Neuse River Regional Park Background


Project Overview

The Neuse River Corridor is an exceptional, and vulnerable, resource. For many years, the Neuse rolled virtually unnoticed through the rural fringes of Wake County. This no longer is true. The City of Raleigh's jurisdiction extends to, and in some areas beyond, the Neuse River in response to a rapidly increasing pace of residential development. The towns of Wake Forest and Knightdale also press closer to the river's edge. The river's exposure to development pressures on one hand heightens awareness of the river's exceptional qualities while on the other hand, increases the risk of degrading the river's ecological systems. The Corridor's potential recreational value will rise dramatically as awareness of the river increases. This value can only be sustained through conservation of the river system as a whole.

Eastern Raleigh and especially the area along the Neuse River will continue to experience rapid and intense growth over the next five to ten years. Many of the opportunities to preserve the Neuse Corridor as a regional recreation system will be lost to residential development in the near future. There is, however, a growing awareness, appreciation and demand for recreation in a natural environment. Raleigh residents are accustomed to walking, jogging, bicycling, and observing wildlife on the existing greenway park system in addition to traditional active recreation activities. Essentially, this form of recreation has become an integral part of many people's fitness and quality of life goals.

The City of Raleigh, a national leader in the greenway movement, has long recognized the importance of protecting the water quality, wildlife and vegetation of the Neuse River, as well as the Corridor's potential for recreation. The City's Capital Area Greenway plan, included in the Comprehensive Plan, identifies the Neuse River as a Major Greenway Corridor with a designated width of 150 feet on both sides of the river bank. Recognizing the recreational potential offered by the river, the City of Raleigh has already acquired over 330 acres of parkland, including three major sites at Anderson Point Park, Milburnie Park and Horseshoe Farm Park, along with miles of greenway easement and has built three and one-half miles of greenway trail along the Corridor.

The City is now on the threshold of taking another precedent setting step by expanding the river Corridor into a Regional Park, as recommended in the Comprehensive Plan. This park, created by linking the Neuse River Greenway with park land next to the Corridor, will protect the City's major natural resource and create a superb recreational facility for the region. Connections to the City's greenway system will link the river park to much of the City's park system. The park corridor could serve as one leg of a regional Triangle greenway system as well as an important link in the state-wide Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The evolution from river corridor to regional park is both visionary and realistically achievable. It can become a catalyst for the sensitive use, management, and conservation of the Neuse River as it flows eastward. It will certainly create a recreational resource of enormous value to the people of Raleigh.

In 1995, building on many years of thought, planning and land acquisition, the City of Raleigh established a Master Plan Committee and retained a team of planning consultants to develop this Comprehensive Master Recreation Plan for an 18 mile corridor along the Neuse River on the eastern side of the city. Included as part of the master plan, are detailed master plans for Anderson Point Park and Milburnie Park on prime sites within the Corridor project area. The City intends to construct the first phase of these two parks in the near future using bond funds allocated for the purpose. These actions begin to identify and establish objectives and standards for future development of the Corridor.

Previous Park Planning for the Project Area

The Neuse River Corridor was first designated as a greenway corridor in the Capital Area Greenway Study of 1972. This designation was adopted as part of the City's Comprehensive Plan of 1979. In 1985, The Future of the Neuse River in Wake County, edited by

William L. Flournoy, described the history of the Neuse River in Wake County and discussed the future role it may play in an urban community. This relevant study focused upon the recreational, economic and environmental quality issues relating to the Neuse River Corridor and the options and opportunities this Corridor presents to the City of Raleigh and Wake County at large. By 1989, the Raleigh Comprehensive Plan identified as one of its natural environment policies the protection of the Neuse River and its flood plain as a regional open space resource. The Raleigh Parks Plan, a part of the Comprehensive Plan, states that future recreation demands may dictate the need for a new type of park in the hierarchy of the Raleigh park system. This "regional park" would be a large-scale facility focusing on the citizens of Raleigh, adjacent municipalities and counties. The Parks Plan recognizes the importance of the Neuse River Corridor as a significant resource throughout Wake County and the City of Raleigh, and identifies the Corridor as a possible regional park. The Plan also identifies urgency for action to protect this Corridor from rapid growth and development. The Parks Plan outlines nine recommendations regarding the development of the Neuse River Corridor as a regional park:

1. Maintain for the Neuse River Corridor the highest priority available for resource allocation;

2. Establish a steering committee to develop concepts for the Neuse River Corridor;

3. Establish a committee of citizens to advise and review recommendations of the steering committee;

4. Maintain the land acquisition process necessary to ensure the development of the proposed Greenway;

5. Identify and protect those parcels of land which are wetlands or rare habitat for flora and fauna;

6. Continue to work with Wake County and the State of North Carolina to develop a conceptual Master Plan for the Corridor;

7. Target critical land holdings in the proposed Corridor and purchase options on such land, purchase such land fee simple, or secure through life tenancy;

8. Identify target park sites abutting or accessible to the Corridor for acquisition and connection to the Corridor as a parallel priority of this development; and

9. Establish the guidelines for a Neuse River Corridor overlay zone to govern development within and adjacent to already protected acreage within the Corridor.

The City has taken action on some of the initial recommendations outlined in the Raleigh Parks Plan. The efforts of this Master Plan process focus upon establishing the framework for protection of the Neuse River Corridor and its development as a regional park.

Scope of Project

Neuse River Overview (air photo of Corridor)

The Neuse River basin encompasses 6,192 square miles in 19 counties and contains roughly one-sixth of the state's population. It is the third largest river basin in North Carolina and is one of only three major river basins whose boundaries are located entirely within the state. The Neuse River originates at the confluence of the Eno and Flat Rivers northwest of Durham in the northern Piedmont region of North Carolina. This point is now covered by the waters of Falls Lake. The river flows 200 miles southeasterly past the cities of Raleigh, Smithfield, Goldsboro, Kinston and New Bern to the tidal waters of Pamlico Sound.

The Neuse River basin traverses two physiographic regions: the Piedmont Plateau and the Coastal Plain, with the transition between these two regions found within Wake County. Land within Wake County represents approximately ten percent of the Neuse River basin.

