City Funds Help New Community Project Build ‘Parklet’ Path Through The ‘Burg
Their most recent victory — $600,000 appropriated from the city Oct. 23 —has earned them the opportunity to put down their pens, step away from the podiums and kick off their work boots for a day.
On Nov. 10 at the New Community Project, located at 715 North Main St., Harrisonburg, they’ll gather for a celebratory shindig beginning at 10 a.m. — and the community is invited.
“People have been stressing a lot and doing a lot of work for this,” says Suzi Carter, who is spearheading the transportation branch of New Community Project, the umbrella nonprofit over the Northend Greenway. “This is a time for everybody to let their hair down.”
Even as they enjoy a moment of relief at the news, work never stops. “The best things are often just thrown together,” Chelsea Goss said in a fog of drywall dust, broom in hand.
Since moving to Harrisonburg in late October, she’s hit the path running, renovating the NCP immigrant house and helping organize events for the day.
So far, Goss and others have planned activities such as pizza baking in the cob oven, games such as a “slowest bike race,” guided tours of the greenway, a bicycle repair and safety workshop and music by the Harrisonburg High School band “Help Wanted.”
“Throw the kids in the car or hop on your bike and stop by,” Carter says.
City Council member Charlie Chenault is planning to do just that. As an ardent bicycling advocate and supporter of the project, he says it “takes a city” to build a greenway.
“City council has been so supportive of this, so it’s a big ‘Thank you’ to them too,” says Carter. “We want them to feel welcome to come on down.”
“It’s a couple firsts for the city,” Chenault says of the undertaking — funds from the city surplus going toward Phase One, the portion of the parklet-speckled path extending the Little Grill to Eastern Mennonite University.
“We’ve learned to cooperate not only from a financial standpoint but also from an operational standpoint, trying to work city forces into the process to get the project designed and off the ground … It’s by far the most ambitious project, and certainly the longest.”
Enjoying the company of those he works with makes greenway efforts, as a council member, go more smoothly, says Chenault. “You’re seeing a government that [not only] represents people from a distance, but getting down and participating with each other on a more basic level.”
Down To Earth
Carter hopes introducing the public to the greenway in person will help bring their vision down to Earth. For the past two years, the group has been cultivating relationships “behind the scenes,” with at least a hundred presentations “wherever somebody would let us talk,” she said.
Walking the path, she pointed out several homes belonging to families or land developers who are looking forward to having the Northend Greenway pass through their backyards.
“The north end [of Harrisonburg] is a microcosm of the city,” she said. Students, seniors, young professionals, immigrants, established families … it’s just this really cool little blink of Harrisonburg.”
Greenway advocates hope it will help close gaps in transportation out of necessity, not just recreation.
“We call it constructive programming, to give people easier decisions to bike or walk. It’s easier when there are safe and beautiful ways to do it.”
The plan includes several “pocket parks,” or parklets, along Blacks Run and the bike path, some of which will be highlighted on Saturday’s tours.
She stood in the backyard of the NCP house, waving a hand over the scraggly plot. “We are standing on what will be the future greenway — believe it or not!”
For more information, visit northendgreenway.org.