Park and Greenway Planning and Development

Last updated May 21, 2019 - 3:46 pm

The Park Development and Communications Division of the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department is responsible for the planning and development of all City parks and greenways.

The information below outlines the process of developing a new park or greenway.

See our:

Current projects

Bond projects

What’s the vision for the City’s parks and greenways?

The City defines a broad vision for the entire park and greenway system primarily through two documents: the City of Raleigh 2030 Comprehensive Plan and the City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources System Plan. The documents provide a vision, goals, objectives and policies that guide staff.

Comprehensive Plan

The Park, Recreation and Open Space Element of the City of Raleigh 2030 Comprehensive Plan is a broad guide for all park and greenway facilities. This element and others, such as Environmental Protection, Land Use, Community Facilities and Services, provide policy and recommended actions for the City as a whole. The comprehensive plan projects local and regional growth patterns and public infrastructure needs including parks, greenways and open space for conservation of natural resources and protection of our quality of life. Funding, acquisition of properties, classification of new lands acquired, and master planning are each guided by the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan.

Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources System Plan

The System Plan is a supplemental document to the Comprehensive Plan and is the strategic system plan that guides the growth and development of the City's park and greenway system. Future park needs are compared with an existing inventory of park facilities over a twenty to thirty year horizon. Included within this plan are recommendations for new park development, maintenance and continued renovation of existing parks and facilities, and guidelines that will allow the system to provide ample recreational opportunities for all citizens while remaining flexible to change with recreational trends, significant development opportunities and Raleigh’s growing population. A system plan is developed every five to ten years. On May 6, 2014 the Raleigh City Council voted unanimously to approve the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources System Plan. For additional information please visit the System Plan site.

Where will new parks and greenways be located?


Before a park or greenway trail can be built, the city must first acquire the needed land. Generally, the location of new parks and greenways are determined through extensive planning and public participation during the System Planning process.


The Park Development and Communications Division works with the city’s Real Estate Division to continually identify and purchase land for future parks and greenways as directed by the Comprehensive Plan and the Parks Plan. The primary method of acquiring land is accomplished through a targeted acquisition process. The 2004 Parks Plan identifies Level of Service (LOS) goals and recommended Park Service Areas. Areas in need of parks are identified by combining these measures with geographic information system (GIS) data on the size and locations of existing parks. Properties in these areas are then analyzed to determine their suitability as park sites. The Design Development Division works through the City’s Real Estate Division to pursue and acquire new properties. City Council approves all parkland acquisitions.


Greenway land is usually conveyed to the City through greenway easements and fee simple transactions. The City’s acquisition of greenways is guided by the Capital Area Greenway System corridors. The widths of the greenway corridors vary based on the stream hierarchy and the 100 year floodplain. The City requires dedication of land for greenways from residential developments that fall along these corridors or other planned greenway connectors. Developers of non-residential properties may also be required to reserve a portion of their property for greenways. Additionally, planned greenway trail projects may require greenway land to be acquired. The Design Development Division works with staff from the City’s Real Estate Division and City Attorney’s office to acquire any additional land needed to complete a greenway trail.

What happens after the City acquires new park land?


In 2003, the City of Raleigh Parks and Recreation Department initiated the process to develop System Integration Plans (SIPs) for property that the City has acquired for future park development. The objective of a System Integration Plan is to document existing site conditions and constraints, develop a set of guidelines for the interim management of parkland prior to the initiation of a Master Plan, to establish the park's classification consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, and if applicable, any proposed special intent for the park. The SIP is not intended to restrict the Master Plan process, but rather to enhance the overall park development process.

Site Specific System Integration Plan

Important elements include:

  • marking property boundaries;
  • identifying safety concerns and hazardous conditions; and
  • conducting a site inventory to identify natural and cultural resources.

The site specific System Integration Plan is developed with input from the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board. A draft SIP is presented to the public through notification of adjacent and nearby property owners, Citizen Advisory Councils, registered neighborhood groups, and registered park support groups. The public is encouraged to provide comments at a formal presentation of the SIP to the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board. The SIP is then submitted to City Council for final action. A listing and status of system integration plans can be found on the Park and Greenway Projects webpage.

What do you want your new park to be?

Before a park is designed and constructed, the public is invited to assist in the process of park master planning.