Project Area (Project Area Map)

Neuse River Corridor Project Area

The project area, bounded on the north by Falls Lake Dam, extends approximately 18 miles to the Poole Road crossing and includes one-half mile on either side of the river. In the northern portion of the study area (Falls Dam to Buffaloe Road), the City is constructing a canoe launch at Falls Rapids and owns the 135 acre Horseshoe Farm Park on the east bank of the river north of US-401. Along the southern segment (Buffaloe Road to Poole Road), the City owns several parcels adjacent to the river. These include a 9.6 acre parcel south of Buffaloe Road at Elizabeth Road on the west bank of the river, Milburnie Park - West (formerly called Neuse River West Park) (35.2 acres), Milburnie Park - East (formerly called Neuse River East Park) (23.9 acres), Anderson Point Park (105 acres) and a 22.7 acre canoe access north of Poole Road on the west bank of the river.

Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park

Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park are City-owned undeveloped park sites within the project area. Milburnie Park, centered around Milburnie Dam, located fourteen and one-half miles downstream from Falls Dam and approximately one-half mile north of US-64, includes two City-owned park sites. Milburnie West (formerly Neuse West Park) is a 35-acre site on the west side of the river above the dam. Milburnie East (formerly Neuse East Park) is a 25-acre site on the east side of the river below the dam. The area referred to as Milburnie Park in the plan includes both of these sites, along with land within the Corridor immediately adjacent to these sites. Anderson Point Park is a 105 acre site located at the point where Crabtree Creek flows into the Neuse River, approximately two miles downstream from Milburnie Park. The Corridor segment between these two parks is also part of the more intensive planning process.

Project Goals

Neuse River Corridor

The initial and basic objective set forth by the City is to develop a comprehensive recreation master plan for the Neuse River Corridor to guide acquisition and development along the Corridor from Falls Lake Dam to Poole Road. The project goals are:

1. Protect, enhance and bring attention to the prime natural resource - the river and its ecological system;

2. Develop recreation resources within and adjacent to the Corridor to provide opportunities to experience and enjoy the river Corridor in many different ways;

3. Develop a long distance trail system with opportunities for loop routes of varying lengths, accommodating a variety of modes of non-motorized travel;

4. Provide access points along the Corridor for both local and regional use. These access points should include, at a minimum, adequate parking, clear wayfinding information, and other trail-related facilities;

5. Identify opportunities for development of river-oriented park facilities adjacent to the river Corridor and upland sites for field sports and other intensive-use, active recreation facilities; and

6. Identify and preserve or develop connections between the river Corridor and private and public land to diversify and expand access to and use of the river Corridor.

Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park

The project objectives also include development of detailed master plans for Anderson Point Park and Milburnie Park, including intensive study of the Corridor between the two sites. The main goal for the park master plans is to take full advantage of these prime locations along the river for river-oriented and other unique recreation facilities for the entire Raleigh community. A key function of these parks is to provide access to the greenway and to provide recreational facilities which complement and enhance the recreational opportunities offered by the Corridor.

The Parks and Recreation Department categorized Anderson Point Park as a Community Park within the City's park system hierarchy. The department staff identified the need for a community center at one of the sites, based on the district needs stated in the "Parks, Recreation and Open Space" component of the Comprehensive Plan. They also requested that the master plans for the two parks include a mix of active and passive recreation, including play field areas, picnic facilities, play areas, and trails. They also identified a need for an Adventure Center with a ropes course to be used in association with the existing Adventure Program run by the department. This program currently makes extensive use of the segment of Corridor between Milburnie East and Poole Road for canoe training.

The plan for the Corridor between the two parks establishes the main elements and character of this segment of Corridor. It establishes the framework for land uses and travel along the greenway Corridor in general. Essential elements include the trail systems, links to the adjoining neighborhoods and parks, as well as recognition of special places along the Corridor.

Rationale for Project

Recreational Opportunities

(concept drawing of regional park)

A regional park along the Neuse River will create a recreational resource unmatched in the region, and will simultaneously serve to protect the region's major natural resource. The river Corridor offers tremendous recreational potential. The linear nature of the Corridor allows opportunity for activities that often conflict with others in a traditional park setting. A Corridor can provide more apparent open space than a typical park due to its proportionally higher amount of linear edge. In addition to water-dependent activities such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing, the river Corridor can accommodate hiking, bicycling, rollerblading, bird watching, running and many other outdoor pursuits. The addition of upland park sites linked to the river Corridor creates opportunities for a broad range of active recreation facilities to complement the Corridor offerings. Acquisition of a relatively small amount of upland property in conjunction with the river Corridor creates potential for a series of major parks, each with a unique recreational focus and character, linked together by river greenway to form an outstanding regional park.

Economic Benefits

A river-oriented regional park along the Neuse River is likely to have a substantial economic benefit to the City and to Wake County as a whole. Rivers and greenway Corridors are traditionally recognized for their environmental protection, recreation values, and aesthetic appearance. These Corridors also have the potential to create jobs, enhance property values, expand local businesses, attract new or relocating businesses, increase local tax revenues, decrease local government expenditures, and promote a local community (National Park Service, 1990).

Greenways can stimulate the economy by providing an array of economic and quality of life benefits. Numerous studies demonstrate that linear parks can increase nearby property values, which can in turn increase local tax revenues. Spending by residents on greenway-related activities helps support recreation-oriented businesses and employment, as well as other businesses that are patronized by greenway users. Studies show that in urban, suburban and rural areas, properties near trails, forest preserves, rivers, or protected Corridors consistently show equal or higher property values than more distant properties (Maryland Greenways Commission, 1994). In cities such as Boulder, Seattle and Philadelphia, studies indicate that property values near greenbelts are highest and decline with distance from the greenbelt. The largest value increases are often for houses with views of or immediate access to greenbelts. These properties were also easier to sell. The findings of these national studies are borne out by Raleigh's experience with the existing greenway system. The neighborhoods and properties adjacent to existing greenway trails are some of the most sought-after residential locations in the City.

