HILLSBOROUGH – Construction is underway for the second phase of the Riverwalk Greenway Trail, which runs along the Eno River in Hillsborough.

The estimated project cost is $1.86 million, according to Town Planner Stephanie Trueblood. She said construction is expected to take eight to ten months, depending on the weather. The 1-mile trail could be open as early as fall 2014 for public use.

Trueblood explained that it will be a part of North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail and is the first segment of that trail to be constructed in Orange County.

“It is also one of the only parts of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail that goes directly through a downtown. Our Riverwalk goes directly into Historic Hillsborough. It is going to be very easy and convenient for people to park in Hillsborough and access the trails. If they are walking, they can come through town and stop for lunch. There is a real close marriage there between tourism and downtown businesses,” Trueblood said.

This section of the trail will provide additional public access to Hillsborough’s Gold Park and will connect the park to a trail in River Park in downtown Hillsborough.

The first section of Riverwalk opened in 2009, with nearly 1 mile of paved loop trails in Gold Park, located on Dimmocks Mill Rd. in West Hillsborough.

Trueblood said the second phase of construction will make the trail more easily accessible to visitors who use wheelchairs, bicycles, strollers and other non-motorized wheeled vehicles.

“It is an 8-foot wide primary corridor that will be paved, and two bridges are being installed which will cross the Eno River. We put into a system of loop trails, too, so that runners and bikers who want to up their mileage can loop around and have more of a paved trail.”

There are also plans for a third phase to the Riverwalk Greenway construction project, Trueblood said, adding more trail sections and sidewalk connectors.

“I am actually hoping for Phase III to be open to the public at the same time. However, it is not a part of the same construction contract. We are in a permitting phase for Phase III right now. If all goes well and we get the necessary permits and get construction started this spring, then it is possible that it could open at the same time next fall.”

The second phase of construction is partially funded by a $425,000 grant from the N.C.Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, according to a Town news release.

The town has committed more than $3 million to the project since its inception, which has been leveraged by more than $1 million in grants.