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Old Battleground Road at Guilford Battleground NMP: Easy to Fix Danger

roadskater's picture

Greensboro wants to get bigger and better. Well there's no point in getting bigger if we don't get better, is there? 

I applaud Greensboro and Guilford County and the Piedmont Triad Council of Governments for their efforts for bike-ped plans and greenways. I applaud BIG and as ever Tour to Tanglewood hero Dale of Cycles de Oro.

But this piece is about road cycling access on historic roads where traffic has been made more dangerous systematically and intentionally, where there's an easy fix with a half mile of either dual side bike lanes or paved greenway. If addressing this is in the Greensboro Bi-Ped plan, great! I hope it will be made top priority, as it affects a lot of possibilities for a lot of people.

Make this one area welcoming and safe, and more people will use it more safely and more happily for them and for motorists.

I have made a gmap to show the least amount of bike lane that would be effective. There are ditches now where the bike lanes would need to go on both sides of the road.


Of course, if the Department of the Interior could allow paving of the rail trail greenway, that would be a far more courteous and wonderful solution for all, so long as they designate the area as allowing skating, as the Code of Federal Regulations states that skating is illegal except in designated areas based on the ancient definition of skates as toys based on steel wheel days. (Designated areas are typically "within 500 yards of the ranger's residence," if you know what I mean, but could just as easily be written as "prohibited except along the Bicentennial Greenway for egress through the NMP only.") But forget courtesy from these guys. You should see the looks on Guilford and Greensboro planners when you mention them!

I abhor bad skating behavior. I also dislike bad cyclist behavior. I also think bad motorist behavior should be ticketed. And I think a park system that doesn't want you to use it safely is a bit off its course, and needs adjustment. There is nothing less sacred about an inline skater enjoying a park than a cyclist or certainly a motorist. And kids on bikes are sometimes more dangerous than adults on skates, but I don't advocate disallowing children to bicycle in the park!

But this is not about skating or cycling in Battleground Park, even, but simply being able to find a safe and legal route THROUGH the Battleground Park. I hope we can find a loving way to do that.

For years now I've been saddened by the attitude expressed by the actions at the Guilford Courthouse Battleground National Military Park here in Greensboro, NC. I certainly can understand any sort of regulations they wish to make on bad behavior of cyclists (or skaters or skateboarders or anyone, for that matter) within the park, but not just for being road cyclists or skaters or whatever. And I applaud any efforts they make to improve safety of everyone in the area, as long as it is everyone they are protecting, not just motorists or pedestrians.

But the Guilford Courthouse Battleground NMP has intentionally blocked paved access through the property even on a railway bed that passed through for many years, making it just as historically important to some as that bloody battle is to many of us. And while the say they wish to preserve history, it is only where and how they wish to that matters, and loops of road that have nothing to do with battles will not be plowed under when they hope to plow under much older roads and turn them to forest. I have nothing against forest, especially when I can ride or skate through it, and I think forests have no more against paved rail trails than they do against the railroad tracks that once passed through them.

The most annoying feature of the Battleground Park as they have intentionally constructed it using "pedestrian and traffic flow management techniques" (whoa!), is their denying the people of the area, the City of Greensboro and the County of Guilford the ability to have a paved greenway extending from the Country Park area, specifically near the entrance to the Forest Lawn Cemetery near Lewis Recreation Center, up to Bur-Mil Park, eventually extending in both directions still further. This was once intended to hook up to trails coming up from High Point, but much of that vision has turned to dust, or gravel at best, it would seem. This Bicentennial Greenway must have been planned for completion by 2008, the bicentennial of Greensboro (if I have that correct). Well the Department of the Interior wants you to have a flat tire and they built a parking lot built on top of your greenway.

Whereas it would have been easy to accommodate road cyclists who merely want to pass through the park instead of doing laps there, the NMP did not pave the old railway bed there, but put down a surface they knew would be unfriendly to road cyclists (and to skaters). They also made things more dangerous by pulling up pavement to create gravel barriers to impede cyclists (and skaters) who wish to get off of Old Battleground Road to avoid the yelling of angry motorists who gladly defend life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as long as it is their own life, liberty and happiness they're rushing to get to on roads we all helped to pay for. 

They love to say this road isn't safe for cyclists (or skaters). But that says more about the road than the cyclist. It says more about our community, our state and our federal government than it does the cyclists (or skaters). We've forgotten what it's like to follow an old tobacco or corn tractor down the road a half mile, or to take a bit of care for an older, less expensive car, or an elderly driver who drives slower to try to be safer.

