|American Tobacco Trail|
|American Tobacco Trail terminus in Durham|
|Length||22 mi (35 km)|
|Trailheads||Durham to Apex|
The American Tobacco Trail (ATT) is a 22-mile (35 km) long Rails-to-Trails project located in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina, running along an abandoned railroad bed originally built for the American Tobacco Company in the 1970s. The route crosses through the City of Durham, Durham County, Chatham County, and Wake County. 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.
The American Tobacco Trail is split into four main sections which consist of, from North to South:
The ATT begins in the City of Durham across Morehead Avenue from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Trail users can park in a gravel parking area underneath the Durham Freeway (NC 147), except on game days. The trail is a 10-foot (3.0 m) wide asphalt paved greenway with gravel shoulders. It is open to walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers and wheelchair users, but not equestrians.
The American Tobacco Trail covers 6.75 miles (10.86 km) 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.
South of I-40 there is a 2.15-mile (3.46 km) natural or existing surface segment that is currently open. This portion, which extends from Massey Chapel Road past the Chancellor's Ridge subdivision, crosses under Fayetteville Road, crosses Scott King Road and traverses Crooked Creek, is currently under reconstruction by the Triangle Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (TRTC) under a grant from the Durham Open Space and Trails Commission. As of 2010, this section is traversable, but still marked as under construction. TRTC has regular 1st and 3rd Saturday workdays on this portion of trail which meet at the Scott King Road trail intersection.
The ATT trail traverses 7.65-mile (12.31 km) in Chatham County. Once the trail crosses into Chatham county, the trail converts to a dual surface of asphalt and compacted screenings. The trail is open for foot, bike and equestrian use by TRTC. The trail crosses Northeast Creek and O'Kelly Chapel Road, past the Old Chatham Golf Course. It also traverses the end of Pittard Sears Road, Panther Creek, and continues past New Hope Church Road.
Wake County opened, in 2003, the first 3.5-mile (5.6 km) segment from New Hill-Olive Chapel Road to Wimberly Road. Currently, this unpaved segment is now 6.4 miles (10.3 km) in length, followed by a usable but unimproved 1.9-mile (3.1 km) portion. The improved greenway is a 10-foot (3.0 m) 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 Apex and Cary have plans to connect their municipal greenway systems to the ATT in the future.
In total, 11.1 miles (17.9 km) of continuous trail is usable in the southernmost portion and 6.75 miles (10.86 km) of continuous paved trail is usable in the northernmost portion. A traverse of approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) on public roads is required to get between these two continuous sections.
The American Tobacco Company 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, NC and onwards to Duncan. 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 Lake reservoir in Chatham County 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.
Section of the Trail near Scott King Road