Morganton NC: Building a Healthier Community through Open Spaces, Greenways, and Natural Resource Enhancement

Morganton, nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina, is a city of 16,918* people. Established in 1784 as the site of a circuit court for the North Carolina frontier, it currently serves as the county seat for Burke County. Because of its prominence as a “court town,” two of the state’s largest institutions, Broughton Hospital for the mentally ill and the NC School for the Deaf, were located in the city in the late nineteenth century.

The goal of this project is to foster a healthier community through open spaces, greenways, and natural resource enhancement. The main project area includes Western Piedmont Community College’s (WPCC) 326 +/- acre campus.  The campus consists of undeveloped open lands, forested areas, and surface waters that could be used by the public and for the enhancement of the college’s academic programs.  Approximately 135 acres of the campus are within the 300 foot riparian corridor of Hunting Creek and its tributaries. Adjoining state institutions, including Broughton Hospital and the NC School for the Deaf, augment the area with an additional 556 acres, most of which is open space and includes many mature trees.  Broughton Hospital and NC School for the Deaf lands are seamlessly connected to WPCC’s campus via Hunting Creek and surrounding open space.

CDAC developed a conceptual master plan for the entire acreage (WPCC, Broughton Hospital, and NC School for the Deaf) that generally indicates areas for permanent conservation, open space, reforestation, forest preservation, water quality enhancement and protection, viewshed protection, trails, and public use (possible additional future uses to be determined).

The master plan proposes connections between existing open space and recreational elements of WPCC campus, Broughton Hospital, and NC School for the Deaf.  It also explores the possibility of linking these sites and their attributes to adjacent and nearby neighborhoods and other trail systems, such as to the City of Morganton’s pedestrian greenway and bicycle pathway system.  Connections to the National Park Service’s Overmountain Victory Historic Trail and Commemorative Motor Route, which passes through the City of Morganton and along Burkemont Avenue, were also be explored.

The master plan also formalizse WPCC natural and recreational elements through recommendations for trail- heads, parking, interpretive signage, and other elements, to create a more formal presence and public welcome. In addition, focal area designs were prepared for specific sections of the master plan that need more detailed planning.

Project team: Lara Browning and Amy Eliason

Sponsor: Forest Competitive Grant, North Carolina 

* (2010 population)

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