Craven County - Eastern Carolina is about to see some big changes to local bike and walking paths. A state-wide effort has been unveiled which will bring hundreds of new paved and unpaved trails to communities in Eastern Carolina.
Local bike shop owner Tom Hewitt says there is a shortage of roads in our area with bike paths on the side.
"You actually have to go to Emerald Island to find an actual bike path in this area," says Hewitt.
Plans for the state-wide makeover were born in New Bern.
"We've been working with the local planning commission on the five-county plan over the past three to four months, so I'm kinda seeing this as somewhat of an extension of that idea," says Hewitt.
The group that began the discussion in New Bern is also hoping to incorporate a 1,000 mile path called the ‘Mountains to Sea' trail. This trail will meander from Tennessee to the Outer Banks. It is hoped this trail, coupled with a two-day hiking trail in the Croatan, will attract more than just locals.
"I could see this bringing people in from 200 or 300 hundred miles," says Mountains to Sea Trail Board of Directors Bill Sadler.
Sadler says there is a high demand for multi-day trails. Incoming outdoor enthusiasts could mean more money for local businesses.
"They may not spend money in your hotels, but food, gas… And usually after a nice long 2-3 day hike the first thing you want to do when you get finished with the hiking is finding good place to get a good meal and eat before you head home," says Sadler.
Mac Flythe, owner of Flythe's Bike Shop in New Bern, says he has seen the interest in biking grow locally.
"We've been in business 35 years, started in 1977, and every year our business has grown, but in the last three or four years we've grown a lot more," says Flythe.
He says paved trails in several communities will make fuel-free commuting easier. The North Carolina Department of Transportation says they hope to equip communities with enough to do things like allow children to walk or bike to school. Flythe says safer commuting is in big demand lately.
"That's the biggest complaint we have about people not riding to work, is they don't have a safe way to get to work," says Flythe.
Both bike shop owners say this will not eliminate bikers on the road. They say avid road bikers will continue to ride in-line with cars. But the new trails will be a huge success for families or people just looking to get outdoors.
One thing that everyone says they will enjoy is a new paved loop that will link several highways across the region. This loop would have a paved bike lane next to the highway. The path currently looks to run up Highway 17 to Highway 58, then to Highway 24, and finally back up Highway 55 into New Bern.
Here are some of the municipalities in our viewing area who have received NCDOT's Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant Award:
Aberdeen, Ahoskie, Atlantic Beach, Beaufort, Carolina Beach, Clinton, Columbia, Duck, Edenton, Elizabethtown, Farmville, Grifton, Hertford, Kenansville, Kill Devil Hills, Kinston, Leland, Morehead City, New Bern, North Topsail Beach, Oak Island, Pembroke, Pine Knoll Shores, Southport, Swansboro, Tarboro, Trent Woods, Washington, White Lake, Williamston, Winterville, Wrightsville Beach
To help shape where the trails will be check out this site: walkbikenc.com.