To the Editor:
Thank you for the article in last week’s News + Record about the Haw River Trail (“Friends of Lower Haw ask county to invest in Haw River Trail now,” Oct. 7-13 edition). This is a multi-county agreement to develop land trails and paddle access points along the length of the river from its headwaters to Jordan Lake. Chatham County signed on when it was first proposed in 2006, and again in 2011 our commissioners signed a Memorandum of Agreement signaling their support of the idea.
Alamance County has been actively working on their portion of the trail and Alamance now boasts 14 county-supported paddle launches (often with pocket parks and short trails) and 20 miles of land trails along different parts of the river. Many of these trail portions have been developed through voluntary conservation easements, which benefit the landowners as well as the public. Alamance’s Haw River Trail is one of the county’s top tourism draws, and studies indicate it brings many visitors into the county where their dollars support local nature-based and hospitality businesses. This is a model that I hope Chatham will adopt.
Year after year different boards of commissioners have paid lip service to this idea but have never allocated funds or a position to help manage such a project. However, the $14 million in American Rescue Plan funding now available to our county offers a one-time opportunity to invest in riverside infrastructure that offers many benefits. Protecting land and developing public recreation sites along the river can boost our tourism economy, and contribute to public health by providing places where residents of all ages can go to walk and enjoy the benefits of being out in nature. In addition, protecting land along the Haw River will contribute to improved water quality, storm-water control and wildlife habitat protection.
I hope that the Chatham County Board of Commissioners will actively dedicate some funds to realize this project. It is ironic that people are flocking to Chatham because of its natural beauty. However, all this development is destroying the very attributes that both old and new Chatham residents value. The Haw is one of our county’s most outstanding natural assets. I agree that the time is NOW to provide funding to develop Chatham’s portion of the Haw River Trail.
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