Two people walking on the greenway

Parks and Recreation

Capital Area Greenway Master Plan

Mapping the future of the Capital Area Greenway System

In January of 2020, the City of Raleigh’s Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department began a two-year process to update the Capital Area Greenway Master Plan, the first update to the plan since 1989. Now complete, the updated Greenway Master Plan (the Plan) addresses the growing needs of a city that’s experienced extraordinary change in the last 30 years. The Plan prioritizes investment in existing trails, as well as new trail facilities, while also including recommendations to accommodate the needs of diversifying users.

View the updated Greenway Master Plan.

Project Details

Project Lead:
Kris Nikfar, AICP 
Toole Design Group and McAdams Company



Kris Nikfar, AICP 

Lead Department:
Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Participating Department:
Parks, Recreation and Cultural ResourcesTransportationPoliceWater
Service Unit:




The Capital Area Greenway System (CAG) began as a 1970s planning effort to effectively manage floodways. Preserving land adjacent to all major waterways and tributaries protects aquatic and edge habitats, prevents the development of ecologically sensitive lands, and prevents potential flood damage. These primary waterways and tributaries define the corridors of the system. In addition to flood management and environmental benefits, some greenway corridors are appropriate for trail development, providing recreational opportunities for both residents and visitors. The formative vision of flood protection also influences how the city defines elements within the system. Greenways are mainly located along the watercourses within the City and protect the floodways along these corridors.

The first Capital Area Greenway Master Plan was created in 1976, with updates occurring in 1986 and in 1989. The original 1976 plan, and subsequent updates, has been the guiding documents for staff, residents, land developers, and community groups. These updates emphasized the use of the greenway system for recreation and encouraged their inclusion in parks and recreation offerings in the City. The 1989 Update created a system hierarchy that identified corridors, connectors, nodes, and loops. However, corridors running along waterways remain the primary backbone of the system.

In 2015, City Council adopted the Capital Area Greenway Planning and Design Guide. The guide is intended to assist the City and proposers in the planning, design, and engineering of greenway trail facilities and supplements the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources System Plan.

In 2015 the Raleigh City Council adopted the City’s first-ever strategic plan. The Strategic Plan guides the work of the City as it grows and responds to the evolving needs of residents. The five-year Strategic Plan points the way toward maintaining and improving the qualities that make Raleigh an outstanding city. The plan articulates areas of strategic focus that target the City’s efforts and resources in ways intended to have the greatest impact in the six key focus areas over the life of the plan. The plan’s is appropriately aligned with other important efforts such as the 2030 Comprehensive Plan. Many aspects of the City’s CAG and Parks system are guided by the Strategic Plan’s objectives and initiatives and the update to the CAG Plan should align.

Adopted in 2014, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources System Plan is a supplement to the 2030 Comprehensive Plan for the City of Raleigh. Multiple elements of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan relate to the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department’s mission for services and facilities and include a significant update for the delivery of parks, recreation, and cultural resource services. 

The System Plan seeks to expand on those elements. The System Plan is a comprehensive long-range planning document that is meant to help shape the direction, development, and delivery of the City’s parks, recreation, and cultural resource services over the next 20 years. The planning process utilized extensive public engagement in the form of a City Council–appointed citizen planning committee, public engagement websites, social media, focus groups, a statistically valid survey and an online survey, community visioning workshops, community meetings, and open houses, and outreach to boards and commissions including the Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs) to fully involve the community in each stage of the planning process.

In 2019, the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department began the preparation of a 5-year update to the 2014 System Plan. The System Plan Update will serve to communicate what progress has been made since the System Plan was originally adopted and will reflect any changes to community goals and priorities for Raleigh’s park system.

Related Projects

  All projects