Potential economic benefits will largely depend upon the amenities offered, the scale and magnitude of the project, accessibility, level of projected use, and intended users (National Park Service, 1990). The greater the amenities provided by the project and the heavier the potential use, the greater the potential economic benefits are likely to be. Development of a regional park focused on the river greenway Corridor will greatly increase these benefits.

Conservation of the river Corridor as greenway may result in reduced costs to local governments, other public agencies and the community as a whole by reducing the need for more expensive flood and pollution control measures and reducing potential for flood damage to private property.

Environmental Quality

The Neuse River Corridor provides numerous ecological functions for the region. It incorporates diverse plant and animal habitats and serves as a conduit for wildlife migration. In a natural state, the river and associated wetlands function to collect and transport stormwater and, consequently, serve to control flooding. They also act as natural filters, trapping sediment and cleansing surface water, and provide an opportunity for recharge of groundwater systems. Protection of these natural functions, particularly in an urban area, is becoming critical as environmental quality issues continue to increase in importance.

Pace of Change in Project Area

The City of Raleigh's population increased 41 percent between 1980 and 1990. The City experienced a 56 percent increase in its total number of households during the same period. The 1990 Raleigh Comprehensive Plan projects the heaviest population growth will shift to east of the City.

Development pressures have already reached the Neuse River Valley. Large subdivisions such as Village Lakes, Riverbend, Perry Creek and Hedingham, as well as numerous large lot individual home sites, have been established over the past 10 years. The City is approving development plans on a regular basis for large future developments such as Falls River (Duke property), Wakefield, and North College Park, just to name a few. Developers are also preparing preliminary plans and zoning applications for hundreds of acres of land along the Corridor. Planning for a regional park along this Corridor is timely and must quickly take the form of action before private development projects overwhelm opportunities still available.

Planning Process

Planning Approach

Due to the extensive size of the project area and complexity of issues associated with it, the planning approach for this study was simple and direct. The City retained a planning team, consisting of the firms of Mark Robinson & Associates P.A. of Raleigh and JJR/Johnson Johnson & Roy of Ann Arbor, Michigan, to work with a Master Plan Committee and Parks and Recreation Department staff to produce this Master Plan. The team interviewed citizens and City staff members regarding the Neuse River Corridor and its surrounding area. These people identified the following key points to guide the planning process:

1. A vision is needed for the Neuse River which anticipates needs, capabilities and opportunities to be addressed over a 20- to 50-year period of time;

2. Adjacent to the Corridor, the development pace has quickened recently. Consequently, there is pressure to plan and act now before opportunities are lost;

3. There is no other resource like the Neuse in the Raleigh area; and

4. There is a need to bring more people to the water, to let them know that the river is there, and to accommodate and develop water-based recreational activities.

The team prepared an inventory of the basic characteristics of the river Corridor and of the Milburnie and Anderson Point Park sites. The Corridor inventory was based primarily on maps and other documentation provided by the City to identify various aspects of the physical and cultural environment of the project area. The planning team also explored the area by airplane, canoe, car and foot to get a firsthand view of the Corridor. The Milburnie and Anderson Point park sites were examined in more detail. The inventory work resulted in an understanding of 1) the ecological context of the river, 2) the existing and projected patterns of development surrounding the river and 3) the scope of recreational opportunity which this Corridor and the two park sites could potentially accommodate. The planning team then presented an analysis of the inventory to the Master Plan Committee and used this analysis, along with program direction provided by the Committee, the Parks & Recreation Department and others, as a basis for the Corridor and park master plans first shown to the Committee.

Master Plan Committee Meetings and Actions

The City assembled a Master Plan Committee of Raleigh residents to assist the City with creation of the Neuse River Corridor Master Plan. The Master Plan Committee first met on October 11, 1995, for an introduction to the process, followed by a field trip on November 4 to visit several sites along the river, including both parks.

On January 17, 1996, the planning team presented to the committee the inventory and analysis for the Corridor as a whole and, in more detail, for Anderson Point Park, Milburnie Park and the segment of Corridor in between. The committee met on January 24 to discuss and develop program guidelines for the Corridor.

A public information meeting was held on February 27 to solicit input from citizens and to give them an opportunity to voice concerns. This meeting was attended by approximately fifty people, most of whom were very supportive of the plans for the Corridor and parks. The main concerns focused upon the possible conflicts between public greenway users and adjacent property owners, particularly in the Foxcroft area. (workshop photo)

The committee and planning team met again on February 28 for an interactive workshop focused on presentation and discussion of the conceptual framework for the Corridor master plan and three alternative plans each for Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park. The committee approved in principle the conceptual framework for the Corridor master plan and selected the preferred master plan elements for each of the park sites. A follow-up meeting was held on April 3 to discuss the master plans for Anderson Point Park and Milburnie Park in more detail, including revisions to the previously agreed-upon plan for Anderson Point Park. At this meeting the committee reached agreement on master plans for both parks.

On April 24 the planning team presented the conceptual framework and master plan for the Corridor as a whole, and final master plans for Anderson Point and Milburnie Parks to the Master Plan Committee. After some discussion, the committee members present approved all the plans presented. The committee requested completion of the written report so that the plans and report could be presented to the Parks Advisory Board as a complete package. The committee met on May 15 to review the first draft of the master plan report and met again on June 4 to review and approve the final text. They then approved the plan for presentation to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board at their next meeting.

This Master Plan, including the Master Plan and Conceptual Framework for the Neuse River Corridor, and the Master Plans for Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park, was presented to the Raleigh Parks Recreation and Greenways Advisory Board on June 13. The board approved the plan and in turn presented it to the Raleigh City Council for its consideration on June 18, 1996.


Land Use and Public Policy

(Wake County Current Land Use Map)

Current Land Use

The Neuse River Corridor lies within Raleigh's North, Northeast and Southeast Districts. The Northeast District contains a large segment of the Corridor. Single family dwellings account for over 25% of the land use in the Northeast District, while multi-family dwellings comprise only 2% of the area. A majority of the land, however, is undeveloped. The open space/potential development and agricultural land use categories occupy 62% of the District acreage. The Neuse River and its associated recreational uses make the district attractive for residential development and much of this land is currently being rezoned for additional residential development in the near future.

