Circle the Triangle Trail
When the Triangle Greenways Council (TGC) was established in the early 1980s, the riparian greenway concept was still relatively new. The City of Raleigh had studied it between 1969 and 1972, began its implementation program in 1974, and added it to their official Comprehensive Plan the following year. One of the TGC’s first initiatives was to advocate similar corridor conservation action to the other local governments in the region.
By the mid 1980s the TGC sensed a growing acceptance among local governments, and a slow but steady increase in the number of local greenway programs. The timing seemed right for expansion of the initiative from the local to the regional scales, as a way to illustrate the greater advantages of an interconnected greenway corridor network across the region.
The vision of a “Circle the Triangle Trail” became that illustration. It reinforced the need for more local riparian greenway corridor programs, as well as increased regional coordination. The backbone of the vision was Raleigh’s proposed greenway network, public lands at Falls Lake and Jordan Reservoir, and the evolving Eno River State Park. These would provide approximately 80% of the circle. New riparian greenway corridor programs in Durham, Chapel Hill and Cary would complete a 140-mile interconnected network.
The initial Circle the Triangle vision was to “run from city to city, along the banks of streams and lakes, and through existing parks; connecting campuses, business areas, recreational areas and historic sites.” Since then, unforeseen opportunities have emerged to enhance and accelerate implementation of this vision. The first dedicated section (26 miles) of the Mountains to Sea Trail (a larger vision) was built by the TGC at Falls Lake, and Raleigh and Wake County are continuing it along the Neuse River. Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail (new organization) is continuing trail construction at Falls Lake toward Durham. The TGC was among the advocates for preservation of the abandoned American Tobacco railroad right-of-way, which is now being converted to trail use thanks to the Triangle Rails to Trails Conservancy (new organization) and a collaboration of government agencies. Also, the East Coast Greenway Coalition (new organization) is the advocate for an even larger vision that will interconnect with the Circle the Triangle Trail.
It is clear that this regional vision is attainable and within reach. To get this far has taken decades, and decades more will be required to complete the corridor network. Yet, when finished, the region will have a world class trails system within conserved riparian greenway corridors and other public lands. The urbanized region will have both public use trails, as well as natural open space to maintain environmental quality and ecological function.