Park master plans are completed at an individual park level, unlike the comprehensive plan. A park master plan is a conceptual design document that, once adopted by city council, generally describes and guides the future management, design, and development of a park property. In partnership with N.C. State University Cooperative Extension’s Natural Resources Leadership Institute, then Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department created a comprehensive public participation process for park planning. The comprehensive public participation process guides all master planning processes. At the end of the process, master plans are reviewed by the Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board who recommends action to City Council. City Council takes final action on the plan.

Get Involved

The public is heavily involved in the creation of master plans for new parks. A group of committed citizens work in conjunction with staff and consultants to create master plans for new parks. There are also meetings with the general public to provide input at relevant points in the master plan process including visioning at the beginning of the process and feedback at the end of the process.

How are parks and greenways developed?


Once a park has a master plan or a greenway corridor has been acquired, design and construction will follow. The timing of design and construction can vary based on the size and scope of the project as well as budgetary constraints.


For large projects, a design consultant is hired to transform the master plan into buildable instructions. For smaller projects, such as playgrounds, this process may be completed by design development staff. During design, exact locations are solidified for all elements of the site such as buildings, walkways, parking, playground equipment.

When the design is 30 percent complete it is presented at a public meeting and at the Parks, Recreation, and Greenway Advisory Board meeting. At this time the public is invited to provide verbal and/or written comment on the design.


Once the design is complete, the City will put out the design for a competitive bidding process. A construction company will be chosen to complete the construction of the park or greenway as described in the design documents. As required by the North Carolina General Statutes, the lowest responsive and responsible bidder will be awarded the contract by City Council.

How are parks and greenways paid for?

Parks and greenways are funded through the city’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The CIP is the city’s five-year financial plan that analyzes major facility needs, projects fiscal resources, establishes priorities, and develops schedules for the acquisition and construction of capital facilities. The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department’s CIP primary sources of funding come from Parks and Recreation Bonds, Facility Fees, General Fund (Tax Base), grants and donations.

Bond Referendum Program

The Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department’s primary source of revenue for the development of new facilities comes from voter approved bond referendums. Projects are approved by the Raleigh City Council and put on a ballot for voters to approve. The four most recent Parks and Recreation Bond Referendums were 2000, 2003, 2007, and 2014. In addition to Parks and Recreation Bond Referendums, greenways have been funded through the 2011 Transportation Bond. In 2012, three specific parks and recreation projects were funded through a two-thirds general obligation bond. Two-thirds bonds are a long-term financing option available to local governments in North Carolina under state law. The bond total can be up to two-thirds of the amount by which the municipality reduced its outstanding general obligation indebtedness in the preceding fiscal year.

Facility Fee Program

The City of Raleigh’s Facility Fee Program assesses impact fees to residential developers when new homes are being built in Raleigh. The Facility Fees are used for two different purposes in Raleigh, Transportation and Parks and Recreation projects. The fees collected must address projects related to new growth in the City. The City must spend $1 for every $0.50 collected in the geographic area they were collected in.

General Fund (Tax base)

The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department receives a nominal annual transfer of revenue from the City’s General Fund (Tax Base) in order to develop and maintain its facilities.


The Parks and Recreation Department actively applies for Federal, State, Local, Private and Non-Profit grant opportunities. In many cases, these grants require a match and allow the Department to leverage its resources. Grants that have been received include, CWMTF, PARTF, LWCF, and RTP.


Public and private donations are welcomed by the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. Donations are accepted in the form of money, time (volunteering), and park amenities, such as benches and trees, as well as land donations. The City of Oaks Foundation is a 501(c)(3) private foundation that was formed to accept major donations including land, monetary, and other donations.

Get Involved

The City Council traditionally holds a public hearing on the Proposed Budget after its first regular meeting in June. Council meetings, public hearings and work sessions are held in the Council Chambers of the Avery C. Upchurch Municipal Complex, 222 West Hargett Street, Raleigh, NC 27601.

Contact Information

Park Planning Projects | 919-996-3285 | email

Greenway Projects | 919-996-4785 | email

Greenway Maintenance | 919-996-4859 | email

Raleigh Municipal Building, 222 W. Hargett St. - 6th Floor

Was this page helpful?

WalletHub named Raleigh

6th in List of Top 20 State Capitals to Live In

View our accolades >>