We’re asking for a Mecklenburg County budget that grows our greenways faster

Sustain Charlotte partnered with Partners for Parks and Park and Rec Commissioner Paul Freestone to sign up as a group and coordinated on our comments to speak with one voice during the January 19, 2022 Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners budget hearing.

Here’s what we said:

January 19, 2022
Sustain Charlotte Comments
Meck County Public Hearing on FY23 Budget

Good evening Commissioners and Manager Diorio,

Thank you for your service and time tonight.

My name is Shannon Binns, and I am the Founder of Sustain Charlotte. We are a local nonprofit that has been serving the residents of Mecklenburg County for 13 years.  Our mission is to inspire choices that lead to a healthy, equitable, and vibrant community for generations to come.

Like Paul, first, we want to thank you for your ongoing support of our parks and greenways, especially the increased funding you’ve allocated to accelerate the expansion of our greenway network since FY20.

We also share Paul’s concern that the goal set in 2019 to build 30 additional miles of greenways by the end of 2023 will be difficult to achieve given progress to date, and we ask you to allocate adequate funding in this year’s budget to ensure we reach this goal.

Greenway networks have the potential to connect residents within and between neighborhoods by providing a safe, healthy, free, and enjoyable way to access nature and get exercise – and they can also provide residents with a safe, healthy, and enjoyable way to get to the places they need and want to go.

But our current greenway system is not extensive enough to be easily accessed by all of our residents or help them get to the places they need and want to go.

Person biking on greenway

Greenways are essential infrastructure for transportation and recreation! (image: LandDesign)

We need a large-scale effort to really transform our greenways into a true network so that it becomes easy and natural for people to walk or bike to work and other places they need to go.

As one example of how greenways connect people to opportunities, last summer when our staff visited a new segment of greenway connecting with the Polk Historic Site in Pineville, the young employee who greeted us shared that he was now able to ride his bike to work on the new greenway instead of driving.

Imagine if hundreds of thousands more Mecklenburg County residents had that choice: To commute to their job — or explore new opportunities — without the need to drive a car every day.

The air would be cleaner, we would be healthier, we would spend less money getting to where we need to go, and we would get to know more of our neighbors as we slow down a bit and enjoy the world at a “human scale and speed”.

An investment in greenways is also an investment in equity for our neighbors who are most in need of transportation choices.

Given our heavy reliance on private car ownership to meet our transportation needs, the median-income household in Mecklenburg County spends 23% of its income on transportation, second only to housing (at 30%).

Of course, many lower-income families are spending an even higher percentage of their income just to get to and from work and other daily destinations.

If we had more greenways and other sustainable, affordable forms of transportation available, then cars could become an option rather than a necessity for more people.

The budget choices that you make this year and in the years ahead will shape the future of Mecklenburg County’s greenway system for our children and future generations.

I don’t say this lightly.

Land acquisition is becoming more expensive and difficult, and we all have seen the skyrocketing costs of construction and labor.

By prioritizing greenways in this budget, you will help to literally build a more equitable, healthier and more vibrant future for all of our residents.

Thank you for all that you do.