Little Sugar Creek Greenway is already one of Charlotte’s favorite parks, and it’s not even finished. Since 2000, Mecklenburg County has been working to restore Little Sugar Creek, which flows through the heart of Charlotte and build a multi-use linear park along its banks.
When complete, the greenway will feature over 19 miles of trails and land connectors, from Toby Creek Greenway on North Tryon Street to Cordelia Park just north of uptown. The greenway will continue through the urban section and on to the South Carolina state line, conveniently linking Central Piedmont Community College, Carolina Healthcare System and the Park Road and Carolina Place shopping areas among many other destinations. A space for quiet reflection or a social hot spot, the walker, jogger, tourist, nature lover, bench sitter or cyclist will delight in this path that connects us all.
This section of Little Sugar Creek Greenway provides connectivity between 12th Street/Alexander Street Park and Cordelia Park. Cordelia Park contains amenities such as a basketball court, outdoor swimming pool, sprayground, picnic shelters, play equipment, and walking trails. A section of trail within Alexander Park exists a greenway bridge that connects to Siegal Point and 12th Street. Alexander Street Park offers soccer fields, a playground, outdoor shelters, basketball and tennis fields.
Watch for olive-brown “pancakes” floating in the water at the edge of slow-moving, sandy areas of the stream. Take a closer look and you’ll find the “pancakes” have legs and a neck with a snorkel nose at the top. These round, floating objects are actually Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles, a species of special concern in North Carolina. These turtles have a soft, flat shell and can quickly disappear by burying in the sand. Please observe these special creatures from a distance because they can and will bite!
This extraordinary section of greenway and stream restoration extends 1.29 miles from East 7th Street to Morehead Street. It represents significant collaborative efforts, public commitment, and community pride. Part of the Carolina Thread Trail and the Trail of History, the generous greenway trail winds among plazas, event areas, fountains, dining, trees, and landscape areas. It connects Central Piedmont Community College, Elizabeth Park, Thompson Park, retail and dining areas, and Carolinas Medical Center. The special places within the linear park have already hosted art events, weddings, and other celebrations. Offering festivals and events as well as passive recreation, this corridor also serves the increasingly important function as a commuter route to uptown Charlotte for those who choose active transportation.
There are many plazas, fountains, and public art displays and an extensive stream restoration that has begun on Little Sugar Creek to repair the damage caused by over development. These features make Urban Little Sugar Creek a unique addition to the Counties ever-expanding greenway system. The urban sections of Little Sugar Creek begin at E 7th St and parallel Kings Dr. to Morehead St., where the greenway continues as Liz Hair Nature Walk. At the intersection of 3rd St & Kings Dr sits the statue of Captain James Jack on horseback, which serves as the iconic first sculpture on the developing Trail of History. There will be 21 sculptures that comprise the Trail of History, each displayed along the greenway and depicting events of historical significance for Mecklenburg County.
This section of Little Sugar Creek Greenway provides connectivity between Carolinas HealthCare System, the amenities at Freedom Park (sports fields and courts, a lake, amphitheater, playgrounds, outdoor shelters, and the Mahlon Adams Pavilion), Charlotte Nature Museum, Park Road Elementary School, and Park Road Shopping Center.
The Liz Hair Nature Walk adjacent to Carolinas HealthCare System is named after Liz Hair, the first woman to be elected to and chair the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners. She founded the Democratic Women's Club and the Women's Political Caucus. Mrs. Hair help establish the Council on Aging, Council for Children, Mecklenburg County Women's Commission, Spirit Square, and the Public Arts Program. In 1975 she was named Charlotte Woman of the year. Liz Hair has always been a strong advocate for parks and greenways.
Heading under East Bv., the trail continues into Freedom Park. The Freedom Park section follows the natural terrain of the park. Using a sidewalk connection along Jameston Dr., the greenway trail reconnects at Westfield Rd. The Westfield section incorporates the tiering of the landscape to help with flood control and filtering of water from the neighborhood to help cleanse stormwater run off.
This section of Little Sugar Creek Greenway provides connectivity between a number of amenities within Huntingtowne Farms Park, including a playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, soccer fields, and a picnic shelter. There is also a bridge across Little Sugar Creek to the Starmount neighborhood.
This section of Little Sugar Creek Greenway is a haven for raptors. Barred Owls nest on the greenway and can be heard throughout the day, especially in the late winter and early spring. The careful observer can find multiple species of hawks: Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, and Sharp-shinned. Ospreys have even been spotted following the creek corridor during spring and fall migration.
Portions of the Little Sugar Creek Greenway are also part of another major project, the Cross Charlotte Trail. The City of Charlotte is partnering with Mecklenburg County to create a 30-mile trail and greenway facility that will stretch from the City of Pineville through Center City and on to the UNC Charlotte campus and Cabarrus County line. Once completed, the Cross Charlotte Trail will allow residents to travel seamlessly from one end of Charlotte to the other. Approximately 140,000 residents and 130,000 jobs will be within walking distance of the proposed trail and the adjacent greenways that connect to it.
Text and cover image courtesy of Mecklenburg County.