As these statistics indicate, a majority of the land along the river is either undeveloped or in agricultural use. This is especially true in the northern portion of the study area (Falls Dam to Buffaloe Road). Single family residences make up much of the developed land along the river and are more prevalent along the reach from Buffaloe Road to Poole Road.

Jurisdictional Issues

(Map of Jurisdictional Boundaries)

Jurisdiction for land use regulations along the river is divided between Wake County and the cities of Raleigh, Wake Forest and Knightdale. It is likely that the County's jurisdiction will eventually be relinquished to one of these municipalities. The boundaries between Raleigh, Wake Forest and Knightdale, while generally identified, are not assumed to be absolutely fixed at the time of this report.


(Summary Table of Zoning Districts by Municipality)

Zoning categories generally reflect holdovers from the rural past or are residential in anticipation of the most prevalent development pressure. Current zoning, except for conservation district, has little influence on Corridor development other than as a sign of likely adjacent land use.

Land Use Controls

(Land Use Controls Continuum Diagram)

The conservation buffer zoning district, flood plain development standards and the greenway easement, along with the transfer of development density from flood plain areas to upland areas are the primary land use controls currently used to protect the river and gain access along its banks.

Acquisition Tools

The development of parks has traditionally occurred on land owned outright by the City. The expansion of City holdings has traditionally been through fee simple acquisition; that is, the City buys the property outright without any encumbrances or limitations upon the property title. Fee simple acquisition can be modified to allow life tenancy by the seller. While fee simple acquisition remains a primary tool in the City's effort to assemble land for recreational purposes, other tools for resource protection and use are being utilized and can be used even more to meet the City's objectives. Alternatives to fee simple acquisition include:

Easements: Easements can be utilized to achieve some degree of protection or to enable right of passage across some properties that the City is unable to acquire. Easements allow a private owner to retain ownership while agreeing to allow the City to influence some aspect of the property's use or development. A conservation easement may simply involve a property owner's agreement not to develop a particular site or it may provide for active management of the site by the City. For example, a scenic easement may establish a buffer zone adjacent to the river within which no development or clearing of vegetation could occur. The City currently acquires greenway easements along the Neuse River within the 100-year flood plain or 150 feet of its bank, whichever is less, which allows the City to develop and use a greenway trail. This provision could be strengthened by changing the wording to establish a greenway easement over the 100-year flood plain or within 150 feet of the river bank, whichever is greater.

Gifts: The City may accept gifts of property as a low cost strategy for enlarging the Neuse River regional park while providing a legacy for the interested donors. Depending upon the type of gift, the property may be appropriate for use as parkland or for use as property to trade for more desirable property.

Life Tenancy: Property owners can sell or give the City property but retain the right to live on the land for the rest of their lives.

Zoning: Zoning can be used as a tool to control certain aspects of a private land owner's property for the benefit of the broader community. Currently, a Conservation Buffer District is used as a tool to protect the 100-year flood plain in the portions of the Corridor most recently rezoned or annexed into the City from the County. This type of protection could be strengthened by expanding the current use of the district to include use as an overlay district to allow protection of resources in the public interest.

Transfer of Density/Transfer of Development Rights: A planning policy allowing transfer of density or transfer of development rights (TDR) enables a land owner, with the City's approval, to transfer the development capacity from land that is less suited to development to land which is better suited for development. This strategy recognizes that land has inherent characteristics which make it either better or worse suited for development, and that it is in the general public's best interest that a developer be allowed and encouraged to only develop the land that is good for development. In this way, land which serves many other benefits such as flood protection, recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, etc. can be preserved or developed for that use. The City currently allows and encourages transfer of density within a tract of land. The City could broaden the application of this concept to allow transfer of development rights to other parcels.

Grant Programs: Federal and State funds have historically been distributed to deserving local units of government through competitive grant programs. The City could use this type of partnership to leverage land acquisition or development funds.

Intergovernmental Agreement: Public sector partnerships are contracts between governmental agencies which may deal with a variety of open space issues. Partnering with Wake County, Wake Forest, and Knightdale will be an important component of this plan for recreation along the Neuse. Encouraging the protection and recreational development of land controlled by neighboring communities encourages a win-win relationship whereby the residents and facility users of each community benefit.

Public/Private Partnerships: Relationships between the City and private-sector stakeholders can also provide mutual benefits. Private developers are often receptive to providing open space, linkages, and access through proposed developments. This relationship is occurring along the northern reach of the study area. The developers of Falls River, for example, have recognized the added benefit to future residents of environmentally sensitive design and establishment of linkages from their neighborhood to the greenway system. Plans for this development designate the entire 100-year flood plain as greenway corridor and include greenway corridors connecting the interior of the site to the river Corridor. Private-public partnerships could also involve private construction of public greenway trails on privately owned land.

Land Banking: Creating City partnerships with non-profit conservation groups can be beneficial to the objectives of both groups. These conservation groups can often acquire potential parkland and critical greenway links on behalf of public agencies. They have the advantage of being able to move quickly to purchase and hold open space while a public agency such as the City secures financing - in effect land banking the site until public ownership can occur. The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land or local organizations (e.g. Triangle Land Conservancy or Friends of the Neuse) may be able to assist the City in this manner.

Wetlands Mitigation Projects: When wetlands must be impacted and/or destroyed by essential development, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers often requires creation of new wetlands and/or enhancement of degraded wetlands as a means of mitigation. This could involve the establishment of created wetlands or enhancement of degraded wetlands adjacent to Corridor parkland and transference of ownership and responsibility for preservation to the City.

Management Agreements: A management agreement between a private landowner and the City may improve the condition of a natural landscape or protect the quality of land owned privately through the use of staff expertise and other resources. For example, an agreement to install additional storm water retention or to reestablish vegetation along the river in some areas could improve the overall water quality of the river, thus improving the resource for all.

