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Master plan for Wilmington Rail Trail project moves forward

Hannah Breisinger
The project aims to revitalize the abandoned railbed area that runs from CFCC to MacRae Street.

Wilmington’s Rail Trail project is one step closer to becoming reality.


This week, city councilmembers approved the master plan for the project, which would transform the abandoned railbed in the city’s Northside and create a space for walking and biking.

The concept of the rail trail began as a grassroots effort, led by the city’s Art Council. Members of the council saw an opportunity to improve biking and pedestrian accessibility, as well as better connect the Northside to downtown, and establish a space for art and community engagement.

Credit Wilmington Rail Trail
The master plan include a three-phase concept.

Now, plans are finally in motion. After a year of conducting public surveys and examining potential obstacles, the city’s Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization and Friends of the Wilmington Rail Trail have laid out a three phase process:

  • Phase 1 will create a drainage system, level the land, and construct a trail.
  • Phase 2 will establish protective fencing and incorporate public art.
  • Phase 3 will bring in passenger rail service.

It’s an innovative concept, but not an unusual one -- says Rhonda Bellamy, Executive Director of the Arts Council.

“The impact of rail trails nationwide is staggering. There are about 2,000 that are already developed -- with about another 800 in the pipeline.


So this is not a novel concept by any stretch of the imagination. There are many communities that are looking at activating these abandoned railroads.”


(Disclosure note: Rhonda Bellamy also hosts a show on WHQR.)


A lot of work still needs to be done to revitalize the railbed. Up next, stakeholders plan to work with the city to secure funds supporting engineering and design, analyze project cost estimates, explore funding for the total project, and coordinate with NCDOT.


View the master plan in full detail here.


Hannah is WHQR's All Things Considered host, and also reports on science, the environment, and climate change. She enjoys loud music, documentaries, and stargazing; and is the proud mother of three cats, a dog, and many, many houseplants. Contact her via email at hbreisinger@whqr.org, or on Twitter @hbreisinger.