Really, we want the least dangerous and least intrusive route legally available to us, and that's all. We just want to use both halves of the greenway by passing safely through the NPS park.

They could welcome us, they could accommodate us, as the citizens we are, but they do not. I love the Guilford Courthouse Battleground Park, but not the fact that they have made access through there on a publicly paid for greenway as dangerous as possible.

The funny sad part is that, to the angry motorists, it seems we are being stupid, rude and obstinate to be on Old Battleground Road within the confines of the Guilford Courthouse Battleground NMP. Carefully planted trees hide the areas where the pathway is gravel! Motorists look over and see through the trees that there's a greenway of some sort, and a parking lot (they just don't see they're gravel or worse)! They wonder, why aren't we there instead of in their way!? They don't know that the NPS is doing all they can to force road cyclists (and skaters) onto Old Battleground Road for the four tenths of a mile or so that it cuts their property.

Now I have (not lately) talked with them about this, and they say the plan is to return the section of Old Battleground Road to "old growth forests" or whatever (despite this area having perhaps been a cornfield by their own estimates). They say that when the loop is finished around Greensboro the plan is for New Garden Road to only go left to become Old Battleground Road, and there will be no pavement between there and the southern terminus of the property. Coming from the south, then, Old Battleground Road would end at the last business there as a turnaround. I don't know if this is still their plan, but I do it is a really bad plan to give any of Old Battleground to Department of the Interior NPS NMP instead of keeping it for Greensboro DOT to handle as part of the Bi-Ped plan.

As for their historic preservation idea, I believe keeping New Garden open (which they already moved and closed so the statues are in idiotically meaningless places completely or mostly out of view of passing autos) and following its historic path would have been far more historically instructive than making a loop (which of course is nice but is not historic to the period of the battle). This tourist loop only follows New Garden briefly from the base of the hill at the sharp right turn until it veers right near where the path goes to Country Park. It's easy to see the shadow of that old and extremely historically significant piece of road traversing in both directions, passing by the old Guilford Courthouse near the eastern end.

There is absolutely no good reason a half mile or so of bike lanes could not be added to Old Battleground Road as part of a roadway improvement to increase the safety of visitors to the park both in cars and on bicycles.

The park was first created as a pleasure ground for Greensboro residents by the efforts of locals before it became part of the Department of the Interior NPS and this is it's true heritage as a park, which is no less important than it's heritage as a battlefield or as a site for a railway line, for that matter. Of all places it should be a low speed traffic zone that is friendly to human powered transportation of every sort, and it should be as safe as possible for everyone, not just tourists in cars, who are very welcome, or locals rushing home from work in their autos.

This desire for safety and accommodation should include cyclists (and shock of shocks, skaters who wish to obey the law and pass through the park on a greenway rail trail but are impeded from doing so and pushed to the roadway to be insulted and threatened by motorists who don't understand why we are there and don't care about our careful, adult, well-considered, well-trained, well-planned and humble wish to enjoy a sport safely for the benefit of our health and to the detriment of no one).

I have in the past asked the powers that seem to be at the NMP to help skaters find a safe and legal way through the park. This met several times with no action and no response, except that magically extra gravel was tossed about where pavement was pulled up, making it impossible to travel along the painted lines marking the greenway in the parking lot, forcing me to the road. and I was threatened with a ticket for merely putting on my skates in the parking lot so I could leave to use the road to get to the greenway.

We need great places to exercise if we want Greensboro to be a great town, attracting vibrant and healthy people who would like to live where jobs are good and quality of life is high. I can't imagine what angers a motorist so much when they pass someone on the road within the NMP, but it does happen, fairly often. We are extremely careful, and simply try to cover that four tenths of a mile as smoothly and sanely as possible.

But this is so easy to fix. And it is important to the future trail running all the way to town that this potential human powered commuter route be kept open and not yielded to the Department of Interior NPS NMP but kept for Greensboro DOT to plan and administer. If the NPS won't allow paving of this less than half mile section of greenway, I hope Greensboro DOT will include it in their Bi-Ped plan and provide bike lanes, a greenway within the right of way, or at very least a sidewalk.  

I respect the work of the NPS and NMP staff and their goals are on the face of it excellent. But to allow automobiles on a 2 mile loop but not allow cyclists and skaters on a .4 mile greenway and to quote historic preservation as a reason is dissembling at best. Our goal should be to work together to find safe ways for all of us to use this historic right of way for as many varied activities as possible.

