|Little Sugar Creek Greenway|
|Location||Charlotte, North Carolina|
|Operated by||Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation|
|Website||Little Sugar Creek Greenway|
Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a linear park and stream restoration project in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. When completed it will consist of twenty miles of trails and paved walkways running from Cordelia Park just north of uptown Charlotte, then south through midtown Charlotte, and continuing all the way to the South Carolina state line. The Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a key part of the Cross Charlotte Trail (XCLT) and a segment in the Carolina Thread Trail, a regionwide network of trails that pass through 15 counties.
Greenways are narrow strips of land, planted and managed to provide both human recreation and wildlife habitat. Greenways along streams, such as Little Sugar Creek, improve water quality and help control flooding. There are about 37 miles of developed greenways in Mecklenburg County, of which this is only one.
The two urban sections of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway were championed by Central Piedmont Community College president Tony Zeiss and together provide five unbroken miles of paved walkway from East 7th Street southward to Brandywine Road.
Little Sugar Creek
Unlike many large cities, Charlotte is not sited on or near a sea, lake, or significant river; its hydrogeography is based on small streams and creeks, Little Sugar Creek being perhaps the most prominent. The name of Little Sugar Creek (which has also been called Sugar Creek, a name that has also been applied to what is now called Irwin Creek) derives from the Sugaree tribe indigenous to the area.
Running through some of Charlotte's oldest neighborhoods, over time parts of Little Sugar Creek became hidden by houses, factories, parking lots, riprap, highways, and culverts. The stream also became very polluted by runoff from factories and sewers, and litter.
As recently as 2000 Little Sugar Creek was "the most polluted stream in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, a fetid stew of runoff and industrial waste trickling beneath parking decks and buildings on the fringe of downtown." Businesses dumped waste straight into its water, the fumes so noxious they were said to peel the paint off nearby buildings. Moreover, flood-prone buildings had to be razed, and much of the stream was covered by concrete which had to be removed. The pollution problem began to be solved when straight-piping of wastes was outlawed in 1998; nevertheless Little Sugar Creek Greenway became the most expensive stream restoration in Mecklenburg county.
In 1968 Charlotte city council member Jerry Tuttle, inspired by San Antonio's River Walk, proposed an urban "Charlotte waterfront" on Sugar Creek. In 1974 the Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Commission first studied the feasibility of a greenway system. A master plan was created in 1980 involving 20 creeks and streams. The final report was based on the graduate thesis for Joan Sigmon, a geography major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. The idea of a comprehensive greenway system was also promoted by Mecklenburg county commissioner Tom Ray who authored the concept known as "Sugar Creek Projection 70".
Demographics provided further impetus for preserving green space in the center city. Bucking the general trend, Charlotte experienced growth in the central core while other cities were losing population to the suburbs. As a result, "The Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department embarked on an ambitious update to its earlier 1980 and 1991 Greenways Plans to not only extend and create new greenway corridors, but also improve established corridors."
Finally, in 1999 a bond plan was approved; the money was used to buy property along the stream bed, begin construction or paved walkways, restore wetlands, build water gardens, and generally launch a major stream restoration project. In the end, the urban section of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway cost $43 million.
Although the master plan remained the guideline, little was done until 2000 when a 10-year growth plan was formulated.
The completed parts of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway can be divided into two major sections going downstream from north to south. The longest continuous segments run from 7th Street to Brandywine Road and from Tyvola Road to President James K. Polk State Historic Site. In December 2019 construction began on the final segment connecting Brandywine Road and Tyvola Road.
Cordelia Park to 12th Street
A paved walkway follows Little Sugar Creek and extends for .95 miles from Parkwood Avenue on the southern border of Cordelia Park to Greenway Crescent Lane and East 12th street just south of Alexander Street Park. Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles can be seen in this part of the creek. An overland route that follows 10th street to North McDowell street to 7th street provides connectivity to the southern part of the greenway. The overland route will be replaced by a dedicated segment.
