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Trail to trace Kelly Mill
Board approves greenway route
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Forsyth County News
Forsyth County has zeroed in on a route for the next phases of the Big Creek Greenway.

The county commission on Tuesday approved a plan to extend the recreational path north from the Bethelview trailhead along Kelly Mill Road to Johnson Road.

From there, it will continue on across Hwy. 20 before ending at Sawnee Mountain Nature Preserve Center.

Commissioner Brian Tam suggested the commission move forward to match the design of road improvements on that section of Kelly Mill, which could start this summer.

“We’re kind of just playing in the dark if we don’t see it designed alongside the roadway-widening project,” he said.

Tam also noted that designing the two at the same time made sense “from a cost standpoint.”

Commissioner Jim Harrell said he was comfortable with the parts of the trail in his district, which includes Kelly Mill, with the exception of one section near a property whose owner he plans to meet with this week.

A representative from design firm Pond & Co. said the approved alignment can still be “tweaked,” but the firm needed an approved path to begin its surveying.

Residents’ concerns about safety and property value issues have shifted the proposed greenway extension several times.

The public reviewed the proposal during two meetings in summer 2009, after which some changes were made near the Mountain Valley Estates and Highlands at Sawnee Mountain subdivisions.

Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse cast the lone vote against the route, citing safety concerns.

“My opposition to it is the fact that the greenway is a good idea as long as it follows Big Creek and stays in the flood plain and the valley,” he said.

“Once you start putting that trail out on the right of way alongside heavily traveled roads ... I have a problem with that.”

The first three phases of the greenway, which opened late last year, stretch nearly 7 miles from McFarland Parkway in south Forsyth to Bethelview Road.

The northern extension was originally going to run behind a Kelly Mill subdivision. But opposition from residents and the landowner whose property it would had to have crossed led to the realignment along the road.

Under the path approved Tuesday, the greenway will run in front of Barrett Downs subdivision instead of behind 32 homes.

“I’m very pleased that the greenway will continue without directly impacting the residents of our community,” said Wade Yates, president of the homeowners association.

Yates said he felt commissioners had considered Barrett Downs residents’ concerns, which included security, privacy, traffic and a parking lot proposed behind two homes.

The commission must approve the final design before any construction can begin.

John Cunard, director of engineering, said the path will eventually connect to others in the county.

“It’s all to provide connectivity from all our transportation systems to all our parks and all our schools,” he said. “That’s the key here.”

Funding for the greenway is included in the county’s voter-approved $100 million bond referendum for parks, recreation and green space.