The City of Durham first proposed converting the railway to a recreational trail in 2001, as a way to link the South Ellerbe Creek Trail with the American Tobacco Trail, and connect the Duke Park and Old North Durham residential neighborhoods to a vibrant downtown area. Over the years, the project has gained widespread support from elected officials, civic groups, neighborhood associations, and downtown business leaders.

Our Role

Almost two decades later, the vision for the rail trail is becoming a reality. In 2017, in collaboration with the City of Durham, The Conservation Fund purchased the entire 18.53-acre corridor from the Norfolk Southern Railway Company. We are now working with the city and other community organizations to acquire public and private funds to transfer the property to city ownership, ensuring its permanent protection.

Why this project matters

Protection and restoration of this two-mile corridor will improve the quality of life for Durham residents by providing a crucial walking and biking corridor right near the heart of Durham. The Belt Line would also contribute to a safer community, allow for future connections to more pocket parks and greenways, and provide an excellent place for a green infrastructure gateway to educate and engage residents and visitors with the region’s water resources. Compared to Manhattan's High Line, the Duke Belt Line has the ability to transform the city and boost revitalization efforts in the downtown area.

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