East 7th Street to Morehead Street
The "urban section" of the greenway runs for 1.29 miles along Sugar Creek in uptown Charlotte and was completed in April 2012. It begins at 7th Street, goes southward past Central Piedmont Community College, passes through Thompson Park, connects to the showpiece Midtown Park at Pearl Park Way, and ends at the Morehead Street underpass. It is the most highly developed section of the greenway and incorporates paved walkways, stonework walls and plazas, fountains, dining, many newly planted trees, large decorative rocks, gardens, public event areas, numerous statues and sculptures, and a clock tower. There are overpasses and underpasses to facilitate unimpeded walking and biking. Included also are the usual park amenities such as benches, bike racks, restrooms, decorative lampposts, and a snack stand.
Morehead Street to Brandywine Road
This section connects with the urban section through the Morehead Street underpass. The first part going south is a straight section directly on the banks of Sugar Creek known as the Liz Hair Nature Walk, completed in September 2005. It extends for .65 miles from Morehead Street to East Boulevard and is adjacent to the Carolinas Medical Center complex. The next section runs from East Boulevard to Princeton Avenue, passing by the Charlotte Nature Museum and through Freedom Park. Next is a so-called overland connector which utilizes existing sidewalk for .42 miles along Jameston Drive. The paved part of the greenway resumes again at Hillside Avenue and continues on to Brandywine Road, ending behind the Park Road Shopping Center. This last section features wetland filtration ponds and explanatory signage.
Tyvola Road to Huntingtowne Farms Park
Completed in 2018, this 1.5 mile section connects Marion Diehl Park and the Madison Park neighborhood to Park Road Park, Huntingtowne Farms Park, and the Backyard Trails network—an extensive mountain biking trail network maintained by Tarheel Trailblazers. This segment also passes by the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Huntingtowne Farms Park to I-485
In 2020 the .79 mile segment of the greenway located in Huntingtowne Farms Park was expanded to 2.2 miles providing connectivity to I-485 and Carolina Pavilion. This expansion included access from the Park Crossing and Starmount neighborhoods. This segment of the greenway is known as a haven for hawks and barred owls.
I-485 to President James K. Polk State Historic Site
In 2021 an additional 1.8 miles of the greenway was open. This segment continued the greenway south from I-485 to the President James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville, North Carolina. This segment provides connectivity to Marsh Park and Carolina Place Mall. The final southern segment of The Little Sugar Creek Greenway will extend 3.3 miles from this segment at the President James K. Polk State Historic Site to the South Carolina State border.
Trail of History
The Trail of History is a collection of privately subsidized bronze statues situated in midtown (between 7th Street and Morehead Street) along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. The statues are intended to commemorate individuals who contributed to the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. In 2005 the first statue of Captain James Jack, a legendary figure in the story of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, was installed in Elizabeth Park.
Gene Conti of the North Carolina Department of Transportation praised the greenway "for providing Charlotteans with an accessible place to run, walk and bike," and called it "an example for the rest of the state." The Charlotte Observer called the Little Sugar Creek Greenway a "sweet resurrection". Fish have returned to the stream; and ducks, Canada geese, and herons are often seen. The mixture of natural restoration and urban redevelopment draws "gushing praise"—although some people, such as Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James, have criticized the project for its cost. James compared the project to proposed uptown baseball stadiums, asserting that the county overpaid for land for stream restoration and helped "well-connected developers". However, one business owner said that sites along the greenway offer the "best view of Charlotte from Charlotte—a view that will remain unencumbered forever."
Despite being a vast improvement over the toxic pollution of the past, trash–particularly plastic bags-remains a problem along Sugar Creek. In 2015 Richard Maschal of the Charlotte Observer reported, "The creek is festooned with such detritus, particularly near the bridges spanning Morehead Street and Kings Drive."
- 2012 Best Place to Get Back to Nature, Creative Loafing: Best of Charlotte
- 2011 Best Use of Tax Money, Creative Loafing: Best of Charlotte
- Since 2011, the annual Kings Drive Art Walk has been held on the greenway between Midtown Park and Morehead Street. It features artists and craftspeople and is held in late April.