Yes there are unsafe cyclists and skaters, but there are unsafe motorists as well. The key is to punish bad behavior, not bad modes of transportation. Please!




roadskater's picture

Reply to Why Use Old Battleground Road Instead of Rail Trail?

This is a reply to something on a local list, and references the above article...

This has long been a problem, this section through the National Military Park at Guilford Battleground. They built a parking lot on top of the old rail trail greenway route, then set about a policy of discouraging through-use. I wrote about it in June 2006, and have talked with Greensboro, Guilford and Park Service people since 1999 or so, mostly giving up after it was clear they knew the problem or non-problem and were not going to do anything. My thoughts from 4 years ago are above.

In addition to those comments, here are some more...

I urge the City of Greensboro and County of Guilford to keep all rights of way they have rather than releasing them to the Department of Interior National Park Service. For a while there was a painted line tacitly acknowledging that this was in fact part of the historical rail line that existed BEFORE the national military park and even before the park was originally built by people from Greensboro, who rode the train up from Greensboro to enjoy the pleasureground, as I recall. 

As I said, a few years back there was a clear strategy adopted to discourage and impede the flow of road cyclists and others on the greenway and to force all they could onto the city policed road through the use of gravel, mulch, fencing and in the case of skaters, threats of federal tickets, even for putting on skates in the parking lot just as a way to leave to use the greenway without entering the park loop. Even on organized bike rides I have been threatened with federal tickets as I skated through the parking lot on Old Battlegound Road with a hunderd or more cyclists. 

Mary and others are right about the roots growing up on the pavement of the rail trail along the southern end of Old Battleground Ave. The city staff are aware of this and have been for at least 7 years. There's no evidence of any repair as of the last time I was there. It's much sexier to build new trail than to maintain current trail. And as you are responsible for your own safety, at some point you consider a place dangerous enough that you stop using it. 

During one discussion seeking help with that pavement, a city parks employee suggested that rather than repairing the root problem they could put up signs disallowing certain uses for the multiuse path. This was a few years ago and the problems are still there.

But even with a perfect greenway, it's not up to one road user to decide how another road user will choose to travel any more than it is up to them to tell you not to choose Old Battleground to get home if you hate it so much. Separate but equal is fiction. The presence of one road (even one for bikes) doesn't force all road users to use that road. My parents often drive their car on roads other than the interstate as a matter of choice and prudence based on their experience and feeling of safety. 

And if the city builds a multiuse path and the multiusers don't use it then they built the wrong path...they had a failure to communicate with the potential users of said path. Or they didn't build it wide enough for as many multiuses as they thought. Or they didn't count on the NPS splitting their rail trial in two. Or they didn't keep the multiuse path repaired. Or the trail starts nowhere and goes nowhere and connects to nowhere.

Surely you have not ridden from Strawberry Road to Lewis Recreation Center on your bike lately. I've skated much of it, and in addition to the roots near on the southern end, the path is getting worse with cracks in the direction of travel near "the culvert" at the beaver pond as well, not to mention that the culvert itself is practically a hazard, especially when it has collected gravel. And the connection at the old north end by the ponds near the barn to the newer section leading to Strawberry Rd is not the greatest. Double right angles around blind turns are not the best transportation management technique one would think.

If they want to discourage people from using their multiuse path, they're doing OK at that.

There's much to love about Greensboro and human transportation here, but there are certainly times we have to choose the safest, happiest route, and carefully. Hopefully someones in the city, county and National Park Service will read this and think it worthy of consideration.

I love Country Park! But can we get some soap in the bathrooms and some way of accessing a bathroom without a steep hill being involved? :o) 

roadskater's picture

Another Story of Blocking the Bicentennial Greenway

See if you can get someone to tell you about the time Guilford County had a paving crew at the north end of the parking area at the Guilford Battleground National Military Park (Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Greensboro, NC). The paving crew showed up ready to pave the gravel lot to improve the greenway and perhaps to provide more parking. This property was supposedly owned by the county according to my Guilford County source, but the crew were convinced by the acting park director in dramatic fashion that they could not pave that gravel area. According to my source some years ago in the Guilford County government, the paving was paid for, but never completed. Given the way the NPS has treated the Bicentennial Greenway I hope they never get their paws on the section of Old Battleground between New Garden Road and the south end of the park. It should be kept as a multiuse plaza even if it is closed off as is the plan. There's no need to destroy that asphalt unless all non-historic roads are to be treated the same. Just my opinion of course, but you knew that.

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