The city is planning two paths to connect all parts of Harrisonburg, and JMU is caught in the middle.
The Northend Greenway, a $1.3 million project to build a 2.5 mile long path through Harrisonburg, will extend north from the Farmers Market downtown to Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community off Route 42.
The project anticipates breaking ground in late 2013 and finishing in early 2014, connecting 10 to 20 percent of the city’s residents.
So far, the committees have fundraised more than $75,000, Suzi Carter, outreach and development coordinator for the project, said. They’ve received two grants, one from MillionMile Greenway a conservation organization based out of Georgia, and another from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving the Chesapeake Bay.
Carter added that a $600,000 grant from the Harrisonburg City Council was also approved and donated.
The paved path will be about 10 feet wide and mostly level, according to Carter.
“It will allow for healthy inner-city transportation and recreation,” Carter said. “It’s a path, a park and a prototype.”
The Bluestone Trail is a similar project that Harrisonburg Public Works is developing. According to Carter, this path is to start at Starbucks on Port Republic near the JMU entrance and extend through the southernmost part of the city and Rumblewood Fields.
“As it sits right now, JMU is basically a gap in between Bluestone Trail and the Farmers Market,” Carter said. “JMU has a exciting opportunity to connect the north and south greenways that will allow students to get off campus and residents to get downtown safely.”
City Councilman Charles Chenault said JMU students are a part of the community and are vital to Harrsonburg’s growth.
“One of the primary reasons for these projects is to allow students to get off campus and into the city without their cars,” Chenault said. “We plan on meeting with President Alger soon to hopefully work out something with the university.”
Chenault said the greenway will give students the opportunity to explore more of the city.
“We’re trying to get JMU to connect the two halves of the city,” Chenault said. “That way students can get off campus and local residents can get on.”
The project will also connect several city parks and throughout Harrisonburg. There will also be “buffers” on both sides of the path for plants, benches, picnic tables and streams.
“This project sounds pretty awesome,” said Samuel Bor, sophomore IdLS major. “The path will be a great way to encourage environmentally friendly initiatives and promote healthy exercise. Getting down some of the main roads is pretty difficult with the heavy traffic, so this will help people get out and meet each other.”
Chenault said the amount of traffic is an issue that prevents some students from riding their bikes toward downtown. He hopes the Greenway will provide a safe, alternative route.
“We have parents afraid to let their children ride their bikes to school,” Chenault said. “These trails will allow students from every grade level to travel around safely. Plus, with more people on their bikes, the amount of traffic will be cut down. This will make it safer for everyone.”
Carter said five volunteer committees and an advisory board are planning the Northend Greenway. It’s a community project that’s been endorsed by more than 100 non-profit businesses and schools, including Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, the Harrisonburg City Council and Downtown Dining Alliance.
Alexis Fenton, a freshman business management major, thinks the path will further interaction among the Harrisonburg community.
“I think people will start visiting the local shops more, since it would be easier to get to.” Fenton said. “It will also be good for students to get out into the community, meet new people and gain an appreciation for the area.”
Corrections: 1) The $600,000 from the City will be managed by the Public Works Dpt., and is not a donation to our non-profit organization. 2) The Northend Greenway is led by the NG Steering Committee with input from the NG Advisory Board.