- Every Thursday evening starting in late April, MetLive presents Music on the Greenway on the nearby Metlive stage at 1224 Metropolitan Avenue.
- The popular Kings Drive Farmers Market, open from April to October, is right by the greenway at S Kings Drive and E Morehead Street.
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway connects urban spaces with nature, by Jennifer Ford, April 20, 2012
- "Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation: Little Sugar Creek Greenway". Archived from the original on 2012-05-09. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- "Carolina Thread Trail Fact Sheet" (PDF). Carolina Thread Trail. Carolina Thread Trail. Retrieved 22 September 2021.
- Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation: Greenways
- Take a walk on the artsy, wild side of the greenway, by Mark Washburn, April 27, 2012
- Map of Little Sugar Creek Greenway from E 7th Street to E Morehead Street, PDF file
- Mary Newsom (March 26, 2015). "Little Sugar: The creek the city loved to hate". Keeping Watch. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
- Charlotte Observer: Sweet resurrection for Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek, by Bruce Henderson, March 18, 2012 Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services: Little Sugar Creek: Charlottetowne Ave to Pearl Park Way (Midtown)
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission: Greenways and a Return to Landscape Ideology
- Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation: History of Sugar Creek
- American Planning Association, City Parks Forum: Little Sugar Creek Greenway
- NCDOT, Charlotte Celebrate Completion of Little Sugar Creek Greenway, April 24, 2012
- "Cross Charlotte Trail Segment 02 - Brandywine Road to Tyvola Road". City of Charlotte. City of Charlotte. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
- "Little Sugar Creek Greenway: Cordelia Park to 12th Street". Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2012-06-11.
- "Cross Charlotte Trail Segment 03 - 7th Street to 10th Street". City of Charlotte. City of Charlotte. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
- Charlotte Observer: Little Sugar Creek Greenway section is done, by April Bethea, April 20, 2012
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services: Little Sugar Creek - 7th St. to Elizabeth Ave. Project
- Charlotte Observer: New park to open soon in Midtown, by Karen Sullivan, January 29, 2012
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway: East 7th Street to Morehead Street
- The Charlotte Observer: SouthPark Magazine: The Great Outdoors, by Sam Boykin, November 22, 2010
- WBTV: Statue of Captain James Jack to be Unveiled, May 19, 2010
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway: Liz Hair Project
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway: Morehead Street to Brandywine Road
- "Backyard Trails". Tarheel Trailblazers. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
- "Little Sugar Creek Greenway - Tyvola Road to Huntingtowne Farms Park (COMPLETE)". City of Charlotte. City of Charlotte. Retrieved 5 June 2021.
- "Little Sugar Creek Greenway - Huntingtowne Farms Park to I 485". City of Charlotte. City of Charlotte. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
- Little Sugar Creek Greenway: Huntingtowne Farms Park
- "Little Sugar Creek Greenway - I 485 to President James K. Polk State Historic Site". City of Charlotte. City of Charlotte. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
- "Little Sugar Creek Greenway - President James K. Polk State Historic Site to South Carolina State Line". City of Charlotte. City of Charlotte. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
- "Trail of History". mecknc.gov. Mecklenburg county Park and Recreation. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
- "About the Artists". charlottetrailofhistory.org/. Trail of History. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
- Charlotte Observer: Trash still a problem at Little Sugar Creek Greenway, by Richard Maschal, January 5, 2015
- Creative Loafing, Best of Charlotte 2012
- Creative Loafing, Best of Charlotte, 2011
- Charlotte Magazine: Weekend Top Picks for April 27-29: Kings Drive Art Walk and More, April 23, 2012
- Meet Charlotte Newsletter, Spring 2012: URBAN ESCAPE Archived 2012-11-01 at the Wayback Machine
- Yelp Reviews: King's Drive Farmer's Market