Leases: Leases can provide open space benefits in the short term. However, perpetual protection and use of the property is not guaranteed. Leasing can be a valuable short term tool to facilitate later acquisition of the same property or fill an immediate need until acquisition of another parcel can occur.

Each of these strategies could be implemented to help the City reach the goals of this project. Each strategy has times when it would be the most appropriate solution. However, these strategies can often be used to greatest advantage in tandem. These tools can also be used as interim solutions on the road to outright acquisition.

Transportation/Thoroughfare Plan (reference thoroughfare map)

The existing road system adjacent to the Neuse River includes six road crossings of the river at the following locations:

Falls of Neuse Road



Buffaloe Road


Poole Road

Additionally, two railroads cross the river. The CSX crosses just upstream from US-1 and the Norfolk Southern Railway crosses south of US-64 through the northern section of Anderson Point Park.

The adopted Thoroughfare Plan for the urbanized area is mutually approved by the governing bodies of all local jurisdictions and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. It includes those roadways which are considered the most important Corridors for safe and efficient travel throughout the City and the region.

The most significant additions to the roadway system in this area will be the Northern Wake Expressway (Outer Loop), the easterly extension of Raleigh Boulevard, upgrading to freeway status the portion of US-1 which is north of the proposed Northern Wake Expressway (Outer Loop) and the US-64 Bypass.

Projects in the Northeast also include improvements to two major thoroughfares: the extension of Spring Forest Road to Buffaloe Road and the widening of US-401 from US-1 North to Ligon Mill Road. Planned minor thoroughfare improvements are the extension of Highwoods Boulevard to the proposed Raleigh Boulevard, construction of Neuse River Road from Falls of Neuse Road to US-1 and completion of Southhall Road from the proposed Spring Forest Road to Rogers Lane at US-64 east.

East of the river, projects include the Hodges Road/Old Milburnie Road connector, continuation of Raleigh Boulevard to the Northern Wake Expressway and Forestville Road, realignment of Mitchell Mill Road at US-401 and realignment of three minor thoroughfares east of Forestville Road.

These proposed road improvements will result in the addition of four new river crossings. plus construction of a new bridge in place of the existing US-401 crossing. Falls of Neuse relocation will include a new bridge south of the existing bridge which will remain in place. The Northern Wake Expressway (Outer Loop) will include a new bridge north of Buffaloe Road. Raleigh Boulevard extension will include a new bridge halfway between Buffaloe Road and US-64. The US-64 Bypass as currently proposed by NCDOT will require a new crossing through Anderson Point Park. The proposed US-64 Bypass will result in taking of park land which will require acquisition of additional park land by NCDOT to mitigate this loss and the construction of an access bridge connecting the two segments of the park.

(Map of bridges)


The "Interlocal Cooperation Agreement" between the City of Raleigh, the County, and the private sector provides for joint responsibility for wastewater services to be supplied through the Neuse River/Perry Creek wastewater collection system. One of the main goals is to incorporate small package treatment plants into the wastewater collection system. The development of the 3.5 mile greenway trail along the Neuse River was linked to sanitary sewer easement acquisition and construction. Although sewer easement acquisition is not technically tied to greenway development, it provides a convenient tool for efficient acquisition.

Development Trends

As the City of Raleigh continues to expand, development will soon encompass the Neuse River. The primary type of development anticipated for this area is single and multi-family residential. Commercial development is anticipated in the vicinity of the US-64 Neuse River crossing as well as a proposed commercial center where US-401 intersects with the proposed Northern Wake Expressway (Outer Loop). These commercial centers will increase development pressure on the river but they will also provide an opportunity to increase awareness and use of this special resource.

Environmental Systems

Physiographic Context

The Neuse River traverses two physiographic regions: the Piedmont Plateau and the Coastal Plain. The project area coincides with the meeting point; the rocky transition area between the two regions known as the "fall line" starts at Falls Dam and extends to Poole Road.

The Piedmont Plateau is typified by highly-erodible clay soils, rolling topography with broad ridges and sharply defined stream valleys, and low gradient streams composed of a series of sluggish pools separated by riffles and occasional small rapids (picture of rapids). Stream flood plains are relatively narrow and mostly forested. There are no natural lakes in the region but several small ponds have been created. Soils in the region are underlain by a fractured rock formation with limited water storage capacity which offers only a limited supply of groundwater. The Piedmont Plateau makes up 40 percent of the river basin, encompassing much of the Raleigh-Durham area, and is more populated and industrialized than the Coastal Plain. Despite the increasingly urban nature of the region, agricultural activity remains widespread, and forests occupy over one-third of the land area.

The Coastal Plain is characterized by flat terrain, low-lying swamplands and productive estuarine areas. Streams, including the mainstream of the Neuse, are much more meandering, slower-moving, have lower banks, and are often lined by extensive swamps, bottomland hardwood forests, or marshes. The Coastal Plain is underlain by deep sands and groundwater is more abundant. Forestry and agriculture are the primary land use activities in the Coastal Plain.


The project area is generally underlain by relatively uniform bedrock, lying at some distance below the ground, which does not particularly affect the dynamics of the river. There are, however, several linear outcrops of a harder rock called diabase dikes, which run along and across the river in several places in the project area. These outcrops have caused the river to change course abruptly in places, such as at Riverbend. An outcropping of the Rolesville Dome, a granite rock formation, caused the river to change course dramatically in the vicinity of Horseshoe Farm and US-401 crossing, forming two horseshoe shaped bends. Rock outcrops have created rocky rapids in places along this otherwise flat-water Corridor and steep rocky slopes and knobs close to the river banks. These rocky slopes have fostered development of communities of plants more commonly found in the mountains, such as mountain laurel, especially where the slopes face north or east. The flood plain is very narrow in these areas.

River Character(picture of river)

Within the study area, the river is relatively uniform in width. Exceptions occur at the rapids below Falls Lake, the impoundment above Milburnie Dam and the area below Milburnie Dam where the river is much wider. The river bottom substrate varies from sandy/silty to rocky with areas of large rocks scattered throughout.

