Making a Difference, One Acre at a Time
In the mid nineties, Sig was looking for a place to ride his new mountain bike as he had recently gotten interested in the sport. His family back in Texas had always been into biking but this mountain biking thing was new and there just wasn’t a lot of “single track” trails in the Triangle. Close to his home was a trail system perfect for mountain biking along the shores of Falls Lake known as the “South Shore Trail.” When asking a park ranger why mountain bikers couldn’t enjoy riding on that beautiful natural trail, he was told, “You’ll never ride here, this trail was built by the Triangle Greenways Council.” Those words set in motion a journey that would not only prove the park ranger wrong, but end up transforming a region; one acre at a time.
Sig started meeting with state agencies such as N.C. Parks and Recreation and the Wildlife Resources Commission about trail access and quickly realized that there was more power in an organization than an individual. As a result, he formed the North Raleigh Mountain Biking Association, but because he was more interested in getting things done than recruiting members, he still today is the only member. As President of the NRMBA, Sig successfully opened two mountain biking areas with close to 30 miles of trail at the Beaver Dam Recreation Area with N.C. Parks and Recreation and the New Light Trail system with the Wildlife Resources Commission.
While starting the NRMBA, he also set his sights on the Triangle Greenways Council where he quickly rose to become President and began to see a vision of hundreds of miles of interconnected greenways throughout the Triangle. His early work centered around getting counties and municipalities talking with each other and later at getting elected officials to allocate funding through bonds and budgets and within a very few years, that original vision will become a reality for the Triangle.
In the late nineties, Wake County was working on a land use plan to begin thinking about open space preservation since nothing like that had been done in the county, nor did anyone really have a clear idea of what open space was anyway. Sig saw an opportunity for not only protecting the most important natural areas in the county for water and air quality, but also the opportunity to acquire stream corridors that could assist in greenway development. He became Chair of the Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee, which he still chairs today and has led three bond referendums totaling $96M for acquisition of open space. Leveraging those funds added another $40M and today the program has permanently protected more than 4,000 acres in the county. Now Sig has now set his sights on a $100M Open Space, Parks and Greenways Bond for the fall ballot of 2011.
Over the years, he began to realize that the real magic of greenways is in its interconnectivity that leads to destinations where people want to go. As a result, his vision expanded to connect the greenway system to sidewalks and bike lanes and then to destinations providing choices in how we move around the region, including along a beautiful stream on a greenway. He also realized that there was big money in transportation and that the regional investment for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure was woefully lacking. At that point, he worked to include bicycling in the Long Range Transportation Plan for the very first time as Chair of the region’s first Bicycle Pedestrian Task Force. Later he duplicated that initiative with the City of Raleigh by advocating for a comprehensive bike study completed in 2009 and currently sits on the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission for the City.
Recognizing that the last piece in this puzzle was connecting all this infrastructure and open space to a vibrant transit system, Sig became Chair of the regional transit agency, Triangle Transit in 2007 and now is actively working with other community leaders to pass a ½ cent sales tax referendum in the fall of 2011. The key is getting the land use and transportation decisions right, which includes preservation of open space, providing clean and abundant water and vibrant urban centers full of life and energy with plenty of greenways.
To assist in this vision, Sig has been working, as a board member of Triangle Tomorrow and in partnership with the Urban Land Institute, to implement Reality Check, a regional exercise designed to help guide decisions as to how the region will grow. From that exercise in 2008 came three guiding principles for shaping growth in the region including: 1) protecting green space, 2) promoting vibrant centers and 3) providing more transit options. Sig Chairs the Green Space committee and as you can imagine, is actively involved in the other two.
Basically, Sig fell in love with the region when he drove into the city limits twenty-eight years ago and since then, he gets up every morning thinking about what can he do today to make the Triangle Region of North Carolina even better.
“I have been blessed,” stated emphatically by Sig. I live in one of the most beautiful places in the country with my home right on a greenway. I have a beautiful wife, a successful son and family with three wonderful grandchildren. Mostly, I have been given the opportunity to leverage my gifts by working with incredibly talented leaders, most of which are my good friends to help shape a community and region where we can grow not only bigger but also better; one acre at a time.
Bios for Introducing Sig Hutchison