Granville Greenways Walkable Community
- Need: Compared to the average North Carolinian, residents age 40 to 64 in rural Granville County were dying from heart disease and diabetes at a younger age.
- Intervention: Granville Greenways was created to promote active lifestyles and more walkable communities.
- Results: As of December 2019, 12 miles of greenways now exist allowing for community members' hiking and biking.
Acknowledging the 2003 community health assessment disparity results indicating that county residents age 40 to 64 were dying from heart disease and diabetes at an earlier age compared to the average North Carolinian, Granville Greenways was created to promote active lifestyles in rural Granville County.
In 2004, a community stakeholders group convened to determine strategies to target this disparity, creating a master plan with roots in Community Preventive Services Task Force.
"Strongly recommended" interventions from the federal Community Preventive Services Task Forces' The Community Guide focused on decreasing levels of obesity and secondary health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer.
The addition of walking and biking trails has led to the following results:
- Increased recreation
- Utilization of alternative, more active means of transportation
- Improved water quality
- Habitat conservation
Crucial support for the 2004 master plan — and later for the first greenway — was provided by grant funding from Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina. Additional support from Granville-Vance District Health Department provided initial staff solutions now overseen by the Granville County Government. Continued funding is growing due to assistance from local governments, regional planning organizations, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Granville Greenways continues to promote walking and biking trail implementation (greenways) during county planning discussions for:
- New construction
- Reconstruction or improvements to existing roads
- Recreation areas
The Community Guide-recommended interventions included the following:
- Increased access to physical activity opportunities paired with informational outreach activities
- Community-scale and street-scale urban design in addition to land use policies
- Policies and practices regarding traveling and transportation
Along with the county's greenway master plan, the five county municipalities have created comprehensive pedestrian plans. Two also have bicycle plans. The plans help guide community decision-making and provide necessary background for funding requests.
From the original three greenways, the system has now grown to 12 miles. The Butner-Stem School Trail Greenway connects a local elementary school, middle school, and baseball field. A second greenway connects several worksites to a shopping center and a third greenway provides an additional connection to nearby apartment complexes.
Working with the North Carolina Active Routes to School program, Granville Greenways helped create the first walk-to-school day event in the county in October 2013. The program is ongoing, with more schools showing interest every year.
In July 2015, 40 miles of signage was successfully installed throughout Granville County along the East Coast Greenway. Now additional funding ($6.1 million) has been received to create several more miles of greenways throughout these rural communities. Currently several additional miles are under construction with usability planned for 2020 that will connect several neighborhoods.
The original 2004 master plan was updated in 2019 to include even more connections. For example, planning for connections with the national East Coast Greenway along with larger regional and state greenway systems.
Watch this video to learn more about the impact this program is having throughout rural Granville County.
As a result of more scarce state and federal resources and increasing grant competition, funding opportunities are a challenge. Loss of state transportation funding to match federal grant money placed a larger funding burden on local governments, specifically smaller and more rural communities.
Also challenging is addressing community backlash regarding potential crime near trails too close to homes.
Planning is the first important step. This creates focus and consensus around the concepts of walk- or bike-ability by multiple community stakeholders and those looking at the community as a whole to balance the need, impact, and feasibility of various projects. Even a less-than-perfect plan is better than no plan at all.
Creating partnerships has also been key to Granville Greenways' successes. All municipal and local governments, economic development teams, along with the Board of Education and parent/teacher organizations, are represented on the Granville Greenways Advisory Council. This personalizes the program and aligns it with the organizations vested in its success.
The original plan also included a diversity workgroup recommendation to be charged with implementing the greenway master plan. This formally appointed group has met regularly since its inception and moved the plan from theory to trails-on-the-ground. County and municipal planners have also been essential to the effort.
To address community concerns regarding crime rates near trails close to homes, crime data is important. This issue provides opportunity to include community members in the initial planning as well as discussions about specific routes.
Don't let lack of funding be a reason not to create this type of infrastructure. While a professionally written plan might be ideal, committed local talent can actually complete the task. An engineer-designed and professionally constructed trail might be a final goal, but a "Friends of the Greenways" cleared and promoted trail could be just the right beginning.
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
December 29, 2015
Date updated or reviewed
March 3, 2020
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2020. Granville Greenways Walkable Community [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/875 [Accessed 14 June 2021]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.