The reach of the river north of US-401 has been impacted by flood surges associated with intermittent discharges from Falls Lake Dam. Release from the dam, controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers, can cause dramatic fluctuations in water levels below the dam. The results of these extreme fluctuations in water volume and velocity include scouring and bank erosion to the first levee. Despite such unnatural conditions, some stretches along the northern part of the river contain beautiful examples of flood plain and bottomland forests. This is especially true at the oxbow area on the west bank just south of the US-1 crossing and at Horseshoe Farm. The reach of the river below US-401, although containing more residential development, contains a more typical flood plain cross-section.

Water Quality

The water quality of the Neuse River within the project area is considered to be generally good. In the project area the undisturbed flood plain acts as a buffer that removes nutrients and pollution from urban runoff before they reach the water courses. Studies show that natural woodland is far better at removing silt and other pollutants than is lawn. The greenway Corridors established by the City of Raleigh, along with other nutrient and pollution management measures, serve to protect the water quality of the river.

Increased urban development and population growth of the region as well as agricultural activity are causing the water quality of the Neuse River to deteriorate along the course of the river. Urban runoff includes high levels of pesticides, heavy metals, nitrogen and siltation from construction activities. Agricultural runoff includes high levels of pesticides, fertilizer, silts, and animal wastes. In 1995 several major failures of animal waste facilities resulted in these wastes being released into the Neuse River. The water quality of the Neuse River was lowered. The result in 1995 was three major fish kills which occurred in the lower Neuse River. With increased urban development in both the upper basin where Raleigh is situated and in the lower basin, it is not only important to continue acquisition and protection of the Neuse River and its tributaries, but to increase efforts to intercept pollutants prior to discharge into the river. Neuse River water quality is a major agenda item for the region.

Flood Plains

The flood plain of the Neuse within the project area is generally broad and forested. The width on each side of the river ranges from less than 40 feet at the narrowest points to over 1500 feet at very wide areas, with an average width of 300 - 400 feet along much of the Corridor. A large portion of the 100-year flood plain is frequently or permanently flooded and is categorized as wetlands. In much of the Corridor the flat portion of the flood plain lies at or below the level of the 10-year flood elevation and is therefore flooded at relatively frequent intervals. This level is typically 8 - 12 feet above the normal water level of the river. The 100-year flood elevation is typically 5 or 6 feet above the general level of the flood plain. In some areas there is a steep valley wall between the flood plain and the adjacent uplands; in other areas there is a more gradual transition.

Flooding along the Corridor is controlled in large part by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has reduced the possibility of the extremely high flood levels which occurred occasionally prior to the creation of Falls Lake. The Corps can, and at this time does, release water at the rate of a naturally occurring 100-year storm event and the 100-year flood plain remains a functioning part of the river system.

Vegetative Communities

Flood plain areas are generally forested in mixed hardwood species. Farming has occurred on small areas within the flood plain, and larger areas have been timbered at times in the past. The wetness of the flood plain land in general and the frequency of flooding has limited development of the flood plain for agricultural or residential purposes in the past. Even where adjoining flood plain land was timbered or cleared, a wooded buffer remains along the river edge, resulting in a fringe of mature hardwoods along much of the river. The nature of these forest communities varies depending on the relative height of the flood plain among other factors; oaks are more prevalent at higher, drier elevations, with sycamores and river birches more prevalent in lower areas.

Wetlands (picture of Wetland)

Wetlands along the Neuse River within the project area include riverine wetlands, wetlands contained within a channel, such as the river itself, along with tributary streams and creeks, and palustrine (non-tidal) wetlands which are forested or dominated by shrubs and emergent vegetation.

A majority of the forested wetlands along the river Corridor are dominated by broad-leaved deciduous trees. This would include such species as water oak (Quercus nigra), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), river birch (Betula nigra), green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) and red maple (Acer rubrum). This type of wetland is common along the Corridor and is typically associated with the river flood plain.

Less common wetland systems found adjacent to the river include forested wetlands that contain bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) and emergent wetlands dominated by persistent and non-persistent vegetation such as cattail (Typha latifolia), pickerelweed (Pontederia cordata) and arrow arum (Peltandra virginica). Bald cypress wetlands are unique because the Neuse River represents the western limit of the range where this species normally occurs. Emergent wetland communities, typically referred to as marshes, provide excellent opportunities for wildlife observation. Emergent wetlands attract many species of birds, mammals and amphibians to feed and nest. Due to the relative scarcity of these wetland communities along the Neuse River Corridor, they offer excellent opportunities to provide interpretive experiences.


Rivers and streams act as natural Corridors for wildlife migration and breeding. Seasonally, they offer sites for birds and mammals to feed or nest and provide continuous travelways for movement of individuals from one location to another. They are also home and refuge to many animal species. In addition to the river itself, uplands adjacent to the river with thick shrubby growth or mature woodlands offer important wildlife habitat.

Many of the wildlife species found in the Neuse River Corridor depend for survival on a variety of habitats, both within the river Corridor and on the adjacent uplands. A species may use one habitat type for a food source, another for cover and yet another for breeding. The river Corridor provides connections between these habitats as well as providing habitat itself. Large tracts of land uninterrupted by roads and development also serve as important wildlife habitat, providing havens for species unable to survive in smaller, more fragmented environments. The extensive wetlands, and large tracts of flood plain and upland forest along the Neuse are particularly valuable for this reason. As noted earlier, wetlands along the river also have special value for wildlife species.

Numerous bird and mammal inventories have been completed in Wake County by organizations such as the Audubon Society, as part of their spring bird count, or by agencies such as the North Carolina Heritage Program or the Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department while evaluating regional natural features. Bird species frequently observed along the Neuse River include Wood Duck, Kingfisher, Green and Great Blue Heron, Pileated and other woodpeckers, Red-shouldered Hawk, and various thrushes, flycatchers, warblers and songbirds. Resident mammals include river otter, beaver, deer, raccoon, gray fox, cottontail rabbit and numerous moles, voles and shrews. This list is, by no means, exhaustive. A more thorough inventory of animal species observed along the Neuse River Corridor would be a valuable spin-off project of this study. The important point is that rivers and adjacent habitats are home to many animals, and protection of these habitats is critical to maintaining the diversity of species, particularly in rapidly developing areas.

