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The American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a long Rails-to-Trails project located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolinamarker, running along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Companymarker in the 1970s. The route crosses through the City of Durhammarker, Durham Countymarker, Chatham Countymarker, and Wake Countymarker. The ATT is part of the East Coast Greenway and is open to pedestrians, cyclists, equestrians (in non-urban sections), and other non-motorized users.

Route

The American Tobacco Trail is split into three main sections which consist of, from North to South:
  • completed trail in the City of Durham, part of the City greenway system
  • disconnected segments of volunteer-maintained, limited-facility trail in Durham and Chatham counties
  • completed trail in Wake County, maintained by the County


City of Durham

The ATT begins in the City of Durhammarker across Morehead Avenue from the Durham Bulls Athletic Parkmarker. Trail users can park in a gravel parking area underneath the Durham Freeway (NC 147), except on game days. The trail is a wide asphalt paved greenway with gravel shoulders. It is open to walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and wheelchair users, but not equestrians.

The American Tobacco Trail traverses south through the City of Durham to its current end at NC Hwy. 54 just north of I-40. This segment of the ATT is a designated portion of the East Coast Greenway. Plans are underway to construct a pedestrian bridge across I-40 between exit 274 and 276, connecting two major portions of the ATT.

Durham and Chatham Counties

South of I-40 there is a natural or existing surface segment that is currently open. This portion, extending from Massey Chapel Road, past the Chancellor's Ridge subdivision, under Fayetteville Road, crossing a trailhead at Scott King Road and ending at the now undecked Northeast Creek trestle, is currently under reconstruction by the Triangle Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (TRTC) under a grant from the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission. TRTC has regular 1st and 3rd Saturday workdays on this portion of trail which meet at the Scott King Road trail intersection.

Northeast Creek Trestle
Another natural or existing surface segment, running from the undecked Northeast Creek trestle, crossing O'Kelly Chapel Road, past the Old Chatham Golf Course, crossing the end of Pittard Sears Road, crossing the currently undecked Panther Creek Trestle, and ending at New Hope Church Road, is also being cleared and open for foot, bike and equestrian use by TRTC. As with the Southern Durham section described in the preceding paragraph, use at your own risk.

Wake County

Wake Countymarker opened, in 2003, the first segment from New Hill-Olive Chapel Road to Wimberly Road. Currently, this unpaved segment is now in length, followed by a usable but unimproved portion. The improved greenway is a plus in width granite screening composition trail open to hikers, cyclists, wheelchair users and equestrians. Users can access this portion of the greenway at a trailhead off New Hill-Olive Chapel Road, two miles (3 km) south of US 64; as well as at trailheads on Wimberly Road and White Oak Church Road. The towns of Apexmarker and Carymarker have plans to connect their municipal greenway systems to the ATT in the future.

In total, of continuous unpaved trail is usable in the southernmost portion and of continuous paved trail is usable in the northernmost portion. A traverse of approximately on public roads is required to get between these two continuous sections.

History

The American Tobacco Companymarker was founded by J.B. Duke in 1890 and dominated the industry by acquiring the Lucky Strike Company and over 200 other rival firms. The company built processing plants and warehouses in Durham which were served by several rail lines built in 1905. The rail line to the south which is now the ATT, connected from Durham to Bonsal, NCmarker and onwards to Duncanmarker. It was known as the New Hope Valley Railway or the Durham & South Carolina (it never got as far as SC), and later became part of the Norfolk Southern Railway system. In the 1970s the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the Jordan Lakemarker reservoir in Chatham Countymarker necessitating the relocation of a large portion of the tracks. A new rail line was built on higher ground a few miles to the east. However, only a few years later, the tracks were removed from this new railroad as Norfolk Southern had been bought out, and trains could access the American Tobacco complex via the Southern Railway more economically. In the 1980s the Triangle Rails to Trails Conservancy (TRTC) was formed to preserve the corridor as a multi-use trail and developed a Master Plan for the ATT in 1992. Since then, work has progressed at a moderate pace to develop the trail for pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian use.

Gallery

 Image:American_Tobacco_Trail.jpg|Section of the Trail near Scott King Road


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References

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