Dry Creek, then ends at the intersection of Arch Street and Biltmore Drive. 

It will be a major piece for the overall greenways puzzle, but it also serves to as an efficient path for students at Providence Elementary and for residents to easily travel from their homes to the various businesses and restaurants in Providence. 

Madsen says the local cycling community will be an eager resource to work with businesses to install bike racks to assure security for riders to leave their bikes as they shop or dine. 

The price tag

The Dry Creek price tag is just over $500,000, with $400,000 coming from federal and state funds, through the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), providing the lion’s share of the cost. 

Engineering studies must be completed and bids submitted before construction begins, which is estimated for early 2018. 

The City of Huntsville has some 20 miles of paved greenways, with a goal of expanding that to a 180-mile network. The BIG Picture, the comprehensive master planning initiative led by Madsen, has made the greenways an integral part of the design for the future of Huntsville, based on suggestions from residents. 

Bigger picture

Greenways have been consistently brought up in the many neighborhood meetings and BIG Picture updates conducted by Madsen, he says. However, greenways construction is not inexpensive – witness the $500,000 price tag for this half-mile, and consider that a typical 30-foot, two-car driveway costs a resident nearly $3,000 in materials – so it will be a long, gradual project. Madsen says that some greenways in the plan will lend themselves to unpaved paths. 

Tying the greenways into commercial development has been a major “to-do” in the plan, and Madsen expects future extension of the Aldridge Creek Greenway in south Huntsville to also accomplish that. 

“There’s a lot of commercial property (near Weatherly Road and Bailey Cove) that could really benefit from the extra bicycle and pedestrian traffic passing by,” Madsen says. “It’s connecting a recreational activity to commercial activity and I think the impact will be as good a positive impact for business as it has been for residential.”