Habitats and Species of Special Concern

Regional natural area inventories completed by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program and the Triangle Land Conservancy (LeGrand and Astey, 1987 ; LeGrand and Smith, 1993) located three sites along the Neuse River Corridor where special habitats exist or potentially exist. These include parcels on the north and south side of the river just downstream of the US-1 Neuse River crossing, the Horseshoe Farm property north of the US-401 Neuse River crossing and the reach of the river from Beaverdam Lake to Poole Road.

The two parcels downstream of the US-1 crossing contain excellent quality bottomland and swamp forests. The majority of this area is classified as mature Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest. On the west side, a swamp forest is present in what probably represents a remnant oxbow of the Neuse River. Numerous sloughs are found through this area that potentially represent important breeding sites for amphibious species. The area on the north side of the river also contains extensive wetland areas, including a large wetland lake. A portion of this area was cleared within the last five years. (picture of Oxbow)

A natural area at Horseshoe Farm contains a mature, essentially undisturbed bottomland and hardwood forest. A well-developed natural levee and a few flood plain pools are present. Three natural community types are represented at this site: Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest and Flood Plain Pool. (picture of Horseshoe Farms)

The reach of the river from Beaverdam Lake to Poole Road is significant for its aquatic habitat and contains a rather narrow flood plain several hundred yards wide at a maximum. This area contains numerous wetlands and small ponds located in the flood plain. The unique character of these wetlands is described above. (picture of wetland) The river itself is home to several animal species of special concern in North Carolina. The native Neuse River waterdog (Necturus lewisi), a gilled, aquatic salamander, has been collected at several sites along this stretch of the river. A rare mollusk, the ancient floater (Alasmidonta heterodon), has been collected in two locations but has not been found in recent years and may no longer exist in this stretch of the Corridor. The notched rainbow mollusk (Villosa constricta) has also been taken from the river east of Raleigh.

Cultural Resources

Records of use by Europeans within the Neuse River Corridor date back to the early 1700’s, with archaeological evidence of use by Native Americans well before that time. Over time, bridges, ferries, mills and farmsteads have come and gone. Some evidence of this history is still visible along the riverbanks. While it is not within the scope of this report to investigate past uses along the Neuse River, numerous records of above and below ground resources exist with the City and the State. These records should be reviewed prior to the start of any specific project within the Corridor. Historic sites along the river identified by the North Carolina Division of Archives and History are indicated on the Master Plan. (historic properties map)

Overview of Environmental Regulations

Development of a park/greenway system along the Neuse River may require coordination with various state and federal agencies. The agencies involved and the extent of interaction will depend on the type of development proposed, anticipated impacts to natural resources and potential sources of funding. Some of the environmental programs that may affect construction along the Neuse River Corridor are described below.


Section 404 of the Clean Water Act authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (COE) to regulate the disposal of dredged or fill material into "waters of the United States." Waters of the United States include both wetlands and surface waters. As described in previous sections, there are numerous wetlands existing along the Neuse River within the project area. Impacts to these wetlands, including boardwalk construction, may require coordination with the COE.

Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control

Prior to construction, Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control plans are required to minimize soil erosion and to prevent siltation of surface water. Local municipal and/or state authorities. review these plans. Additionally, projects resulting in the disturbance of five acres or more will be subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater regulations administered by the North Carolina Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources.

Flood Plains/Floodways

Wake County is a participant in the National Flood Insurance Program. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Rate maps identify the approximate boundaries of the 100-year flood plain and floodway. Construction activities in designated flood plain areas must be in accordance with FEMA regulations. These regulations are primarily concerned with residential structures and require elevation of the first floor one foot above the 100-year flood plain elevation. The City of Raleigh also requires public roads to be constructed higher than the 100-year flood elevation. Construction associated with park and greenway development in the flood plain and floodway where the main concern is impacting the flood elevation, will be reviewed and permitted by local municipal authorities, typically through their engineering departments.

Threatened or Endangered Species

Federally funded activities are subject to review by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regarding impacts to federally-protected plants or animals under the Endangered Species Act. In the case of state-funded actions, the USFWS has the authority to exercise jurisdiction on behalf of a protected plant or animal. Plants or animals with state designations of Endangered, Threatened or Special Concern are granted protection by the State Endangered Species Act and the State of North Carolina Plant Protection and Conservation Act. At a minimum, records pertaining to known occurrences of plants or animals at the federal and state level should be reviewed early in the design process and certainly before the start of construction for any specific project along the Neuse River. A more thorough approach would involve completion of plant and animal inventories along the Corridor that would provide a useful database ensuring protected species would not be affected.

Existing Parks and Greenway:

Acquisition and Development

The Comprehensive Plan identifies the Neuse River as a major Corridor of the Capital Area Greenway System, with a width of 150 feet from each bank. City code requires dedication of greenway easement over land 150 feet from the river bank or the 100-year flood plain, whichever is less, whenever properties along the river are subdivided or developed. The City has acquired several miles of greenway easement as land along the river is developed or in association with the extension of the Neuse River/Perry Creek Sewer line. The City has also acquired outstanding park sites at Horseshoe Farm, Milburnie and Anderson Point, and smaller sites at Elizabeth Road and Poole Road, totaling over 330 acres. In addition to land and greenway easement acquisition, the City has already built 3 1/2 miles of greenway trails as well as two canoe launch facilities along the Neuse River.

The City has rezoned several miles of the Neuse River flood plain as Conservation Buffer as part of recent annexation agreements and utilizes at least one mechanism for preserving flood plain areas by encouraging transfer of density. In recent years, the majority of landowners and developers along the Neuse have been willing to transfer their development densities to the uplands and preserve the flood plain in its natural state.

Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park Sites

The team of consultants inventoried Anderson Point Park and Milburnie Park (formerly Neuse River Park East and West) in more detail as part of the master planning process. They prepared summary inventory and analysis maps for each of these sites and for the segment of river Corridor which connects them. The two parks are situated approximately two miles apart on either side of US-64.

Milburnie Park, just north of US-64, is centered around Milburnie Dam. Milburnie Dam is an historic stone structure with a more recent hydroelectric plant at the west end. The dam site is currently in private ownership. Milburnie East is wooded, with a broad wet flood plain bordered by steep slopes leading to a small hilltop. Milburnie West is a relatively open site with a wooded area on the interior side and grassy slopes along the river. A long high ridge along the southern edge of the site, underlain by a diabase rock dike, slopes gradually to the north along the river, with moderate side slopes extending the upland close to the river's edge.

Anderson Point Park is located approximately two miles further south along the river, at the point where Crabtree Creek flows into the Neuse River. This 105-acre farm is divided by an existing railroad which separates a 12-acre parcel north of the railroad from the main 93-acre portion of the site. The central uplands are open farmland, separated from the river flood plain by steep forested slopes. The site is bordered by the Neuse River on the east and Crabtree Creek on the west, which come together at the southern end of the property, forming "the point".

More detailed descriptions of these two park sites are provided in the sections of the report which describe the individual park master plans.

The Corridor between the two parks is representative of the Corridor as a whole. The flood plain varies from a scant 50 feet in width on the west side along Milburnie West and in a rocky area just above US-64, to over 1400 feet in width on the west side of the river at the wetland lake area south of the highway. The wetland lake area is extensive and includes a variety of forested and emergent wetland habitats intermingled with drier forest and old fields. There are two small Class I rapids between Milburnie and Anderson Point, with a Class II rapids located a short way beyond the end of Anderson Point Park. This river segment is used extensively by the Parks and Recreation Department Adventure Program for canoe and kayak training classes.

Inventory Summary

The following diagram titled Inventory and Analysis summarizes the land use, jurisdictions, Thoroughfare Plan, rapids, wetlands, flood plains, access points and resource areas suitable for various park types. The 24 circles shown designate special resource areas along the Corridor considered as possible candidates for the Arrival Park sites proposed in the following Conceptual Framework.


Neuse River Corridor

Canoeing down the Neuse from Falls Dam to Poole Road, one is struck by the apparent remoteness of the Corridor. For long stretches the river is edged by continuous forest on both sides with no visible sign of human development. Except in a few areas, existing development along the river is set well back from the banks, beyond and above the broad wooded flood plain. The Corridor is not completely removed from the city; sounds of traffic, quarry activities and industry punctuate the river sounds, but the wildness of the area certainly stands in contrast with more urban development nearby.

Preservation of the 100-year flood plain is essential to preservation of the wild character of the river, as well as the water quality and wildlife value of the riverine environmental system. The river and flood plain together form the core attraction for a regional park along the Neuse and need to be conserved to maintain their special character.

In order to realize the recreational potential of the river Corridor, three conditions need to be addressed. First, more frequent and better public access is needed, including adequate parking. Second, trails are needed so people can explore the Corridor on land as well as by river. Public access to the river is at present limited, especially for people without access to canoes. Thirdly, there should be opportunities for a range of recreational activities along and adjacent to the river Corridor to heighten awareness of the river and provide facilities in an attractive setting. In addressing these conditions, it is important to keep sight of the primary goal of conservation of the river Corridor. All facilities and recreational amenities should be designed and sited with this goal in mind.

The City has already begun to address these needs, first by acquiring greenway easement and park sites, and further by building 3-1/2 miles of trail as well as parking areas and canoe launches. There are additional opportunities along the river Corridor to address these needs. While the character of the Corridor is generally uniform, it is punctuated at relatively frequent intervals by features of natural, historical or cultural interest which could serve as focal points for access and recreational centers. There are several large parcels of land along the river owned by public or quasi-public institutions, such as Wake Tech and Capitol Area Soccer League, with potential for sharing of access and facilities.

Road bridges offer potential for access points and pedestrian crossings and opportunity for increased visibility and public awareness of the park. Beyond this, there are a number of large currently undeveloped properties along the Corridor with upland areas well suited for development of active recreation facilities to complement the river Corridor. There is also great potential for linkage to other City parks and surrounding neighborhoods via greenways along the tributaries of the Neuse. Lastly, there is a network of existing and proposed roads which roughly parallel the river on both sides, providing opportunity for greater access and connections to the Corridor.

Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park

Milburnie Park and Anderson Point Park are situated at prime locations along the river. The two park sites are easily accessible from US-64 and contain natural, scenic and cultural features unique within the project area. They also contain land well suited for development of a variety of recreational facilities.

Milburnie Park

Milburnie Park centers around a historic stone dam, the only dam remaining within the project area. The park offers potential for a variety of recreation opportunities. At Milburnie West the high ridge, the proximity of upland to river and the open character of the site offer unusually good opportunities for open parkland with views and easy access to the river. The more isolated, steep and wooded terrain at Milburnie East is best suited for less intensive uses which can take advantage of the rugged woodland character of the site. The extensive and varied wetland areas around the Milburnie area provide prime wildlife habitat.

Anderson Point Park

Anderson Point Park is located at the confluence of the region's two main waterbodies, the Neuse River and Crabtree Creek. The rolling open upland fields in the center of the site are scenic and well suited for informal play and passive recreation. The river is separated from the uplands by steep wooded slopes and wet flood plain areas, making it more challenging to provide easy access to the river banks. The area around the point is attractive, with large hardwood trees and a relatively open understory. Its development potential is limited by frequent flooding and separation from the uplands by a broad flood plain area and a power line Corridor. It is, however, a scenic and symbolically important spot with potential for better views up and down river and up Crabtree Creek. The highway crossing proposed by NCDOT will greatly affect the current pastoral and reasonably quiet character of the site, particularly the upland areas on either side of the proposed highway Corridor.

The segment of Corridor between and just below these two parks includes several rapids, the only whitewater in the project area south of the Falls section, as well as a major wetland area on the west side of the river south of US-64.